Netherlands Not at Fault in Srebrenica Massacre, Dutch Attorney General Tells Court

Dutch peacekeepers surrendered an enclave to Bosnian Serbs in 1995, just before 8,000 Bosniaks were slaughtered in Europe's worst mass murder since World War II

File photo: Bosnian Muslim woman searches coffins in Potocari, near Srebrenica on July 9, 2011.
REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File

The Netherlands is not responsible for the deaths of around 350 men in Srebrenica towards the end of the Bosnian War, according to an opinion published by the Dutch attorney general on Friday.

The attorney general advised the country's Supreme Court, which is to issue a final ruling on the case in the summer, that an earlier conviction must therefore be lifted.

The judges generally go with the recommendations of the attorney general but are not bound to them.

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The town of Srebrenica and the surrounding area were under UN protection during the war, with Dutch peacekeepers responsible for keeping watch over the declared "safe zone."

The peacekeepers surrendered the enclave to the Bosnian Serbs in 1995 without firing a shot, just before 8,000 Bosniaks, mostly men and boys, were slaughtered in the worst mass murder in Europe since World War II.

A group of around 350 men had been hiding on the site of the UN military commando at the time. An initial ruling found the Netherlands culpable for their deaths since Dutch soldiers had helped the Serbs transport the men away.

The attorney general now sees that as an "inconceivable decision," however. The Dutch UN battalion was acting under immense pressure at the time, he argues.

The civil proceedings against the Dutch state were launched by the Mothers of Srebrenica, a lobbying group launched by the victims' relatives.

The state had appealed the initial ruling.