The families of three Bosnian Muslims who were killed in the Srebrenica massacre after leaving a UN-designated safe area take their case against three Dutch UN commanders to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), after Dutch prosecutors have refused to look at it.
Liesbeth Zegveld, a human rights lawyer representing the relatives of the victims, announced that they are asking the court to prosecute three former UN commanders for the deaths of the three Muslim Bosniaks Muhamed Nuhanovic, Ibro Nuhanovic and Rizo Mustafic.
The move came as the military chamber of the Arnhem court ruled on April 29, that the former Dutchbat Commander Thom Karremans and his adjutants Lieutenant Colonel Rob Franken and Berend Oosterveen will not be prosecuted for complicity in war crimes and the murders, five years after the families opened the case.
Zegveld described the earlier investigation as “not independent” as the prosecutors were put under pressure by the Dutch Defence Ministry.
However, a spokesperson from the Defence ministry rejected his claims, calling them “totally unfounded.”
Bosnian Serb paramilitaries commanded by Ratko Mladic slaughtered 8,372 unarmed Bosniak men and boys in the last year of the Bosnian War, in Srebrenica town which was then a UN-protected enclave.
The war that was the cause for the killings of more than 104,000 people who were mostly Muslims, ended after the beginning of air strikes by NATO against Serb forces in Srebrenica.
The three Bosnian victims were expelled from the UN-declared safe area by the Dutchbat leadership on July 15, 1995.
Their families believe that the three Dutch UN peacekeepers are responsible for not offering protection for the deaths of their loved ones. They also believe they knew that the victims would be murdered by Serb forces.
The Dutch peacekeepers’ failure to perpetuate the UN-declared safe area status of Srebrenica has been seen a political dishonour in the Netherlands.
In 2002, the country’s government and the top army chief resigned, taking responsibility for the mistakes by the Dutch peacekeepers that led to the massacre, following a report released by the Netherlands' Institute for War Documentation criticising Dutch soldiers for peacekeeping failures in Srebrenica.