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Dutch Court says Netherlands Not Responsible for Srebrenica Claim

A Dutch court has ruled that The Netherlands owes nothing to the families of two Bosnian Muslims who were killed after Dutch peacekeepers turned them over to Serb forces during the 1995 Srebrenica massacres. For VOA, Lauren Comiteau has more from Amsterdam.

It has taken six years for this case to reach a verdict, and now one of the plaintiffs, Hasan Nuhanovic, says he will appeal the decision that is keeping what he calls his "nightmare" alive. Nuhanovic was working as an interpreter for Dutch U.N. forces charged with protecting the U.N. safe area of Srebrenica from advancing Serb forces in 1995.

But with thousands of Muslim refugees in the Dutch compound - including Nuhanovic and his mother, father and brother - Dutch forces handed them over to the Serbs. About 8,000 of them - men and boys - were then executed, including Nuhanovic's entire family.

The Hague District Court ruled the government cannot be held liable because the Dutch battalion was working for the United Nations.

Nuhanovic and the family of Rizo Mustafic, an electrician murdered at Srebrenica, were seeking compensation from the Dutch state because both were employed by its peacekeepers.

This decision does not bode well for another civil lawsuit still working its way through the Dutch courts, a larger class-action lawsuit brought by about 6,000 family members of the victims. A court in that case already ruled earlier this year that the United Nations cannot be held responsible for failing to prevent the massacre because it enjoys immunity from legal processes.

Six years ago the Dutch government collapsed after a report concluded it had sent its ill-prepared troops on an impossible mission. But the state denied liability for the murders, ruling out any monetary compensation at the time.

"I have been betrayed so many times before in my life," Nuhanovic said after the verdict, vowing to continue his fight.

But Dutch officials blame the Srebrenica massacres solely on the Bosnian Serbs, whose leaders, Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic, have been charged with genocide for what happened at Srebrenica. Now that Karadzic has been arrested after 13 years on the run, his upcoming trial at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal may be the last hope for the justice Nuhanovic and the other Srebrenica survivors say they are looking for.