Dutch State Targeted in Appeal Over Srebrenica Massacre

Image: TOPSHOTS-BOSNIA-WAR-SREBRENICA-ANNIVERSARYThis Thursday, the Mothers of Srebrenica and Zepa Enclaves victims’ group will launch an appeal in The Hague against a 2014 verdict which held the Netherlands responsible for the deaths of about 300 Bosniaks after the fall of Srebrenica.

The district court in The Hague ruled in July 2014 that Dutch peacekeeping troops had failed to protect 300 Bosniaks after Srebrenica fell to the Bosnian Serb Army on July 11, 1995, and ordered the Netherlands to pay compensation.

But Marco Gerritsen, the lawyer for the Mothers of Srebrenica and Zepa Enclaves association said that the Netherlands should be found guilty of responsibility for the deaths of all the Bosniaks from Srebrenica who were killed after the enclave fell – more than 7,000 men and boys.

After Srebrenica was overrun by Serb forces, thousands of Bosniaks sought refuge in the UN base just outside Srebrenica, at Potocari, where the Dutch peacekeepers were stationed.

However, while the women and young children were transported to a Bosniak-majority area, the Dutch soldiers handed more than 7000 men and boys over to the Bosnian Serb army, telling them that they would be safe. All of them subsequently got killed by the Bosnian Serb army.

The 2014 verdict said that on the night of July 12, 1995 or the morning of July 13, the Dutch authorities “knew or should have known” that there was a possibility that the Bosniaks would be killed, so they were found guilty of the deaths of about 300 people who were handed over from that moment onwards.

But the verdict acquitted the Netherlands of responsibility for the deaths of Bosniaks who had been handed over to Serb policemen and soldiers prior to that.

Gerristen said that during the appeal he would present a document dated July 11, in which the Dutch defence minister said he was afraid for the safety of the Bosniaks.

“Therefore, there is a responsibility of the Netherlands for the death of all Bosniaks whom they handed over,” Gerritsen said.

For Marco Gerritsen, the Dutch authorities were only concerned about the safety of their own soldiers, so “many civilians got killed” thanks to the hurried departure of the Dutch soldiers and the handover of the Bosniaks.

 

Netherlands: No More Phone Tapping Without Safeguards

Phone tappingThe Dutch State is no longer allowed to tap lawyers as long as there is no independent oversight guarding the use of special powers by the Dutch (military) intelligence agencies (‘AIVD’ and ‘MIVD’). As long as this check is not in place, the State is also not allowed to provide the Public Prosecutor’s Office with information that has been collected based on communications between lawyers and their clients.

On 27 October 2015, the Appeals Court in The Hague confirmed the verdict rendered by the  judge in interlocutory (summary) proceedings in The Hague on 1 July 2015 in the case Prakken d’Oliveria c.s. vs. The Netherlands. The Appeals Court rejected the State’s appeal against that verdict on all counts. This means that, as of 2 January 2016, the Dutch State must cease all forms of tapping, unless an independent check is in place. The bar on providing the Public Prosecutor’s Office with information has been in place since 1 July 2015.

The Dutch tapping-practices are clearly inconsistent with the criteria that have been developed by the European Court of Human Rights. Particularly with regard to lawyers, the use of special powers by the intelligence agencies must be accompanied by safeguards. Following the District Court of the Hague, the Appeals Court has now also recognized this, and drawn the conclusion that the State must cease its unlawful tapping.

The Appeals Court leaves no doubt that the tapping of lawyers by the intelligence agencies is unlawful as long as there is no independent oversight in place. According to the Appeals Court, it is ‘of great importance that those who turn to a lawyer or are considering doing so, can rely on the fact that, in principle, the confidentiality of their communication with that lawyer is guaranteed, and that infringements will only take place in exceptional circumstances and under the supervision of an independent body.’

The State had also argued that new legislation needed to be drafted and that the 6-month deadline imposed by the judge in first instance provided insufficient time in which to do so. The Appeals Court disagreed. Moreover, it held that the State has had ample opportunity to adjust its policy because it should have been clear long ago that the current system is inadequate.

Srebrenica Families Sue the Netherlands Before the ECHR

Srebrenica MassacreThe families of three Bosnian Muslims filed a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) against the Netherlands for failing to investigate whether its peacekeeping commanders in Srebrenica allowed Bosniaks to be killed.

The move came after a Dutch appeals court ruled in April that Dutch Battalion (“Dutchbat”) commander Thom Karremans, his deputy Rob Franken and personnel officer Berend Oosterveen should not be prosecuted.

The appeal was brought by Hasan Nuhanovic, a Srebrenica survivor and former translator for the UN peacekeepers, and the family of Rizo Mustafic, who was killed by Bosnian Serb forces.

