Officer blames UN for Srebrenica massacre
24 June 2004, AMSTERDAM — The former Dutch officer assigned to defend Srebrenica has told the UN Tribunal in The Hague he did not know if Muslim fighters used the designated safe zone as a base to carry out bloody attacks on Serbians living in the vicinity.
24 June 2004
AMSTERDAM — The former Dutch officer assigned to defend Srebrenica has told the UN Tribunal in The Hague he did not know if Muslim fighters used the designated safe zone as a base to carry out bloody attacks on Serbians living in the vicinity.
But Commander Thom Karremans criticised the United Nations for failing to demilitarise the region and disarm Muslim fighters.
He was giving evidence before the UN Tribunal in The Hague on Thursday about the worst massacre of civilians since the Second World War.
Following killings of Bosnian civilians in the Bosnian-Serb conflict in the early 1990s, the UN had designed Srebrenica a safe area in which Bosnian Muslims would be afforded protection.
Karremans was in charge of a lightly-armed force, dubbed Dutchbat, which was sent to protect the enclave.
Bosnian-Serb troops led by war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic surrounded the enclave and denied UN air cover, Karremans surrendered on 11 July 1995.
Muslim women and girls were separated out by the Serbs, put on buses and allowed to leave the area. The Dutch troops were also let go.
But an estimated 7,000 Muslim men and boys were taken away, murdered and buried in mass graves.
Karremans has since then been very critical of the failure of the UN to provide air cover, as he requested, to drive off the Serb attackers.
Nevertheless, Karremans has become a hate figure for his apparent failure to protect the civilians. His critics were particularly incensed by a photograph showing him drinking with Mladic shortly after surrendering.
The former Dutch officer recently fled the Netherlands and moved to Spain, claiming he felt threatened.
The Dutch government was later ordered by the tribunal to find Karremans so he could be brought back to testify.
The UN Tribunal has indicted 14 people — including Mladic — in relation to the massacre.
Questioned by a lawyer for one of the accused, Karremans laid part of the blame of the massacre on the UN's failure to demilitarise the Muslim enclave, where many fighters sought shelter among the civilians.
The limited UN mandate did not allow the UN peacekeepers to conduct house-to-house searches for weapons held by Muslims, he said.
The defence lawyer asked Karremans if he was aware of the allegations that Muslim fighters in Srebrenica carried out deadly attacks on Serbs in the area. Karremans said he was not.
Karremans confirmed sentries at Dutchbat observation posts did see Muslim fighters sneaking out at night and returning hours later, but he said he had no information about, nor could he speculate about, what they might have done in the intervening period, news agency ANP reported.
The hearing continues.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news