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bullet Posted: 12 July 2005 at 12:09am

Ten years late, a mass funeral for Srebrenica victims

12.07.05 1.00pm

By Peter Popham and Vesna Peric Zimonjic

SREBRENICA - Naza Hasanovic came back to Srebrenica again today. The last time she saw her brother Hamid Velic alive was exactly 10 years ago, on this very spot. Today she buried him here.

It was one of 610 funerals at the Memorial Garden opposite the former base of the United Nations Dutch peacekeepers which took place on the 10th anniversary of Europe's worst genocidal atrocity since the Nazis.

Ten years ago Bosnian Serb soldiers under the command of General Ratko Mladic set about terminating the Muslim population of the town. By the time they had finished, more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim [Bosniak] men and boys had been killed.

Yesterday, tens of thousands of survivors with stories like that of Naza Hasanovic streamed into the Memorial Garden to bury the recently identified corpses and to remember all the rest, both those who have already been identified and those, like Naza's husband, of whom there is as yet no trace.

The funerals raise the number of identified and buried victims to about 2000. There are 7000 body bags with remains still to be identified and 20 more mass graves await excavation.

Thousands of men formed long rows, passing the 610 green-draped coffins one by one above their heads to freshly dug graves where women in white headscarves waited by wooden markers, many weeping or silently praying.

Each narrow, cylindrical box was tagged with a number and a name. Each was light, containing only bones painstakingly identified by DNA analysis. Each family buried its own, shifting the sodden earth with shovels, buckets or by hand.

The dead had lain for years in hidden pits where they were flung by Bosnian Serb troops in July 1995 after the systematic slaughter of 8,000 unarmed Muslim [Bosniac] men and boys taken from what was supposed to be a UN-protected "safe area".

The massacre, in the final months of a 43-month war that claimed 200,000 lives, aimed to ensure there were no Muslims [or Bosniaks] to fight back or reclaim Serb-occupied land or homes in the future.

"Srebrenica was the failure of Nato, of the West, of peacekeeping and of the United Nations. It was the tragedy that should never be allowed to happen again," said former US Balkans envoy Richard Holbrooke.

The UN repeated that Srebrenica would haunt the world body forever. Lightly armed Dutch troops guarding Srebrenica's Muslims were swept aside by Bosnian Serb forces while the United Nations rejected appeals for air strikes by Nato to halt their advance.

Naza Hasanovic, now 47, listened to the speeches and kept her thoughts to herself.

Until 1993 she lived with her family a few kilometres up the road from Srebrenica in the town of Bratunac. Then that town fell to the Bosnian Serb army and they were forced to flee south to the so-called "United Nations Safe Area" of Srebrenica.

After two years of siege, the Bosnian Serb forces came over the hill into the town and the Hasanovics were on the road again, fleeing for the protection of the Dutch United Nations camp in a disused battery factory.

But when the Serbs told the Dutch to relinquish the refugees, Naza was put on a bus to safety while her husband, her 14-year-old son and two of her brothers were put in the lorry that would take them to their deaths.

Her son, Meho, had the wit and luck to escape, fleeing the crowd of doomed men and rejoining his mother.

He survived: yesterday, with sunglasses clamped on his brow and wearing jeans rolled up against the mud, he filmed his uncle's funeral, tears reddening his cheeks. He is studying political science at Sarajevo University.

Naza's husband and brothers vanished without trace. It is supposed that both were executed soon after they were torn away from her.

Thanks to the work of the International Commission on Missing Persons, DNA testing identified first the remains of Mehmed, her elder brother, buried here three years ago, then those of Hamed.

But of her husband there is still no trace. In all, 48 members of her extended family died in the massacre.

The anniversary of the massacre has become the town's sombre annual reunion.

It had a population of more than 37,000 before the war and was 70 per cent Muslim. The population of Srebrenica today is only about 10,000, the majority Serbs.

Under the 1995 Dayton Agreement the town was awarded to the Bosnian Serb entity, Republika Srpska. The town's mayor is a Muslim, but he lives elsewhere, and his administration is painfully under-funded.

The ethnic cleansing of Srebrenica, in other words, was very substantially a success: those Muslim residents not killed were scattered across the earth.

Yet the evidence of massacre has little influence on those Serbs who insist any killing was simply a hard fact of war or who deny the massacre even happened -- despite a Bosnian Serb report last year acknowledging the mass killings.

