Victims of alleged Serbian war crimes turn to ECtHR too late says ECtHR20 October 2017
Victims of alleged Serbian war crimes turn to ECtHR too late says ECtHR
On 19 October 2017 the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) decided by majority that the relatives of men who died in or in the way to Serbian detention camps in 1995 had left it too late to lodge their complaint about the Serbian failure to investigate these deaths and declared the case inadmissible.
1995 Victims were either murdered or died as a result of torture and lack of medical assistance during their transportation to the camps or while interned in them.
September 2011 – July 2014 On behalf of the victims’ relatives, the Humanitarian Law Centre (HLC) lodges a criminal complaint with the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor of Serbia (OWCP) against more than fifty individuals for alleged war crimes, and subsequently appeals the OWCP’s refusal to bring criminal proceedings. In July 2014 the Constitutional Court rejects the appeal for formal procedural reasons.
2014 HLC files two applications with the ECtHR against Serbia; one for the failure to investigate cases of torture of detainees and one for failure to investigate cases of deaths of detainees. In conformity with Article 35 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the applications where filed after domestic remedies had been exhausted and timely, within the six month time limit.
October 2016 ECtHR decides that the complaint about the failure to investigate cases of torture of the detained victims, was submitted too late.
19 October 1017 The ECtHR finds that the application to adjudicate the alleged failure to investigate the deaths of the detained victims falls outside six month limit of Article 35 (1) (4) of ECHR and declares the case inadmissible.
The Court considers that the fact that no official investigation took place in Serbia in the aftermath of the events, following the ratification date or the OWCP’s creation, while the deaths in question occurred in the presence of State authorities, should have made clear to the applicants that the Serbian authorities had no intention to effectively investigate the alleged crimes. The Court finds that applicants should have been aware that the OWCP approached the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) as an internal armed conflict in which Serbia did not participate. As a result, the OWCP refused to investigate the crimes that took place in the territory of Serbia during the war in BiH, as it did not consider them as war crimes. So when the applicants submitted the criminal complaint to the OWCP in 2011, they should have realized that this move would be ineffective since there was no realistic prospect of an effective investigation being provided in the future by the OWCP.
This given, the Court concludes that the relatives should have realized that domestic proceedings would lead nowhere and thus should have lodged their application to the ECHR sooner. With this decision, the Court transferred the responsibility for the inactivity of war crimes prosecutions from the state to the victims themselves.
UN Commission of Inquiry for Syria in Amsterdam18 October 2017
On 25 October representatives of the UN Commission of Inquiry will visit the University of Amsterdam to discuss the Commission's work. The event is organized by the Syria Legal Network and the Nuhanovic Foundation in cooperation with the War Reparations Centre of the University of Amsterdam. For details and invitation: email@example.com.
Nuhanovic Foundation member of EFAD26 September 2017
The Nuhanovic Foundation has been accepted as member of the European Forum on Armed Drones. See for EFAD’s Call to Action.
Dutch State appeals to the Supreme Court in Srebrenica case20 September 2017
The Dutch State has announced to bring an appeal to the Supreme Court of the Netherlands against the judgment of the Dutch Court of Appeal in the Srebrenica case, issued last June. The Court of Appeal ruled that the Dutch State is liable to the extent of 30% of the damages suffered by 350 muslim men resulting from their unlawful ‘evacuation’ from the Dutch Compound in Srebrenica, leading to their death.
When deciding the case, the Dutch Supreme Court is required by law to base its deliberations on the facts as established by the lower court and can, apart from taking formal decisions (e.g. inadmissability of the case) decide to either dismiss the appeal, rendering the Appeal Court’s judgment final and binding ór quash the Appeals Court’s judgment. In the latter situation, the case is usually referred back to a Court of Appeal in order to review the case, in whole or in part, again. The Supreme Court only passes final judgment if no significant questions of fact remain to be decided.
Dutch Advocate requests information about Dutch involvement in Iraq airstrikes, on behalf of civilian victims14 August 2017
Lawyer, Liesbeth Zegveld has requested the Dutch Ministry of Defense for detailed information concerning Dutch involvement, as a member of the international coalition in Iraq, in airstikes on a convoy that left civilian casualties. She is acting on behalf of two victims seeking to know who bears responsibility for their injuy. It is known that the Dutch military was involved in airstrike operations in Iraq in the relevant week, but information is not publicy available about the precise nature of that involvement.
