THE Dutch government is responsible for the deaths of three Bosnian Muslim men ordered to leave a UN compound in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, the Dutch Supreme Court has ruled, in a decision that may impact future peacekeeping missions.

Hasan Nuhanovic, who worked as a UN translator during the Balkan wars, filed the case against the Dutch state more than a decade ago, seeking justice for the murder of his mother, father and brother.

The case is the first time the Dutch government has formally been held accountable for the failings of its troops in a peacekeeping mission and could pave the way for a flood of compensation claims.

Dutch troops were in charge of a UN "safe area" when Bosnian Serb forces overran it in 1995 and killed 8000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in the Srebrenica genocide, Europe's worst massacre since the Second World War.

Dutch forces, in a mission known as Dutchbat, would not allow Mr Nuhanovic's relatives to stay on the base because only he was employed by the UN.

The court ruled on the deaths of his younger brother, father and another man. His mother's case was dropped.

A summary of the supreme court ruling issued yesterday said: "Dutchbat decided not to evacuate them along with the battalion and instead sent them away from the compound. Outside the compound they were murdered by the Bosnian-Serb army or related paramilitary groups."

The failed operation was a painful episode in Dutch international affairs and led to the fall of Labour Prime Minister Wim Kok's government in 2002.

Dozens of Dutch peacekeepers operating under a UN flag were outgunned and outmanoeuvred by the Bosnian-Serb troops.

The Dutch soldiers, many of whom feared for their own lives, helped the attacking Bosnian-Serb troops as they separated Muslim men from women. The men and boys were then bussed to execution sites.

Mr Nuhanovic welcomed the Supreme Court's decision as he stood in the court in The Hague, where survivors of the massacre hugged and wept.

He said: "In the future, countries might act differently in peacekeeping missions and I hope lives in the future will be saved because this mistake was admitted."

The Supreme Court upheld an appeals court ruling from 2011 which had ordered the relatives of the victims to be compensated but did not state the amount.

The verdict, which is final, could make other countries reluctant to participate in foreign military operations if their troops can be held responsible when things go wrong.

The Dutch legal ruling added: "The Supreme Court has held public international law allows conduct to be attributed not only to the UN, which was in charge of the peace mission, but also to the state because the latter had effective control over the disputed conduct of Dutchbat."

Liesbeth Zegveld, the Dutch lawyer who represented the victims, said the decision of the Supreme Court had important implications.

She added: "The most important conclusion is that a UN flag doesn't give you immunity as a state or as an individual soldier."