The Dutch government has rehabilitated its former soldiers accused of complicity in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia and Herzegovina, saying that they were subjected to a storm of unfair criticism while working with the United Nations forces.
“I apologize on behalf of the Dutch government to all the women and men working in the Dutch Battalion,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said at a ceremony in Charsbergen, last Saturday, in honor of these soldiers.
Rutte saw that the Dutch soldiers were sent on an “impossible mission”, and continued, “Not the Dutch soldiers, but only the Serbs are responsible for the genocide in Srebrenica.” He added that the Dutch soldiers received little support from the Ministry of Defense and politicians at the time, “in the face of a storm of unfair criticism, and the soldiers were not given enough attention at the time.”
During the ceremony, the Dutch Defense Minister Kaisa Olungren presented medals to the members of the Dutch Battalion.
It is noteworthy that the Serbian forces led by Ratko Mladic stormed Srebrenica on July 11, 1995 AD, after declaring it a safe area by the United Nations, and committed a massacre over a period of days, killing more than 8,000 Bosnians, their ages ranged between 7 and 70 years. The Dutch soldiers stationed in Srebrenica with the UN forces offered no resistance.
In 2019, the Supreme Court of the Netherlands held its soldiers partially responsible for the killing of some 350 civilians by Bosnian Serb forces during the massacre. The court said at the time that the Dutch Battalion was responsible for not allowing these Muslim civilians to take shelter in a compound that was guarded by the battalion, which led to their deaths.
The court also concluded that Dutch soldiers helped deport Muslim civilians, even though they knew they were at risk of execution and abuse by Serbian forces.
The Srebrenica genocide is the most heinous war crime in Europe since World War II.