Former Dutch soldiers visit Srebrenica
17 October 2007, SREBRENICA - Former Dutch soldiers who failed to prevent the 1995 Srebrenica massacre returned to the ill-fated Bosnian town on Wednesday to pay respects to victims and meet with survivors.
17 October 2007
SREBRENICA - Former Dutch soldiers who failed to prevent the 1995 Srebrenica massacre returned to the ill-fated Bosnian town on Wednesday to pay respects to victims and meet with survivors.
"I was here in July. Now I came to pay respect to the victims and to talk to you," Boudewin Kok, one of the former UN-mandated soldiers, said in a meeting with survivors.
"I think that this should be the beginning of our joint search for some answers."
The group of 12 ex-servicemen who were deployed in Srebrenica during Bosnia's 1992-1995 war visited its memorial centre and cemetery at Potocari, their former base outside the eastern town.
Nine of them were deployed in Srebrenica on July 11, 1995 when Bosnian Serb troops overran the enclave, summarily killing some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Europe's worst atrocity since World War II.
Some 300 Dutch troops were stationed at Srebrenica and tasked with protecting the civilian population, but their rules of engagement meant they had no power to prevent the Serbs' taking the town.
However, the survivors had little sympathy for the feelings of the visiting Dutchmen.
"I will never forget walking down this street with my son and seeing Dutch UN soldiers point at us and laugh and call us scum. They did nothing when my child was torn from my arms," one of the survivors, Sabaheta Fejzic, told AFP. Fejzic and her son were among thousands of people who fled to the Potocari base as the Serbs launched their killing spree.
As Dutch peacekeepers looked on, boys - some as young as 14 - were snatched from their weeping mothers in Potocari to be taken to their deaths. Elderly and ill men who hoped to get protection at the base were also singled out and taken away.
In June representatives of 6,000 survivors belonging to the Mothers of Srebrenica association and 10 female plaintiffs filed charges in a Dutch court in The Hague against the Netherlands.
Their suit accuses the Netherlands and the United Nations of failing to provide air cover to prevent the July 1995 slaughter.
Another survivor, Munira Subasic, said the former soldiers had to do more than just visit.
"They remained quiet for 12 years, but they know what happened. If they want to clear their consciousess they should support our suit against the UN and Netherlands as witnesses," Subasic said.
The Srebrenica massacre is the only episode of the Bosnian war that international courts have ruled as an act of genocide.
The Dutch government believes the troops, many of whom have undergone therapy to help them deal with the resulting trauma, have been blamed unfairly and were powerless to intervene.
[Copyright afp 2007]
Subject: Dutch news