Dutch TV says Ratko Mladic’s Serb forces were safe from Nato strikes at Srebrenica

Programme says US, Britain and France agreed among themselves to end air strikes in Bosnia but did not tell Dutch government

 A Bosnian Muslim woman, a survivor of the Srebrenica massacre, reads the names of Muslims killed in the former UN safe zone of Srebrenica as she visits a memorial in Potocari in 2008. At least 8,000 Muslim men and boys were  massacred by Bosnian Serbs in 1995.     Photograph: Damir Sagolj/Reuters

A Bosnian Muslim woman, a survivor of the Srebrenica massacre, reads the names of Muslims killed in the former UN safe zone of Srebrenica as she visits a memorial in Potocari in 2008. At least 8,000 Muslim men and boys were massacred by Bosnian Serbs in 1995. Photograph: Damir Sagolj/Reuters

 

The US, Britain and France agreed among themselves to end air strikes in Bosnia in 1995, but did not tell the Dutch government or its peacekeepers who were struggling to protect the “safe haven” of Srebrenica, where 8,000 Muslim men and boys were subsequently massacred by Bosnian Serbs.

That was the shocking conclusion of a television documentary aired in the Netherlands last night – that troops commanded by Gen Ratko Mladic already knew they would not face fire from Nato jets when they began industrial-scale killings in the enclave on July 11th, 20 years ago.

The investigation finally answered the enduring question asked by the Dutch since their 150 lightly armed UN peacekeeping troops infamously stood aside and watched the Muslims being led away: why was there no response to their repeated calls for air support?

The programme, Why Srebrenica Had to Fall, alleged that on May 28th, 1995, the Clinton administration, after consultation by phone with French president Jacques Chirac and British prime minister John Major, decided to suspend air strikes.

The decision was taken because of fears for the lives of some 450 UN peacekeepers, including British and French, who had been taken hostage by the Serbs. Their blue helmets were chained together in strategic locations to warn off Nato attacks. However, the White House decision, which was committed to writing, was taken “in silence” and Mr Clinton allegedly bowed to advice the following day to “make no public statement” so as not to appear weak, the programme suggested.

The revelations led former Bosnian ambassador to the UN, Mohammed Sacirbey, to ask the Dutch government via Twitter last night if it now recognised that, along with those killed, it had been “set up” by its allies to take the fall for what happened in Srebrenica.

Certainly, former Dutch defence minister Joris Voorhoeve had no such doubt and was clearly still furious. “The text of the decision does not even include the words ‘the Netherlands’. Personally I think this is extremely serious. We are allies. The Netherlands was given the most difficult task of all in east Bosnia, so we should have been informed.”