Dutch Government Apologizes For Role In Srebrenica Genocide

The Dutch Minister of Defence, Kajsa Ollongren, has issued an official apology for the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica directly to the relatives of the victims for the first time since the atrocity took place. Last month, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte had also issued an official apology, but to the Dutch soldiers that were involved. The role of the Dutch blue helmet battalion (Dutchbat) at the time has been discussed at length and opinions on their involvement vary greatly. Dutchbat was at the scene for a peacekeeping mission under the command of the United Nations to protect the Muslim community from Bosnian-Serb forces. They were there, among other, to ensure a safe zone. Nonetheless, on July 11th, 1995, Serb troops penetrated the city, deporting and executing around eight thousand Bosnian Muslim men. These events are considered as pertaining to the worst genocide since World War II. Dutchbat is mainly accused of being underprepared, underqualified, and underequipped. They are also suspected of having covered up crucial facts.

“The international community failed to protect the safety of the people of Srebrenica”, Ollongren said at the 27th memorial of the genocide in Potocari. “As part of this community, the Dutch government shares political responsibility for the situation in which this failure could have happened. For that, we offer our deepest apologies. We cannot take the suffering away, but what we can do is look history straight in the eye.”

Ollongren does emphasize that the real responsibility will always lie with the Bosnian-Serb army, and that Dutchbat was impotent. Indeed, Colonel Thom Karremans, the commander of Dutchbat troops in Srebrenica at the time of the Srebrenica genocide allegedly requested NATO air support four times on the 6th, 8th, and 11th July, 1995. All requests were ignored. As a result, any support arrived too late, and about fifteen thousand Bosnian Muslims fled the scene. Twenty thousand found resort in the United Nations compound in Potocari. It is still uncertain what exactly happened, but as there was little to no media present, facts can hardly be verified. Supposedly, the Bosnian Serbs demanded refugees to be deported to Tuzla, assuring their safety. The Dutch are held accountable for making the crucial mistake of agreeing to this request as, subsequently, eight thousand men and boys went missing. For the past decades, thousands of bodies have been found and identified.

To this day, involved nations, forces and relatives have not been provided with the clarity necessary to proceed with trials, justice and mourning. The truth is hindered, not only because of the absence of media, but also because of the refusal for the Serbian side to cooperate, and indistinct statements issued by the Dutch army.

It is imperative that the truth be revealed and apologies be made, not only for the relatives of the victims themselves, but for any lingering anti-international sentiment as well. Relatives have demanded new investigations into this dark day in July 1995. A relative of one of the 1995 victims stated before the memorial: “All mothers, children, all the people of Srebrenica expect these apologies. Because we are humans. And it must happen after so many years. It is necessary. For us, and for the Netherlands”.