ARNHEM, Netherlands (AP) — A Dutch high court has ruled that a retired general who commanded Dutch peacekeepers in the Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica when Bosnian Serb fighters overran the town and massacred some 8,000 Muslim men should not be prosecuted for involvement in the slayings.
The military chamber of the Arnhem court ruled on Wednesday that Gen. Thom Karremans could not be held criminally liable on grounds of command responsibility.
Relatives of three victims of the worst massacre in Europe since World War II wanted Karremans and two other members of the Dutch peacekeeping force to face charges, arguing their family members were turned over to the Serbs on July 13, 1995 when they should have been offered protection.
Court spokesman Mark Boekhorst Carrillo said the ruling specifically had to assess the actions of the three on the day the victims left the compound and not assess the whole Dutchbat (Dutch battalion) peacekeeping mission.
“The court has said that it is very unlikely that the Dutch judges would convict these soldiers and then the prosecution doesn’t have to prosecute,” said Boekhorst Carrillo.
At the time, Bosnian Serb forces separated the Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica from women and the elderly and then transported them to remote sites in the hills surrounding the town and summarily executed them before plowing their bodies into mass graves.
The Dutch government already accepted “political responsibility” for the mission’s failure and contributes aid to Bosnia, much of which is earmarked for rebuilding in Srebrenica. But it has always said responsibility for the massacre itself lies with the Bosnian Serbs.
The massacre and the Dutch peacekeepers’ involvement in it has been a national trauma for the Netherlands, which has long prided itself on offering protection to endangered minorities.