Although Bosnia declared Monday a day of national mourning, its Serb Republic said it was "not informed" and largely failed to observe it. In Serbia, only a few private channels offered live television coverage of the ceremony.

Serbian President Boris Tadic attended the memorial and laid a wreath, ignoring Serb nationalists who objected, saying he should honour Serb war dead instead.

A choir opened the ceremony with the mournful Srebrenica Inferno as families sought out the final resting places of their fathers, husbands and sons. All of the Muslims among an estimated 40,000 mourners turned to Mecca and knelt for prayers.

Naza Hasanovic now lives in Tuzla, a Muslim-ruled Bosnian town two hours away; two of her other brothers have emigrated to the United States.

As many speakers pointed out, the architect of the massacre, the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, and its executioner, General Ratko Mladic, are still free.

Rumours were circulating yesterday that Mladic may surrender "within days". But Naza Hasanovic has heard it all before.

WORLD REACTS

United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan

"Here we see man's inhumanity to man ... the United Nations should not evade its share of responsibility. It was a serious error of judgement based on principles of impartiality and non-violence that were not appropriate to the situation. The tragedy at Srebrenica will always haunt the United Nations."

US President George W Bush

Bush sent condolences to Bosnia on behalf of the American people, saying the Srebrenica atrocity remained a source of pain for all who believed in the dignity of human life.

"We also remain committed to ensuring that those responsible for these crimes face justice, most notably Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic."

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana

"The victims had put their trust in international protection. But we, the international community, let them down."

"This was a colossal, collective and shameful failure."

Bosnia's chief Islamic priest Mustafa efendi Ceric

"The truth cannot be forgotten, it cannot be denied. The evil must be spoken about for the evil not to be forgotten."

Hajrija Mujic 

Burying her father-in-law. Her husband's remains were identified too late for burial on Monday.

"Our pain continues, every year we come to bury someone else."
- THE INDEPENDENT

* TO DO MORE RESEARCH ON SREBRENICA GENOCIDE, PLEASE GO TO PAGE -1- *



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bullet Posted: 12 July 2005 at 1:23am

Very Brief and somewhat incomplete Timeline of Srebrenica Genocide

Timeline of events leading up to and surrounding the Srebrenica massacre

(*as you can see from this timeline, no mention is ever made that the UN Troops disarmed Bosnian forces in order to 'protect' them)