The three former UN Dutchbat commanders led the Dutch soldiers during the fall of the Muslim enclave. About 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered and buried in mass graves in mid-July 1995 at Srebrenica by Serb forces commanded by Ratko Mladic, now on trial for genocide and war crimes before the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

When the Bosnian Serb Army overran Srebrenica, Nuhanovic’s relatives and Mustafic, along with several hundred others, sought refuge inside the Dutch peacekeepers’ base in Potocari.

Instead of finding safety however, they were handed to the Serbs by Dutch soldiers and subsequently killed.

Nuhanovic’s lawyer, Liesbeth Zegveld, said that she was optimistic about the case because the Dutch authorities should have at least brought the case before a criminal court, instead of just briefly dealing with it through a military prosecution.

“We think it is clear the Dutch authorities should have opened a criminal investigation and not just read historical records. The military prosecution said they read the historical records and found the three commanders were not criminally complicit. This was not at all for them to decide,” said Zegveld.

MH17 Crash: Russia Against a UN Tribunal

MH17 CrashRussian President Vladimir Putin has rejected calls for the establishment of a UN tribunal to prosecute suspects in the MH17 air disaster over Ukraine.

Mr Putin made the remarks ahead of the first anniversary of the crash yesterday. The crash killed 298 people.

The Kremlin said in a statement that Mr Putin had “explained Russia’s position regarding the premature and counter-productive initiatives of several countries, including the Netherlands, on the establishment of an international tribunal”. Russia also criticised what it said was politicised media coverage of the disaster.

For Mark Rutte, the Dutch Prime Minister, the establishment of a tribunal would help secure justice and would also constitute “the best guarantee of co-operation from all countries” in trying to secure justice.

The airliner was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it crashed on 17 July 2014.

Western nations believe there is growing evidence that the plane was hit by a Russian-supplied missile fired by pro-Russian rebels in the area. However, Russia blames Ukrainian government forces.

The Netherlands is leading the criminal investigation into the disaster. It is being assisted by Belgium, Australia and Ukraine.

The Dutch Safety Board will release a final report on the cause of the crash in October.

Dutch State Agrees Compensation Deal with five Srebrenica Relatives

Srebrenica MassacreThe Dutch state has reached a compensation agreement with the relatives of three men who were sent out of the Dutch army compound in Srebrenica and killed by Bosnian Serbs.

The five relatives will receive payouts of several tens of thousands of euros, broadcaster Nos says. In addition, defence minister Jeanine Hennis has formally apologised for the way the men were sent to their deaths.

The agreement ends a legal dispute which began in 2002. The Dutch supreme court said in 2013 the Dutch state can be held responsible for the death of the three Muslim men in the siege of Srebrenica during the Yugoslavia war in 1995.

Interpreter Hasan Nuhanovic, who lost his father and brother, and relatives of electrician Rizo Mustafic said Dutch soldiers serving under the UN flag in the Muslim enclave did not do all they could to protect their relatives from the Bosnian Serb army.

Over 8,000 men and boys were murdered and buried in mass graves when the enclave was overrun and the massacre remains the subject of other legal action. The Netherlands had earlier offered each relative €20,000 but this was rejected as insufficient. Their lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld said the sum which has been agreed is ‘decent’ and that the relatives now hope to find peace.

Dutch UN Commanders Not Prosecuted for Srebrenica Massacres

Srebrenica MassacreA Dutch appeals court ruled on Wednesday that three former Dutchbat commanders will not be prosecuted for their role in the massacre of Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995.

Family members of three victims had asked the Dutch court to order the prosecution of Dutch commanding officer Thom Karremans, his deputy Rob Franken and personnel officer Berend Oosterveen, accusing them of knowingly allowing or forcing three Muslim men to leave the UN peacekeepers compound, which led to their deaths.

The three former UN Dutchbat commanders led the Dutch soldiers during the fall of the Muslim enclave. About 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered and buried in mass graves in mid-July 1995 at Srebrenica by Serb forces commanded by Ratko Mladic, himself now on trial for genocide and war crimes before the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

According to the court in Arnhem, prosecutors had made the right judgment in deciding last year not to prosecute the three soldiers for forcing two of the men to quit the compound after reaching terms with the Serbs. It held that there was no basis to assume that the three former commanders knew about the massacres that had taken place elsewhere (paragraph 9.3 of the ruling). Moreover, the former Dutchbat commanders had no knowledge at the time of the genocidal intent of the Bosnian Serbs (paragraph 11.1 of the ruling). Continue reading

Immunity under Pressure: The Case of Hugo Carvajal

by Philippa Webb

Hugo Carvajal

Hugo Carvajal © Reuters

A recent legal flurry on the island of Aruba (population: 100,000) has raised interesting questions about the nature and scope of diplomatic/consular immunity.

