UN immunity overrides ius cogens norms of international law

This guest post was written by Bella Murati, Ph.D. Candidate at the Human Rights Centre of Ghent University.


July 2013 marks the 18th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, when in the period of 13-19 July 1995, more than 8,000 unarmed Bosnian Muslims were deliberately killed by Bosnian Serb forces. The case itself has been termed by both the International Court of Justice (in the Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia and Montenegro case) and the International Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (in the Krstić case) as an act of genocide.

Although Serbian leaders (political and military) bear the greatest responsibility in this case, a certain amount of responsibility rests with the Dutch Battalion who at that time was serving with the UN Protection Force, as well as with the troop contributing country, in this case the Netherlands. Both actors have been accused of failing to protect civilians which were entrusted to them by the United Nations and, as such, of failing in their duty to prevent genocide.

Recently, in Stichting Mothers of Srebrenica and Others v. the Netherlands the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR; the Court) refused to entertain a claim launched against the Netherlands by relatives of victims of the Srebrenice massacre. The Court relied on the immunity of the United Nations to reject the application as manifestly ill-founded. The ECtHR decision will be scrutinized here.

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