Around hundred of Dutch UN peacekeepers could sue the government because they were sent to defend the Bosnian enclave Srebrenica in 1995, after the Ministry of Defense admitted that it was “mission impossible,” as stated by their lawyers on Tuesday.
“The state sent these troops on an impossible mission, and then they were abandoned there,” said lawyer Michael Ruperti for AFP.
“That caused great damage: physical, psychological and financial, as well as the damage on their social lives,” he said.
The worst crime in Europe since World War II happened in mid-July 1995 when lightly armed Dutch soldiers overpowered Bosnian Serb forces in the supposedly UN’s “safe area” in Srebrenica.
Almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed and their bodies were dumped in mass graves. This wave of killings was condemned as an act of genocide in the judgment of the UN tribunal, that was established to trial those who committed crimes during the Balkan wars. These events still cause controversy in the Netherlands, and questions about the role of blue helmets of the UN are still present.
Dutch soldiers, known as “Dutch battalion”, were in their base, where they accepted thousands of refugees from the enclave.
Once they got overpowered, however, they closed their gates for the new refugees, and then allowed Bosnian Serbs to evacuate refugees. Boys and men were separated and transferred by buses to be executed.
These events led to the fall of the rule of government in 2002, and the Netherlands became the first country in history to be held responsible for acts of their UN peacekeepers, after a Dutch court ruled in 2013 that the state was responsible for the deaths of more than 300 men and boys from BiH.
In June this year, the Minister of Defense Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert admitted during the celebration of the Day of veterans that the battalion was sent to BiH “without adequate preparation, without adequate resources, with very little information and to protect the peace that did not exist.”
“That was unrealistic mission, in impossible circumstances,” she said.
For lawyer Ruperti, his clients “are still fitting into society with difficulties.”
“People are talking bad about them for two decades, and still asking on football fields and in cafes “Why did not you do anything?”
“Their reputation as men and people is threatened because they were abandoned by the Dutch state,” said Ruperti, adding that he wants to meet with representatives of the Ministry of Defence before they file a lawsuit.
This move followed after the European Court of Human Rights rejected the claim that the Dutch commanders should be prosecuted for failing to prevent the murder of three victims in the massacre of 1995.
Pan-European court in Strasbourg unanimously declared the application as “inadmissible”, in what it called the “final” decision.