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Wednesday, 10 April, 2002, 16:21 GMT 17:21 UK
Srebrenica blame 'must be shared'
Copies of the report
The huge Dutch document weighs 10 kilos
The official Dutch report into the Srebrenica massacre says the Dutch Government and the United Nations must share responsibility for Europe's worst atrocity since World War II.

UN peacekeepers from the Netherlands failed to prevent the killing of thousands of Muslims in the Bosnian town when it was overrun by Serb forces in 1995, at the height of Bosnia's civil war.

The broad circle of those involved with this policy, and particularly its advocates, must bear a considerable responsibility for disregarding the difficulties once the behaviour of the warring factions got out of hand

Hans Blom
director of Netherlands Institute for War Documentation

The United Nations had declared the town a safe area but it fell to the Serbs without the 110-strong UN contingent firing a shot and up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys were then executed.

The report - already criticised by some survivors and human rights activists - also pins part of the blame on the Bosnian Muslims themselves, saying the Bosnian army had provoked attacks.

"They had a mandate to help us, but no will to do so," said Sabra Kulenovic, who lost 28 family members in the killings.

Primary responsibility for the massacres is assigned to Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic, who has so far evaded a war crimes arrest warrant.

Milosevic 'not responsible'

But former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic - on trial at The Hague on a genocide charge citing Srebrenica - is not linked to the killings by the researchers.

  • Up to 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men killed in July 1995
  • 600 Dutch UN peacekeepers based at Potocari failed to prevent the massacre
  • Bosnian Serb General Radisav Krstic given a 46-year prison sentence by Hague tribunal in August 2001
  • Town remains under Bosnian Serb control

      Srebrenica timeline

  • "No evidence had been found that suggests the involvement of the Serbian authorities in Belgrade," the report says.

    Compiled over five years by the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation, the report is mostly a summary of known facts, but it assesses the Dutch force's task at the time as a "mission impossible".

    The lightly armed troops had been inadequately trained and had no clear mandate, it says, but the Dutch military command in the region was at fault for not investigating reports of mass killings of Muslim civilians.

    'More escapism'

    "Dutch troops serving as peacekeepers in Srebrenica were able to do much more, but they failed," said Azija Sehomerovic, whose husband was killed in the massacre.

    Right before the massacre, I saw one Dutch soldier sitting and crying. It seemed that he knew what would happen to us. But they failed

    Azija Sehomerovic
    "When we saw the peacekeepers running away from their positions, then we knew we had to run too," she said. "Right before the massacre, I saw one Dutch soldier sitting and crying. It seemed that he knew what would happen to us. But they failed."

    One Dutch soldier, who served in the Srebrenica mission, said that the killings "should never have been possible".

    "The members of the United Nations had committed themselves to protect the population but they did not send enough troops to do so," said Wim Dijkema.

    Dion Van Der Berg from the Dutch Interchurch Peace Council (IKV) criticised the official account of events.

    Bosnian Muslim woman cry as they attend the memorial service for Srebrenica victims
    Srebrenica marked a low point for UN credibility
    "Everybody is a little bit to blame so no-one is guilty. It's unacceptable, it's a continuation of escapism. That's what it looks like. Not being able of really looking into these people into the eyes and admit what went wrong," he said.

    Two weeks ago, the IKV condemned Dutch troops, generals and politicians for failing to evacuate and protect the Muslims.

    UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has blamed the international community for its failure to protect the enclave, but insisted that it was impossible "to say whether a more decisive action by the Dutch would have saved lives".

    The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague has ruled that the massacre constituted genocide.

    Last August it sentenced Bosnian Serb General Radisav Krstic, considered a key commander in the episode, to 46 years in prison.

    The judge in the case said the massacre was characterised by "scenes from hell, written on the darkest pages of human history".

    Survivors' reports, aerial photography and grisly evidence exhumed from mass graves indicate that most victims in the massacre were summarily executed.

    The BBC's Allan Little
    "Holland is haunted by the affair"
    Professor Petr Romain the report's co - editor
    "We cannot alter the facts and that is the problem"
    The BBC's Geraldine Coughlan
    "The new report spreads the blame for what happened fairly thinly"
    See also:

    10 Apr 02 | Europe
    Srebrenica report: Excerpts
    06 Apr 02 | Europe
    Bosnia marks war anniversary
    02 Aug 01 | Europe
    Q&A: Srebrenica massacre
    01 Apr 02 | Europe
    Bosnia genocide suspect arrested
    02 Aug 01 | Europe
    Srebrenica judgement: Excerpts
    10 Apr 02 | Europe
    Identifying Srebrenica's victims
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