Dutch state held responsible for three Srebrenica deaths – comment

The Dutch state has been held responsible by the Court of Appeal in the Netherlands for three Srebrenica deaths – see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-14026218

Comment on the decision by Francesco Messineo, Lecturer in Law, Kent Law School:

The decision by the Court of Appeal in the Netherlands on the responsibility of the Dutch state for the acts of Dutch peacekeepers during the Srebrenica genocide in 1995 is a historic and welcome one. It affirms the principle that states contributing troops to UN operations cannot hide behind the United Nations when their troops violate international human rights law or the laws of war. As international lawyers have said for a long time, having one’s soldiers wear a blue helmet does not automatically relieve a state of its international responsibility: so long as a state maintains control over its troops, it is still responsible for all their actions, in parallel with the United Nations as the case may be. There are no easy loopholes for states, nor for the UN – human rights must be respected at all times by everyone.

Although it is not the first time that a domestic court reaches this conclusion (the UK House of Lords in 1969 had reached similar conclusions in the Nissan case), it is fundamental that this rule has been reaffirmed today by senior Dutch judges, because the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg had recently undermined this important principle in a series of cases (Behrami in 2007, Stephens in 2008, Blagojević in 2009). Hopefully the European Court will listen and change its misguided jurisprudence on this point.

Posted on behalf of Francesco Messineo.

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