January 1993 Bosnian guerilla commander Naser Oric more than doubles the size of Bosnian territory in eastern Bosnia, after Bosnian Serb forces destroyed and ethnically cleansed over 400 Bosniak [Muslim] villages.
January 7, 1993 Starved and exhausted, the Bosnian forces from Srebrenica attack and take-over the Serb-controlled village of Kravica which Bosnian Serbs used as a military base.
March 1993 The Bosnian Serb Army, backed by troops and weapons from neighboring Serbia, reverses all of Oric's gains, and again threatens to take Srebrenica. By now, 60,000 people have flooded into Srebrenica, exhausted, starving, and frightened.
March 12, 1993 It seems that salvation arrives. Fearing the total collapse of Srebrenica, French General Philippe Morillon, the UN Commander in Bosnia, bluffs his way through the Serb front line and arrives in the town. Without permission from his superiors, he sees for himself the nightmare in Srebrenica and declares the refugees "under the protection of the UN."
April 1993
April 16, 1993 With the Serbs once again on the verge of taking the town, the UN Security Council passes Resolution 819, declaring that Srebrenica and a 30 square mile area around the town is now the first United Nations Safe Area.
January 1995 A Dutch battalion arrives in Srebrenica. As they assemble in their base at Potocari, an old factory just three miles north of the town, they look an impressive force. But for all their impressive appearance, the new Dutch battalion was facing a mountain of problems, as their UN masters were well aware.
April 1995 Naser Oric is withdrawn from the enclave by the  leadership of Bosnia-Herzegovina, leaving a demoralized and ill-equipped Bosnian defense force.
May 1995 The spectacle of 350 Dutch Peacekeepers, held hostage by the Serbs around Sarajevo in response to NATO air strikes, stuns the UN.
May 22, 1995 General Bertrand Janvier, the United Nations Commander in Bosnia, confronts the UN in New York, urging the Security Council either to protect the Safe Area with massive troop increases or to withdraw the vulnerable peacekeepers in order to allow decisive air strikes. He is told to carry on as usual.
June 1995 From April through June, the Serbs tighten their stranglehold, cutting off convoys to the Safe Area.
July 1995
July 5, 1995 Shelling erupts in the southern part of Srebrenica.
July 8, 1995 Serb soldiers take over the Bosnian defender's Observation Post Uniform, instruct men and women of Srebrenica to surrender their weapons and leave.
July 9, 1995 Shelling is constant as refugees flee from the advancing Serbs in the south. The Bosnian defenders abandon their final position., while the Serbs advance to half mile from town. The road to Srebrenica is now open. Thirty Dutch peacekeepers are taken hostage by the Serbs.
July 10, 1995 Colonel Karremans files his third request for air support with the United Nations. The Serbs shell Dutch positions. UN Commander General Janvier rejects the request for Air Support. Serbs are on the hillside over the town center. Karremans again makes a request for Air Support. General Janvier finally agrees to Air Support. The Serb attacks stop. Colonel Janvier postpones the air strikes until morning. Karremans tells the town leaders that 50 NATO planes will bomb Serbs at 6 a.m. the next morning.
July 11, 1995
9:00 a.m. Colonel Karremans is told that his request for close air support was submitted on the wrong form. He must re-submit the request.
10:30 a.m. The air support request reaches General Janvier. Airborne since 6 a.m., the NATO planes are out of fuel and must return to base in Italy.
11:00 a.m. General Janvier is unsure of Serb intentions and again hesitates over approving air support. More than 20,000 refugees - women, children, sick and elderly - flee for the main Dutch base at Potocari, three miles away.
12:05 p.m. General Janvier authorizes air support, four hours after the request is submitted.
2:40 p.m. Two Dutch F-16 Fighters drop two bombs on Serb positions. The Serbs threaten to kill Dutch hostages and shell refugees. Further strikes are abandoned.
4:15 p.m. General Ratko Mladic enters Srebrenica to claim the town for the Bosnian Serbs. He is accompanied by Serb camera crews. 5,000 refugees shelter inside the Dutch base. More than 20,000 people seek refuge in nearby factories and fields.
4:45 p.m. Serb soldiers arrive at Potocari.
8:30 p.m. Mladic summons Colonel Karremans to a meeting. Colonel Karremans asks for food and medicine. General Mladic delivers an ultimatum: the Muslims must hand over their weapons to guarantee their lives.
Midnight The remaining weapons are carried away by Bosnian defenders, who lead 15,000 men on a perilous 40 mile journey through mountains and minefields toward Bosnian-government territory. Mladic and General Krstic meet a delegation of Srebrenicans. Mladic again demands that weapons must be surrendered. He says: "Allah can't help you but Mladic can."
July 12, 1995 Buses arrive to take women and children to the Bosnian-government territory, while the Serbs begin separating out all men from age 12 to 77. The Serbs insist that men must be questioned to identify, so called, Muslim War Criminals.

5:00 p.m. The buses are too frequent for the Dutch to monitor. Twenty-three thousand women and children will be deported in the next 30 hours. Hundreds of men are held in trucks and warehouses. The Serbs shell men attempting to flee through the mountains. Hundreds are killed, while thousands wander the hills.
July 13, 1995 Hundreds of men are captured as they try to flee through the mountains.

10:00 a.m. 400 men are held in a Bratunac warehouse.

Noon Dutch peacekeepers begin to carry out Serb demands to expel 5,000 refugees from their base. Many of these people will be killed by the Serb Army.

4 p.m.-midnight Hundreds of exhausted men are captured trying to flee through the mountains. In a nearby warehouse in Kravica Village, hundreds of prisoners are gunned down. More than 1,000 men are killed in and around Srebrenica. Lt. Vincent Egbers and 13 peacekeepers leave the Serb base at Nova Kasaba after being held for 24 hours.
July 16, 1995

After five days of fleeing through the mountains from Serb attacks, the first refugees arrive in Bosnian-government held territory.

Following negotiations between the UN and the Bosnian Serbs, the Dutch are at last permitted to leave Srebrenica. Weapons, food and medical supplies are left behind.

First reports of the massacre are now emerging. The head of the UN Mission in Bosnia, Yasushi Akashi, fails to report evidence of atrocities.

Colonel Karremans calls the attack on Srebrenica "an excellently planned military operation." He makes no mention of the atrocities.

