Dutch Officials Knew Bosnian Men Would Be Killed in Srebrenica

Dutch Peacekeepers Srebrenica

Dutch Peacekeepers in Srebrenica in 1995 [AP Photo]

In a recent op-ed in the New York Times, Liora Sion discusses the condemnation of the Dutch State for the deaths of 300 Bosnian Muslims, men and boys, in Srebrenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in July 1995. During the war, these Bosniaks sought refuge in a United Nations base where the Dutch peacekeepers were stationed. The Dutch subsequently handed the men and boys to the Bosnian army which decided to kill them afterwards.

For Liora Sion, the Dutch officials knew the danger they caused in Bosnia. She could experience the situation on the ground as she accompanied Dutch NATO peacekeepers in Bosnia and Kosovo as part of her field work for a PhD thesis.

She says that the soldiers she saw were men with little training and that holding them responsible for what happened in Srebrenica would be wrong.

However, she says that the commanders were responsible for the killings as they should have known that these Bosnian men would be killed because there was strong evidence of the Serbs commiting war crimes.

For her, the Dutch accepted the United Nations request to protect Srebrenica as a way to improve Dutch credibility and prestige in the world. However, the Dutch airmobile battalion was not equipped or prepared for the mission, which grew increasingly complicated and menacing. The Bosnian Muslim army would even provoke fire from the Bosnian Serbs and then take cover behind Dutch units.

This entailed hatred from the Dutch soldiers towards the Muslims. Liora Sion mentions an interview from two Dutch peacekeepers which said that the Bosnians “looked like animals and sometimes were also treated as such, dirty and smelly.”

For Liora Sion, “no matter how peacekeepers feel about the people they are supposed to protect, they still have a humanitarian responsibility toward them.”

As a conclusion, she says that the Nations accept peacekeeping duties not only for humanitarian reasons, but to increase their international involvement, gain honor and even benefit financially. Nevertheless, she says, these nations should know that the international community takes their responsibility very seriously.