UN commander expects charges over Srebrenica

 

THE MILITARY officer who commanded Dutch UN peacekeepers at the time of the Srebrenica massacre in 1995 has said he believes he may soon face criminal charges – 16 years after Bosnian Serb forces overran the UN “safe haven”, killing almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys.

Retired colonel Thomas Karremans – who was a lieutenant-colonel in 1995 and was promoted to colonel on his return from Bosnia – said he expects he may be called to account before judges in Arnhem, where members of the military are tried by a special section of the civilian court.

That likelihood has been increased by last month’s court of appeal ruling that the Dutch state was responsible for the deaths of three Muslim men who were denied protection when they were turned away from the Dutchbat compound in Srebrenica and later killed by the Serbs.

Co Karremans and two other officers – his former deputy, Maj Rob Franken, and former personnel officer Berend Oosterveen – are already facing civil actions begun only last year by relatives of those who died in Srebrenica, the worst atrocity in Europe since the second World War.

Col Karremans (63) was at the head of the 110 lightly armed Dutch soldiers as the Bosnian Serb troops under the command of Gen Ratko Mladic – now facing 11 charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity – advanced on the enclave.

The colonel told the war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in 1996 that he called in Nato air strikes, but when they came they were “too late and too little”.

However, as the Dutch pulled out of Srebrenica he accepted gifts from Gen Mladic, smiled and shook his hand. He was also filmed raising a glass with the general.

In yesterday’s interview, Col Karremans, asked if he expected the appeal court ruling to lead to his appearance in court, said, “Yes, I do consider it a possibility now.” Appearing to suggest others had been at fault, he added: “In hindsight, they made the wrong decisions. ‘They’ being the people who had the authority to make decisions on my behalf.”

Asked if he should have been more aware of the dangers, he replied: “If it turns out that there was indeed that much time between the departure of the Mustafic family and the departure of the last refugees, then I bow my head in shame. In that case there would have been time and opportunity to take other measures – to save them.”

Col Karremans was forced to move to Spain because of death threats after he retired.