The Dutch Supreme Court has ruled that the Netherlands is partly responsible for the deaths of some 350 Muslim men killed by Bosnian Serb forces during the massacre.
The Dutch government has officially apologized to troops sent as UN peacekeepers to defend the Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica with insufficient firepower and manpower to maintain peace.
The soldiers – now veterans – were captured by heavier Bosnian Serb forces led by General Ratko Mladic, who continued to kill 8,000 Muslim men and boys in July 1995in a bloodbath that an international war crimes tribunal has described as genocide.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte addressed hundreds of veterans of the Dutchbat III peacekeeping unit at a military base in central Holland on Saturday, telling them that after nearly 27 years, “some words have not yet been said”.
“Today I apologize on behalf of the Dutch government to all Dutchbat III women and men. For you and the people who can’t be here today. “With the utmost gratitude and respect for the Dutchbat III, he continued to try to do good in difficult circumstances, even when that was no longer possible,” Rutte said.
The ceremony came after the publication of a report last year on the experience of the approximately 850 soldiers who make up Dutchbat III.
The study recommended that the government make a “collective gesture” to address what it called a “perceived lack of recognition and appreciation, given the exceptional circumstances in which the near-impossible was demanded” by Dutch peacekeepers.
The Netherlands has long struggled with the legacy of the Srebrenica massacre. Then-Prime Minister Wim Kok resigned in 2002 after a report sharply criticized Dutch authorities for sending troops to a dangerous zone without the proper mandate or weapons needed to protect some 30,000 refugees who fled to a Dutch base in eastern Bosnia.
In 2019, the Dutch Supreme Court ruled that the Netherlands was partly responsible for the deaths of some 350 Muslim men killed by Bosnian Serb forces during the massacre.
The court ruled that Dutch peacekeepers evacuated the men from their military base near Srebrenica on July 13th, 1995, even though they knew they were “in serious danger of being mistreated and killed” by Bosnian Serb forces.
The UN has also been criticized for failing to allow NATO airstrikes in support of lightly armed Dutch troops in July 1995, when they were attacked.