Hugo Carvajal, the former chief of Venezuelan military intelligence and retired General whose nickname is ‘el Pollo’ (the Chicken), was detained in Aruba on 23 July. He had been admitted to the island on a diplomatic passport and had been named Consul-General to Aruba by Venezuela earlier in the year.

According to news reports, he was detained at Aruba’s international airport pursuant to a request from the United States. He is accused of conspiring with Colombian drug traffickers to export cocaine to the US. In 2008, the US Treasury Department put him on a blacklist, alleging he had protected drug shipments from FARC and provided them with weapons and logistical assistance.

Venezuela’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs rejected the ‘illegal and arbitrary detention of [a] Venezuelan diplomat’ and invoked the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. A local judge in Aruba, however, rejected the claim of diplomatic immunity on 25 July. The judge pointed out that Carvajal’s nomination of Consul General had not yet been accepted by the Dutch authorities, which was required since Aruba is part of the Kingdom of The Netherlands. The judge ordered Carvajal to be held pending extradition proceedings. Continue reading

Dutch Officials Knew Bosnian Men Would Be Killed in Srebrenica

Dutch Peacekeepers Srebrenica

Dutch Peacekeepers in Srebrenica in 1995 [AP Photo]

In a recent op-ed in the New York Times, Liora Sion discusses the condemnation of the Dutch State for the deaths of 300 Bosnian Muslims, men and boys, in Srebrenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in July 1995. During the war, these Bosniaks sought refuge in a United Nations base where the Dutch peacekeepers were stationed. The Dutch subsequently handed the men and boys to the Bosnian army which decided to kill them afterwards.

For Liora Sion, the Dutch officials knew the danger they caused in Bosnia. She could experience the situation on the ground as she accompanied Dutch NATO peacekeepers in Bosnia and Kosovo as part of her field work for a PhD thesis.

She says that the soldiers she saw were men with little training and that holding them responsible for what happened in Srebrenica would be wrong.

However, she says that the commanders were responsible for the killings as they should have known that these Bosnian men would be killed because there was strong evidence of the Serbs commiting war crimes. Continue reading

Dutch State Found Liable for 300 Srebrenica Deaths

Mothers of Srebrenica

Mothers of Srebrenica

Today, a court in The Hague, Netherlands, ruled that the Netherlands is liable for the killings of more than 300 Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslim) men and boys at Srebrenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in July 1995.

During the 1992-1995 war, thousands of Bosniaks sought refuge in the UN base just outside Srebrenica, at Potocari, where the Dutch peacekeepers were stationed.

However, while the women and young children were transported to a Bosniak-majority area, the Dutch soldiers handed more than 7000 men and boys over to the Bosnian Serb army, telling them that they would be safe. All of them subsequently got killed by the Bosnian army.

The Hague court said that the Netherlands must accept some degree of responsibility for what happened and pay compensation to the families of 300 victims.

The Hague court did not hold the Dutch state liable for the death of the other men killed in Srebrenica, saying that many of the male refugees at the time had not fled to the UN compound in Potocari but rather to the woods in the vicinity of Srebrenica. As a consequence, many of the relatives of the victims won’t be entitled to compensation.

The case was launched by

relatives of the victims under the name “Mothers of Srebrenica”.

Many of remains of the victims still lie in mass graves in Eastern Bosnia.

Dutch Police Arrest Bosnian Suspected War Criminals

Mostar Bosnia Dec 1995

Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina, on Dec. 18, 1995 (Pascal Guyot/AFP/Getty Images)

Today, the Dutch Public Prosecutor announced that the Dutch police have arrested two men who allegedly committed war crimes during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia.

One of the unnamed men, a 43-year-old Bosnian, is accused of being a brutal prison camp commander at a school in Bosnia where Serbs were held.

The man, allegedly a member of the 103rd Brigade of the Bosnian Croat Army (HVO), was arrested in the southern Dutch city of Spijkenisse and is accused of murder, torture and psychological and physical violence against civilians.

“He allegedly shot dead a civilian who tried to escape and other prisoners were forced to watch,” the Prosecutor’s Office said.

“Another prisoner was then beaten and another man had a gun put in his mouth and then the camp commander fired several shots,” it said.

The other suspect, a 52-year-old man with Bosnian and Dutch nationality, was arrested in the eastern town of Heumen.

He is accused of being a member of an armed group who committed war crimes in 1992.

The group allegedly shot up a home in the village of Beslagici, killing a man.

Both men were arrested at the request of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Dutch authorities will now decide on whether they should be extradited.