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BBC: UN & Dutch disaster in Srebrenica

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Published on Feb 8, 2007

SREBRENICA REPORT- Dutch Government Collapses

Saturday, May 18, 2002

The release of a report on April 10th into the Srebrenica horror exploded like a Serb artillery shell in the market place of Dutch politics on April 10th. The Dutch government report blamed Dutch army officers for relinquishing control of the UN declared "safe haven" to the Serb forces in July 1995 despite their own fears of a massacre. The peacekeeping mission that was supposed to protect the town of Srebrenica, swollen by thousands of refugees from outlying villages, ended in a week long orgy of murder by Serb troops led by Ratko Mladic. The government was also blamed for sending its peacekeeping troops into BiH without a clearly defined mission and blamed the UN for failing to give the troops enough support to defend the local population. Some 200 lightly armed Dutch soldiers stood by as Mladic ordered Muslim men and women separated. The women were deported whilst the 8,000 men and boys were executed.
The report itself consists of 7,600 pages. Primary blame of course, goes to Mladic, currently hiding from the ICTY. Survivors of Srebrenica say the report merely confirms what they have been saying all along: Dutch troops did not do enough to prevent the slaughter. "They had a mandate to help us, but no will to do so," said their former translator Sabra Kulenovic, who lost 28 relatives in the worst massacre in Europe since World War II.

On Tuesday, 16th April the Dutch government shocked the world by announcing the resignation of the entire cabinet. Prime Minister Wim Kok said the government would accept responsibility for its failure to protect the town. One of the most serious accusations is that the Dutch Army withheld information about the massacre from the Defence Minister at the time, in an effort to protect its own reputation.

The next day, General Ad van Baal, Dutch Army chief of staff also resigned, accepting responsibility for mistakes made by Dutch military commanders and the army's subsequent actions. A general election subsequently took place on 15th May, amid Holland's first political killing since the Second World War.

Since the tragedy, about 70% of the original "Dutchbat" have left the army and ten have reportedly committed suicide. One of the former Dutch peacekeepers said, "Others were also to blame, but we Dutch should be big enough to offer some financial compensation (to the widows of Srebrenica)."

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