Conference on Access to Justice for victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Turkey recognizes change of direction necessary in pursuit of accountability7 July 2017
The conference on Access to Justice for victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Turkey (7-8 July at the Hague Institute for Global Justice) brought together more than 90 lawyers, academics and international experts from Kurdistan, Turkey and Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and Norway. Accountability for international crimes committed by or behalf of the Turkish state was the central topic of the two day conference. Participants discussed the need to analyze the situation in southeast Turkey from an international crimes and an humanitarian law perspective instead of within the paradigm of human rights violations, as has mostly been the case so far. The Human Rights framework is now thought to be inadequate to the task of describing the facts on the ground in Turkish Kurdistan since 2015, or of developing an effective legal response to the crimes. The conference discussed recent initiatives in several EU countries - as well as in Turkey itself - to start criminal proceedings before national courts, against representatives of the Turkish state. It was decided to form an international legal network to follow up on these initiatives and to better support the work of the colleagues in Turkey. The organizers of the conference, the Nuhanovic Foundation, Maf-dad and the University of Amsterdam’s War Reparations Centre will follow up on all further developments arising from the conference.
Photo: Dr. Frederiek de Vlaming (far right) with guest panelists at the conference, 7 July 2017.
P.S. For security reasons photo’s of our colleagues from Turkey cannot be displaced.
Reparations to be paid by Dutch State to families of evacuated Srebrenica Bosniaks27 June 2017
On 27 June 2017 The Court of Appeal in Den Haag awarded reparations to family members, known as the ‘Mothers of Srebrenica’, of 350 Bosniak men and boys who were evacuated from the UN/Dutchbat compound on 13 July 1995. The Court found that the Dutch battalion responsible for their protection should have offered the male refugees the choice not to leave the compound, given that, by 13 July, the Dutch had become aware that there was a grave risk that male refugees would be subjected to degrading and inhumane treatment or to summary execution. The Court considered that allowing the men to have remained inside the compound could not have guaranteed their safety, but would have given them at least a better chance of surviving. The Court estimated this chance at 30%, and found that, by its omission, Dutchbat (and thus the State of the Netherlands) had robbed the male refugees of that 30% chance. The Court ordered that the State should pay compensation to the extent of 30% of the damages suffered. For more details, see our summary in the Bosnia cases section of this site.of 350 Bosniak men, men and boys who were evacuated from the UN/Dutchbat compound on 13 July 1995. The Court found that the Dutch battalion responsible for their protection should have offered the male refugees the choice not to leave the compound, given that, by 13 July, the Dutch had become aware that there was a grave risk that male refugees would be subjected to degrading and inhumane treatment or to summary execution. The Court considered that allowing the men to have remained inside the compound could not have guaranteed their safety, but would have given them at least a better chance of surviving. The Court estimated this chance at 30%, and found that, by its omission, Dutchbat (and thus the State of the Netherlands) had robbed the male refugees of that 30% chance. The Court ordered that the State should pay compensation to the extent of 30% of the damages suffered. For more details, see our summary in the Bosnia cases section of this site.
Photo: Claimants in Mothers of Srebrenica case arriving at the Appeals Court Tuesday 27 June 2017, Remko de Waal/ANP
Nuhanovic Foundation sponsors civil claim against Israeli military for deadly Gaza attacks22 June 2017
In June Dutch lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld sent a ‘notice of liability’ to the Chief Commander of the Israeli defense forces. It is the first ever civil claim against the Israeli army for killing civilians during its attacks on Gaza in 2014. Zegveld represents a relative of the diseased who lost six members of his family including two children. The applicant is a resident in The Netherlands. Via this link you can read a column discussing the background to the case, published in the Dutch newspaper NRC.
New! Amsterdam University Fund awards grant to Syria Legal Network and UvA students8 June 2017
Amsterdam University Fund has awarded a research grant to the Syria Legal Network and UvA students for a research project on the classification of the conflict in Syria and accountability for war crimes.
Information Frederiek de Vlaming
Upcoming conference on Access to justice for victims of international crimes in Turkey8 June 2017
Upcoming conference on Access to justice for victims of international crimes in Turkey 7-8 July 2017
Two-day conference on violations of international humanitarian law and international crimes in Turkey (2015-2017) and access to justice for victims. Invitations only. Information Frederiek de Vlaming.