International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Dutch Liability in Srebenica

BosniaIn July of last year, a Dutch court in The Hague determined that Dutch troops acting as UN peacekeeping forces in Bosnia-Hercegovina were at fault for the deaths of more than 300 Muslim men and boys. These deaths compose part of one of the most famous genocides in international history, an episode of ethnic cleansing perpetrated by Bosnian Serbs. The judge presiding over the case said that the soldiers should have known that deporting the Bosnian Muslims from the UN-sponsored Dutch compound would have meant their death. This ruling raises an important question: how will those responsible for the Dutch action (or lack thereof) be prosecuted for their roles in the act of genocide? The court has yet to announce how the families of the 300 men and boys killed by the decisions of the Dutch forces will be compensated, but there hasn’t been any word about the possibility of punitive actions against those responsible in the eyes of the court.


7 responses to “Dutch Liability in Srebenica

  1. pollorey January 31, 2015 at 11:02 am

    During the genocide, over 8,000 men and boys were massacred by Bosnian Serbs, however, Dutch peacekeepers are solely being held liable for the deaths of 300 Muslims. Families of the deceased, however, believed that the Netherlands should be charged with the deaths of all 8,000 Muslims. In assessing the details provided in an article published by the Washington Journal, it is difficult to find the UN Dutch peacekeepers completely at fault for the massacre. According to this article, the Dutch were both outnumbered and outgunned by the Bosnian Serbs and their efforts would have potentially led to a greater massacre. To quote Major Rob Franken, the Dutch second in command: “If we would have started the firing there would be a massacre. I was absolutely convinced of that.” In addition, some of the men and boys murdered did not seek protection in the UN compound, therefore, the peacekeepers could not have prevented their deaths. Although I agree that their actions were unprofessional, I believe that the Bosnian Serbs, notably General Ratko Mladic, assumes the majority of the responsibility for the deaths which resulted during the conflict. It saddens me, however, that it has taken almost 20 years after the genocide for a trial to be pursued against the perpetrators. More importantly, due to the fact that surviving relatives were disappointed with the ruling, this case begs the question: to what extent can the families of the victims and the offenders be reconciled?


  2. pollorey January 31, 2015 at 11:24 am

    Note: The quote from Major Rob Franken was cited from

  3. CRuj January 31, 2015 at 11:44 am

    In responding to both articles, it is my opinion that the Bosnian Serbs hold the greatest accountability. The Dutch peacekeepers’ involvement in the Srebrenica massacre has long been a source of national trauma for the Netherlands. Although I recognize that the Dutch peacekeepers did not fulfill their roles, under the circumstances their hands were tied. The Dutch were both outnumbered and outgunned by the Bosnian Serbs. As stated above, their efforts would have led to a greater massacre. This does not excuse the killing that occurred or the lack of prevention on the Dutch peacekeepers’ part but to pin the fault of the deaths of the Muslin men and boys on UN peacekeepers, to a degree, lessens the blame on the actual perpetrators. On that horrendous day in July of 1995 the Bosnian Serbs were out to kill. The death of the thousands of men and boys was a tragedy but upon the intervention of the peacekeepers a greater tragedy could have occurred. This does not take away from the fact that there was no effort to deter the Bosnian Serbs from killing, but it is in my opinion that the lives saved that day also need to be accounted for. The families mourn this awful massacre but upon the intervention on the Dutch they might not be alive today.

  4. ncullen27 February 1, 2015 at 5:21 pm

    I agree with CRuj’s opinion that the Bosnian Serbs were the most responsible, and not the Dutch peacekeepers. However, this for me brings up the question of whether or not the Dutch peacekeepers should have been better armed/had permission to show force. It seems that in this scenario a stronger display of force might have dissuaded the Bosnian Serbs from attacking the compound, or perhaps it would have created a greater bloodbath. Going off of this, I am curious as well to hear if anyone else thinks that international organizations should have a form of force behind them. It could become very controversial, but would it also aid credibility/legitimacy? For instance, we have discussed in class how difficult it can be for the ICC to apprehend individuals, would a show of force hurt or aid their goals? In the realm of international justice would force be regarded as an imposition on rights? Or lend to the strength and effectiveness of institutions like the ICC?

  5. swashington February 1, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    I think that the question brought up by ncullen27 is an extremely important one. As has been seen in the cases of Srebenica and in Rwanda, the small amount of international forces has been an important factor in how these situations unfolded. Institutions like the ICC or the UN don’t have significant amounts of force on their own, and all of their capabilities rely on individual countries that have their own political and economic reasons to contribute or not contribute to the force. The ICC is supposed to be a nonpolitical institution, and having their own force that responds to the rulings and laws of the institution instead of the politics of individual states would be a strong step in solidyifying and legitimating the power and respect held by the ICC. I agree with all of the posters stating that the Bosnian Serbs are most responsible, but I also think that the role the international community and international institutions play in tragedies such as this should be examined more fully.

  6. Alana Tiemessen February 2, 2015 at 5:56 pm

    Great discussion everyone. An important development out of this case, and others where UN peacekeepers have been hampered by their mandate, is that now the UN sometimes allows peacekeepers to have a more offensive mandate to protect civilians. This has made a huge different in UN operations in the Congo to fight off rebel groups that target civilians. But there remains a significant accountability challenge re crimes committed by peacekeepers in general.

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