The Netherlands apologizes to relatives of the genocide in Srebrenica | NOW

The Dutch government apologizes to the relatives of the genocide in Srebrenica. This was said by Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren on Monday in a speech under the age of 27 for the systematic murder of more than 8,000 Bosnian men and boys.

Ollongren made the “deepest apologies” at the Potocari cemetery in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The minister said he could not take away the suffering of the relatives. “But what we can do is look the memory straight in the eye.”

“The horrific genocide is the fault of only one party: the Bosnian Serb army. Fortunately, key figures have now been brought to justice by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.” However, she considered that an apology was appropriate given the Netherlands’ joint international responsibility “for the situation in which this could happen”.

‘Srebrenica’ biggest war crime in Europe since World War II

The Srebrenica massacre is considered the worst war crime in Europe since World War II. More than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed by Bosnian Serb troops.

The mining town of Srebrenica, located in a mountainous area, was conquered in 1992 by the Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims), who used it as a base for attacks on Serbian villages. The population increased from 5,000 to about 55,000 due to refugees moving from the area to Srebrenica.

The UN Security Council declared Srebrenica a demilitarized ‘safe zone’ to be protected by an international peacekeeping force. But Serbs kept UN convoys of emergency aid out, waiting for the famine to take effect. Fuel, food and ammunition became scarce.

Military support failed after Serbian attack

Following an attack by Bosnian Serb forces on July 3, 1995, UN observatories fell like dominoes. The Dutch commander, Lieutenant Colonel Thom Karremans, repeatedly asked for NATO air support, but these requests were rejected. Dutchbat retreated to the base in Potocari, where thousands of refugees from Srebrenica also moved.

That was where the murders and rapes took place. Men and boys were never seen again, as were most of their sympathizers who tried to flee over the mountains. It is estimated that 8,500 Bosnian Muslims fell victim to the worst genocide in Europe since World War II. The Dutch blue helmets were unable to prevent the massacre of the Bosnian Serb troops.

The Netherlands introduced a compensation scheme

In 2019, the Supreme Court ruled that the state acted illegally against a group of approximately 350 male refugees who were in the area on July 13, 1995. The Netherlands subsequently decided to introduce a compensation scheme.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte apologized to hundreds of Dutchbat veterans in June for the government’s actions regarding the drama in Srebrenica. He held the Dutch state responsible for the circumstances in which the veterans were sent out and “the lack of support when Dutchbat III was wrongfully placed in the quay”. Former Dutchbat commander Thom Karremans called these apologies “good”, but for himself “too late now”.

According to Ollongren, relatives of Srebrenica and Dutchbat veterans are working “with one voice” on a national monument in The Hague for the genocide. In that city, the massacre is also commemorated on Monday. Fifty names of victims are read, initiated by an eleven kilometer long peace march.

Peace organization: ‘Start talking to relatives now’

The peace organization PAX calls the apologies “a positive first step, but insufficient. Today, the minister failed to mention specific Dutch errors. Such errors have been mentioned in countless testimonies from survivors and in many reports, and they have also been recorded in two judgments. By the Supreme Court . advice. “

PAX therefore sees the minister’s statement “at most as a welcome first step”. The organization calls on the government and parliament to now enter into a series of talks with survivors and relatives.

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