Criticism of Dutch army over Srebrenica massacre


HOLLAND: A damning report into the Srebrenica genocide, Europe's worst massacre since the second World War, has strongly criticised the Dutch military command at the enclave in Bosnia.

The report, published yesterday in the Netherlands, concludes that the Dutch military deliberately withheld necessary information about the humanitarian atrocities committed by Gen Ratko Mladic and his murderous troops to avoid censure at home.

However, claims that the Dutch peacekeepers - who allowed the enclave to fall in July 1995 without a single shot being fired - were anti-Muslim were contradicted in the 5½-year investigation by the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation.

Three hundred Dutch soldiers were supposed to protect the so-called safe haven where an estimated 30,000 refugees, mostly Bosnian Muslims fleeing Serbs, had gathered.

The peacekeepers, vastly outnumbered and outgunned, failed to stop Serb forces from overrunning the enclave and killing as many as 8,000 men and boys in less than a week.

The report, which is 3,400 pages, says the UN and the government of the Netherlands must share responsibility for the massacres.

Townspeople surrounded by the Serb forces threatening a massacre had begged the Dutch UN soldiers not to leave them.

The report suggests that had the peacekeepers not agreed to co-operate with the Serbs after they overran the enclave many more thousands could have perished, including all the women and children.

Reacting to the report's findings, one of the leaders of the women survivors of Srebrenica, in the Netherlands for protests and vigils this week, said: "The Dutch were cowards. If any other country but the Netherlands had been protecting us my son and husband would be still alive.

"The Dutch soldiers behaved like cowboys, waving their guns around and acting tough in town. But when the time came to protect us against the Serbs, they were the first to lay their arms down and help them.

"They could have evacuated us themselves and the boys and men would have been spared but they left the job to Mladic and his murderers," said Ms Munira Subasic (54).

Among the report's findings was that many of the Dutch peacekeepers were hopelessly ill-prepared for their mission as few had any knowledge of the Balkans conflict or the standpoint or cultural differences of Bosnian Serbs and Muslims.

Dutch UN peacekeepers, lacking UN reinforcements or the promise of NATO air attacks, were in a "nearly impossible situation", but investigators criticised the Dutch army command for not bothering to properly consult Canadian peacekeepers who preceded them.

Communication were poor, capabilities unclear and the political decision in the Netherlands to deploy the force had not been properly thought out, it added.

Far from being laid to rest the report raises new questions about the scandal.

These in particular concern the extent of political and military responsibility in the Netherlands for what has become one of the key events and darkest chapters in UN history.

A full-scale parliamentary inquiry now seems inevitable following Dutch elections which take place next month.