In the mountains around Srebrenica, the killing goes on for weeks.

Between July 12 and July 16, 1995, the Bosnian Serb Army kills over 8,000 Bosniak civilians (men and boys ages ranging from 2 months to 96 years).

TO DO MORE RESEARCH ON SREBRENICA GENOCIDE, PLEASE GO TO PAGE 1



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bullet Posted: 12 July 2005 at 1:37am

Srebrenica Recalled With Grief and Shame

World Let Bosnians Down, Leaders Say at Anniversary of Massacre

By Daria Sito-Sucic and Maja Zuvela

Reuters / Washington Post
Tuesday, July 12, 2005; Page A14

SREBRENICA, Bosnia, July 11 -- With shovels and bare hands, Bosnian Muslim [Bosniak] families buried the skeletal remains of 610 victims Monday as thousands of citizens and political leaders gathered at ceremonies marking the 10th anniversary of the massacre that took place around this mountain town.

Thousands of men in long rows passed flag-draped coffins above their heads toward freshly dug graves, where women in white head scarves, weeping and silently praying, waited by wooden markers.

Tagged with a name and number, each casket contained only the bones of victims painstakingly identified by DNA analysis. Each family buried its own, manually shifting the sodden earth.

The dead had lain for years in hidden pits. They had been thrown there by Bosnian Serb troops in July 1995 after the systematic slaughter of an estimated 8,000 unarmed Muslim [Bosniak] men and boys, taken from a so-called U.N.-designated "safe area."

"Srebrenica was the failure of NATO, of the West, of peacekeeping and of the United Nations," said the former U.S. envoy to the Balkans, Richard Holbrooke. "It was the tragedy that should never be allowed to happen again." A message from U.N Secretary General Kofi Annan reiterated that Srebrenica would forever haunt the world.

Some 150 lightly armed Dutch troops charged with guarding Srebrenica's Muslims [Bosniaks] were swept aside by Bosnian Serb forces while the United Nations rejected appeals by the Dutch commander on the ground for NATO airstrikes to halt the Serb offensive.

"The victims had put their trust in international protection. But we, the international community, let them down," said the European Union's chief of foreign policy, Javier Solana. "This was a colossal, collective and shameful failure."

Mustafa Ceric, the leader of Bosnia's Islamic community, declared: "The truth cannot be forgotten, it cannot be denied. The evil must be spoken about for the evil not to be forgotten."

A decade after the massacre, ethnic tensions remain high. Although Bosnia declared Monday a day of national mourning, its Serb entity said it was "not informed" and largely failed to observe the solemnities. In neighboring Serbia, only a few private channels covered the ceremony live.

Serbian President Boris Tadic attended the memorial and laid a wreath, ignoring Serb nationalists who objected on grounds he should honor Serb war dead instead.

A choir opened the ceremony with the mournful "Srebrenica Inferno" as families sought out the final resting places of their fathers, husbands and sons. All of the Muslims [Bosniacs] among an estimated 40,000 mourners turned to Mecca and knelt for prayers.

"Our pain continues. Every year we come to bury someone else," said Hajrija Mujic, who was interring her father-in-law. Her husband's remains were identified too late for burial Monday.

Ratko Mladic, the army commander of the breakaway Bosnian Serb state during the 1992-1995 war, and Radovan Karadzic, its political leader, are indicted for genocide for the atrocity. Both remain at large. "The failure to arrest them is a great failure which we all regret. They must be caught," Holbrooke said.

Monday's funerals raised the number of identified and buried victims to about 2,000. There are 7,000 body bags with remains still to be identified, and 20 more mass graves await excavation.

* TO DO MORE RESEARCH ON SREBRENICA GENOCIDE, PLEASE GO TO PAGE -1- *



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bullet Posted: 12 July 2005 at 1:39am

Bosnian, can you tell more aboutn yourself...Did you live there? Any family there?

 

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bullet Posted: 12 July 2005 at 2:11am

MARWAN, please don't delete this topic. I want all these documents about Srebrenica to be hosted on your website. Why? Because they can serve for research purposes commemorating 10th anniversary of Srebrenica genocide. Let these documents and let this topic serve as a reminder of the worst genocide on European soil after World War II. Let this topic serve as a reminder of United Nations' failure to protect civilians. Let us not forget that Srebrenica would never fall into Serbian hands if United Nations had not disarm Srebrenica defenders. Srebrenica was under siege, no food, no electricity, no communications with outside world - only fear, terror, and miserable existence of peace loving Bosniaks (or Bosnian Muslims as West likes to call us) who were trapped in a war zone when Serbia (with the help of Bosnian Serbs) attacked eastern Bosnia (note: Eastern Bosnia was 90% Muslim before war).

