BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in:  World: Europe
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Wednesday, 17 April, 2002, 15:52 GMT 16:52 UK
Dutch general joins Srebrenica exodus
Dutch army chief of staff Ad Van Baal
Resigned: Army chief has followed the government
The head of the Dutch army has resigned over the Srebrenica massacre, one day after the entire government stood down.

The resignations follow an official report on the massacre, published last week, which criticised the Dutch Government, top military officials and the United Nations over their roles in failing to prevent the atrocity.

The resignation of the army's chief of staff, Lieutenant General Ad van Baal, was announced after he had met Defence Minister Frank de Grave.

Wim Kok
Wim Kok led his government into mass resignation
Mr De Grave and all his cabinet colleagues stood down after crisis talks on Tuesday.

General Van Baal was the second-highest ranking officer in the army at the time of the Srebrenica massacre in 1995, when up to 8,000 men and boys were killed by Bosnian Serb forces.

News of his resignation came as the Dutch parliament met to decide how the country should be run until a general election is held on 15 May.

Prime Minister Wim Kok and most of his team of ministers are expected to stay on in caretaker roles.

The election date had already been set before the Srebrenica crisis took hold, and Mr Kok had already decided not to stand for re-election.

'Mission impossible'

In his resignation statement on Tuesday, Mr Kok said he was resigning now to take responsibility for what had happened at Srebrenica.

The international community "is anonymous and cannot take responsibility", he said. "I can and I do."

Poster showing names of Srebrenica victims
Up to 8,000 men and boys were killed
The report on the massacre accused ministers of sending lightly-armed and ill-trained Dutch peacekeepers to protect the enclave, with no clear mandate. It described the operation as a "mission impossible".

The report also criticised senior military figures and the United Nations itself.

Wednesday's parliamentary session is expected to approve a caretaker government made up of the same centre-left parties.

The effect of the mass resignation on Dutch voters remains to be seen.

Political fallout

Mr Kok's left-wing coalition, which had been running the country since 1994, had already slipped in popularity.

The coalition parties include Mr Kok's PvdA Labour party, the free market liberals of the VVD and reformist D66 parties.

Commentators are predicting a tough election campaign which will now begin early.

"Competition between the major (coalition) parties will become stronger now that they are free to fight each other in the run-up to the elections," said Alis Koekkoek, professor of constitutional law at Tilburg University.

Some opposition politicians have also questioned whether friction between the parties might have been the real reason for the mass resignation.

And far right newcomer Pim Fortuyn criticised Mr Kok for resigning, saying he was "walking away".

The BBC's Geraldine Coughlan
"The cabinet stepped down on Tuesday"
See also:

10 Apr 02 | Europe
Srebrenica blame 'must be shared'
10 Apr 02 | Europe
Srebrenica report: Excerpts
02 Aug 01 | Europe
Q&A: Srebrenica massacre
10 Apr 02 | Europe
Identifying Srebrenica's victims
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories