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Dutch Supreme Court Affirms that Dutchbat Acted Unlawfully in Srebrenica

Published on September 8, 2013        Author: 

Tom Dannenbaum is a Visiting Lecturer in Law and Robina Foundation Human Rights Fellow at Yale Law School and a PhD candidate at Princeton University.

In a couple of posts in 2011, I discussed two nearly identical Hague Court of Appeal judgments on the liability of the Netherlands for the actions of Dutchbat at Srebrenica (see here and here). On Friday, the Dutch Supreme Court upheld both of those judgments. In what follows I’ll reference the Nuhanović decision.

The judgments are important on their own terms, but they are also significant in their implications for the Mothers of Srebrenica litigation against the Netherlands, particularly following the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights this summer upholding the Dutch courts’ acceptance of UN immunity in that context. Coincidentally, Dapo and Manuel Ventura posted on the ECtHR’s decision in Mothers of Srebrenica within minutes of the Dutch Supreme Court’s Nuhanović judgment. I connect back to their post below.

The Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeal’s strong approach to dual attribution, holding that it was possible that both the Netherlands and the UN had effective control over the same wrongful conduct and that attributing the conduct to the Netherlands did not in any way determine whether the UN also had effective control (such that it, too, could be attributed with the wrongdoing). (para 3.11.2). Relatedly, the Court also affirmed the power-to-prevent standard discussed in the second of my earlier posts (paras 3.11.3, 3.12.2, 3.12.3). I have advocated this standard at greater length elsewhere (here and here).

The aspect of Friday’s judgment that did the most work in going beyond the reasoning of the Court of Appeal was the Supreme Court’s discussion of extraterritoriality. It elaborated on two points in this respect (acknowledging explicitly that its discussion on this amounted to obiter dictum).

Read the rest of this entry…

 

The Hague Court of Appeal on Dutchbat at Srebrenica Part 2: Attribution, Effective Control, and the Power to Prevent

Published on November 10, 2011        Author: 

 Tom Dannenbaum is a Graduate Associate in the Law and Public Affairs Program at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He is author of Translating the Standard of Effective Control into a System of Effective Accountability: How Liability Should be Apportioned for Violations of Human Rights by Member State Troop Contingents Serving as United Nations Peacekeepers51 Harv. Int’l L.J. 113 (2010)

Introduction:

In an earlier post, I reported on the Hague Court of Appeal’s decisions in Nuhanović v. The Netherlands and Mustafić-Mujić et al v. The Netherlands regarding the wrongdoing of Dutchbat at Srebrenica. Here, I examine the Court’s holding on the attribution of that wrongdoing to the Dutch state.

The decisions provide stronger and clearer jurisprudential affirmation of the principles of “effective control” and dual attribution than does the Grand Chamber’s judgment in Al-Jedda v. United Kingdom (handed down just two days later). Moreover, the Court of Appeal’s elaboration of “effective control” establishes several key features of the concept as applied in the peacekeeping context. First, the “effective control” analysis should be applied equally to the contributing state and the receiving international organization. Second, “effective control” includes not just giving orders, but also the capacity to prevent the wrongdoing. Third, though the Court’s position on this is slightly more ambiguous, troop-contributing states may sometimes hold that “power to prevent” in virtue of their authority to discipline and criminally punish their troops for contravening U.N. orders. I would go beyond the Court’s reasoning on this third feature to add that the state’s authority with respect to selecting and training troops and contingent commanders is also relevant in this regard.

Since the decisions do not differ on any significant matters of substance, the citations below are to Nuhanović, but apply equally to Mustafić-Mujić. Read the rest of this entry…

 
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The Hague Court of Appeal on Dutchbat at Srebrenica Part 1: A Narrow Finding on the Responsibilities of Peacekeepers

Published on October 25, 2011        Author: 

Tom Dannenbaum is a Graduate Associate in the Law and Public Affairs Program at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He is author of Translating the Standard of Effective Control into a System of Effective Accountability: How Liability Should be Apportioned for Violations of Human Rights by Member State Troop Contingents Serving as United Nations Peacekeepers, 51 Harv. Int’l L.J. 113 (2010)

Introduction:

This summer, the Dutch Court of Appeal in The Hague issued simultaneous and almost identical rulings in two crucial lawsuits regarding the actions of U.N. peacekeepers during the Srebrenica genocide – Nuhanović v. The Netherlands and Mustafić-Mujić et al v. The Netherlands. The cases involve civil claims with respect to the deaths of four Bosnian civilians in the Srebrenica genocide. The victims were killed by Bosnian Serb forces after being evicted by the Dutch battalion (Dutchbat) of UNPROFOR from the U.N. compound at Potočari on the 13th of July 1995. The Court of Appeal decided that Dutchbat acted unlawfully in evicting two of the male victims, that this triggered legal responsibility for the deaths of all three male victims (but not the sole female victim), and that the wrongs could be attributed to the Netherlands.

In this post, I provide a brief description of the procedural and factual background to the case and address the legal issue of Dutchbat’s wrongdoing. Later this week, I will address the potentially more consequential issue of the attribution of that wrongdoing to the Dutch state.

The Court’s analysis of Dutchbat’s wrongdoing has two key features. First, the Court applied human rights obligations abroad. However, it did not do so by finding the relevant treaties to have extraterritorial effect. Instead, it found (i) that the ICCPR had been incorporated into the domestic law of the host state (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and (ii) that the relevant provisions of the ICCPR and ECHR were rules of customary international law that were binding extraterritorially (whether or not the treaty obligations themselves would extend abroad). Second, the ruling characterized Dutchbat’s wrongdoing narrowly: (i) relying on the eviction of the victims from the U.N. compound, not on any responsibility to protect those already outside the compound, and (ii) noting that since the victims were the last persons to be evicted, the judgment provided no indication of whether earlier evictions would have been unlawful (the probable consequences of eviction having become more apparent to Dutchbat over time). Read the rest of this entry…