Srebrenica fighters successfully defended Srebrenica until United Nations put up suicidal proposal to completely disarm Bosnian forces in Srebrenica. In return, UN promised, they would 'protect us'. The United Nations forced our government to enter into UN-sponsored agreement which asked our troops to lay down their arms so that United Nations could protect us by declaring Srebrenica "Safe Zone" and sending UN troops there and obliging NATO to defend Srebrenica in case Serb forces attack it. In fact, the United Nations demilitarized Bosnian forces in Srebrenica by promising to defend the city with UN personnel and NATO planes if needed. This was an international, UN-sponsored agreement involving United Nations and NATO who were obliged (under this agreement) to protect our enclave from Serbian attacks.

The United Nations failed us. After they took our weapons, they couldn't provide anything for us. So called "Safe Zone" became Europe's biggest "concentration camp" packed with starving people who lived in one of the worst conditions you could imagine. We were terrorized by Serbian artilery every day, sanitary conditions were terrible, people died from lack of hygiene, we couldn't even defend ourselves anymore. The United Nations could not even provide basic food. Bosnian Serbs continued attacks on a daily basis. When we asked UN to return our weapons so we can defend our city and try to end the siege of Srebrenica, they refused. "Safe Zone" was everything but 'safe'. So called, "safe zone" was hell on Earth.

I was in Srebrenica whole time, I am Srebrenica survivor. I was 14 at that time. All my family was killed, 29 relatives in all, 10 women, 19 men, including my 76 year old grandmother and 81 years old grandfather, my mother and my father, I never saw them again. I run through woods, hiding in bushes and creeks. Serbian army wore "blue helmets" (UN helmets) and tricked many civilians into surrendering. When they surrendered, they tortured and killed them. (you could see some of these videotaped killings that re-surfaced last month, please consult islambosna.ba website).

The truth must not be forgotten. Remembrance of Srebrenica genocide must not be forgotten. Genocide deniers must be confronted.

Peace...



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bullet Posted: 12 July 2005 at 2:36am

Nono Bosnian. I have no intention of deleting this topic. I'm interest in your history as a Bosnian.

Also, I'm the last guy on earth you need to convince that the UN fails miserably in its duty, and is in fact much of the problem.

 

___________________________________________________________

...I do not answer to the slaves of God on earth. I answer to their King - Yasmin Mogahed

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bullet Posted: 12 July 2005 at 10:10pm

12.07.2005 (23:52)

HOLBROOKE: KARADZIC IS PROTECTED BY SDS AND THE SERB ORTHODOX CHURCH

SARAJEVO, July 12 (FENA) – American diplomat Richard Holbrooke on Tuesday said that the former Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, is protected by the members of the Serb Democratic Party and the Serb Orthodox Church.

“Certain members of SDS are involved in this. I think that SDS is a criminal organization that shelters Karadzic”, Holbrooke said in an interview to the Associated Press.

Holbrooke said that he if had to guess where Karadzic was, he would presume that he is in some monastery, with short hair and a beard.

The Hague Tribunal indicted Karadzic, who is the founder of SDS, and the former Bosnian Serb army commander, Ratko Mladic, for war crimes, genocide, and violating the customs and rules of war. They are also held accountable for the crime against Bosniaks in Srebrenica in July 1995.

Although NATO soldiers primarily, and afterwards the members of the EUFOR in BiH have carried out numerous operations aimed at apprehending Karadzic and Mladic, these two are still at large.

The Commander of EUFOR, General David Leakey, on Monday said that the net around the two most wanted ICTY indictees was tightening, but Holbrooke rejected this claim.

“Nets are for fishermen. War criminals such as Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein or Radovan Karadzic cannot be caught in this way”, said the American diplomat.

“It is impossible to catch Karadzic without an insider. The essential problem is seen in the criminal groups that protect nationalists. In the name of nationalism, these people are making fortunes, and all at expense of the people in BiH”, said Holbrooke.

(Fena) jc

* TO DO MORE RESEARCH ON SREBRENICA GENOCIDE, PLEASE GO TO PAGE -1- *



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bullet Posted: 12 July 2005 at 10:20pm

July 12, 2005 Print | Send this article | Feedback
----

DEALING WITH GENOCIDE

A Dutch Peacekeeper Remembers Srebrenica

By Alwin Schröder in Venlo, the Netherlands

Ten years after the worst European genocide since World War II, a Dutch soldier talks about his experiences and insists he didn't know the scale of the tragedy as it was unfolding. Relatives of the missing and dead think otherwise and insist the Dutch could have prevented the massacre.

Dutch peacekeeper Gerald Verhaegh in Srebrenica.
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Gerald Verhaegh
Dutch peacekeeper Gerald Verhaegh in Srebrenica.

Gerald Verhaegh was there. Ten years ago, he was one of the 370 Dutch soldiers stationed at the Muslim [Bosniak] enclave of Srebrenica, Bosnia in an effort to protect it from the bloody grasp of the Bosnian Serbs. He was a member of the United Nations peace-keeping force that stood meekly by as Bosnian Serbs rounded up Muslims and transported them away. Later, he learned that the Dutch soldiers' passivity was a vital ingredient in what became the largest act of genocide in Europe since World War II. Since then, he has been branded a coward, both at home and abroad.

That, says Verhaegh, is unfair. He can't understand why the Dutch peacekeepers are still incriminated back home. "It's not right that we are reproached," he says. "We did what we could."

And the events that took place in Srebrenica 10 years ago, which resulted in the massacre of up to 8,000 unarmed Muslims, have left their mark on the Dutch soldiers. Forty percent of them have needed psychological help, in some cases years of counseling, to put the slaughter behind them. Verhaegh, a 34-year-old from the small village of Panningen, however, has so far abstained. "I was able to handle it pretty well. I was 24 back then -- a bit older than most of the other soldiers."

Verhaegh, who now works as a sales manager at a cosmetics company, says he doesn't have a feeling of guilt for what happened. After all, it was clear from the start that the enclave -- one of six so-called "safe havens" meant to provide safety for Muslim refugees during the vicious fighting in Bosnia -- was at the mercy of the Bosnian Serb forces. On one side, there were 370 Dutch peacekeepers, on the other stood thousands of saber-rattling soldiers. "Even three times as many peacekeepers would not have been enough to stop the Serbs," Verhaegh says.

An image from a video only recently made public showing six teenagers killed near Srebrenica.
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AFP
An image from a video only recently made public showing six teenagers killed near Srebrenica.

Verhaegh was ordered to the Balkans in early 1995 to help protect the some 60,000 Muslims [Bosniaks] collected in the enclave. The Dutch government, under then Prime Minister Wim Kok, had done everything it could to get the prestigious assignment. And for the first couple of months, the unit felt little in the way of danger -- and anticipated nothing of the oncoming catastrophe. But then, the Bosnian Serbs under the leadership of Ratko Mladic became more and more aggressive in the face of the small Dutch force. Soon, Mladic even began preventing food transports from entering the United Nations safe haven. And that marked the beginning of the tragedy.

Dutch had no idea what was happening

On the morning of July 11, it started in earnest. "All day, Serbian buses loaded Muslims [Bosniacs] up and took them out of Srebrenica," Verhaegh says. Everyone felt that something was going on, but Verhaegh says he had no idea he was witnessing the beginning stages of a mass murder. He saw a few corpses of Muslim men lying on the ground, "but I assumed they were killed in skirmishes with Serbs."

It was only months later, when he was back in Holland, that he, along with the rest of Holland, learned about the scale of the catastrophe. At the time, Verhaegh says, he felt "powerless."


 

As the end neared, the harmless "Dutchbats," as the Dutch peace-keepers were called, were further humiliated by the Serbs. Verhaegh had to turn his helmet and his bullet-proof jacket over to them. But he said he didn't fear for his life. Others were forced to strip down to their underwear. Then, dressed as UN soldiers, the Serbs could more easily convince the Muslims [Bosniacs] to go with them. At one point, "we realized that the Serbs had taken pretty Muslim women into a building. But they barred us from entering it," Verhaegh said. One can only imagine the gruesome crimes that took place behind those closed doors.

The Serbians also humiliated Dutch commander Tom Karremans. At one point, Mladic summoned Karremans to a hotel room and then had him photographed drinking and toasting with the Serbs. The photo went around the world as proof of the good rapport between the UN troops and the Serbian war criminals. At a court hearing, Karremans insisted that he only understood the true intent of the Serbs "three or four days" after the Srebrenica massacre had occurred.

A few days earlier, Karremans had asked Nato for assistance in the form of air raids. He also asked for better equipment and supplies for his men. In the end, only four Nato fighter bombers that were in the Adriatic Sea area arrived to attack the Serbs. Two missed their targets and the other two were shot down. That same night, the Dutch gave up. "The Serbs have won," said the Dutch Defense Minister Joris Voorhoeve.

"Dutchbat" Soldier Verhaegh insisted the UN and individual member governments share the blame for the seriously restricted deployment mandate that contributed to the disaster. "We were abandoned," he says. "The United Nations should have at least supported us, and our government should have better equipped us and they should have expanded our mandate." Under the mandate, the lightly armed Dutch soldiers were only allowed to shoot over the head of aggressors - even when they were attacked by Serbs.

Film with Bosnian Serb atrocities disappears

A mass grave near Srebrenica.
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DPA
A mass grave near Srebrenica.

When they returned home, the Dutch soldiers were greeted by Crown Prince Willem Alexander, who praised them. "I want to express my admiration for your accomplishments in Srebrenica." But as the scope of the catastrophe emerged, the Dutch began a painful national debate over who was actually to blame for the genocide in Srebrenica.

Seven years after the massacre, Prime Minister Kok resigned along with his entire cabinet. At the time, the independent Netherlands Institute for War Documentation had released a report which made clear the extent of the carelessness with which politicians had plunged into the war in Bosnia and how woefully unprepared the Dutch military had been for the mission. In a reconstruction of the deadly days in Srebrenica, Holland's Inter-Church Peace Council came to the conclusion that the genocide could have been prevented if the Dutch government and its military leadership in the city had reached other decisions and had negotiated more courageously.

But even today, many irregularities remain unresolved. Among them is a the mysterious disappearance of film footage taken by a Dutch soldier of Bosnian Serbs committing atrocities. The film disappeared when it was developed. Another is the accusation that the Dutch had fraternized with the Serbs and, secretly, admired their tight military organization. And again and again Muslims have spoken about what they experienced in Srebrenica. One woman told the Rotterdam newspaper NRC Handelsblad how shocked she was by one peacekeeper's behavior when her son was kidnapped. "I will never forget this soldier's face: He just stood there and watched. But the worst was that he laughed."

Relatives of the Srebrenica genocide victims have now started legal action against the Netherlands in a court at the Hague. The plaintiffs accuse the country of not having done everything it could to save their family members. Dutch lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld, who is representing the families, believes there is enough proof backing up the accusations for the complaint to be successful. One of the plaintiffs is Hasan Nuhanovic, who worked as a translator for the UN. He says the Dutch soldiers banished his brother from the Srebrenica safe haven with the argument that he didn't have a proper UN identity card.

Bosnian Serb army Commander General Ratko Mladic, left, drinks toast with Dutch U.N Commander Tom Karremans, second right.
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Bosnian Serb army Commander General Ratko Mladic, left, drinks toast with Dutch U.N Commander Tom Karremans, second right.

A book recently published in the Netherlands poignantly captures how some Dutch peace-keepers have struggled with the painful memory of what happened in Srebrenica. "Herinneringen aan Srebrenica" ("Memories of Srebrenica") documents the experiences of 170 of the Dutchbat through interviews about their memories of the event a decade ago and how they deal with it today. Jet Peekel, one of the book's authors, writes, "One of the soldiers said that only now, 10 years later, can he get through a day without thinking of Srebrenica. 'But a noise, a smell, something that catches my eye, is enough to bring me straight back to that day.'"



Edited by Bosnian
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bullet Posted: 12 July 2005 at 11:08pm
Originally posted by M.A.R.W.A.N

Bosnian, can you tell more aboutn yourself...Did you live there? Any family there?

Hi Marwan,

Your website is doing a positive contribution in promoting peacefullness of Islam. I congratulate you on doing this wonderful work.

I am in Canada now and have a family of my own (wife, 1 toddler son, other baby on the way). I came here in 1999 as a landed immigrant. Where are you from?

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