On its 29th anniversary the Srebrenica massacre is an unhealed wound that haunts the global conscience On its 29th anniversary the Srebrenica massacre is an unhealed wound that haunts the global conscience

On its 29th anniversary the Srebrenica massacre is an unhealed wound that haunts the global conscience

On its 29th anniversary the Srebrenica massacre is an unhealed wound that haunts the global conscience

Despite the passage of 29 years since it occurred, the Bosnian War (1992-1995) witnessed not only the worst atrocities against Muslims, but also the failure of Dutch forces to protect civilians from the gross atrocities committed against them by the Serbs.

The massacre of innocent civilians, the worst war crime on European soil since World War II, highlighted the tragic consequences of European and international inaction, as thousands of Bosnian Muslims were systematically targeted and killed by Serb forces on 11 July 1995.

The tragedy, which has been going on for nearly three decades, remains an unhealed wound that reveals the failure of the international community, especially the Netherlands, to prevent it, while the victims’ families continue to bury the remains of their loved ones to this day. While there are 6,721 graves of genocide victims in the Potocari Memorial Cemetery, that number will rise to 6,751 today.

Srebrenica Bloody massacre

Bosnia was caught up in a complex conflict that erupted in the wake of the breakup of Yugoslavia involving multiple ethnic groups, including Bosnian Muslims, Croats and Serbs, who competed for control of land and power, while the town of Srebrenica, in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina, was a focal point in a tragic episode that shook the world.

In 1993, the United Nations declared Srebrenica a "safe area" to protect civilians from the violence sweeping the region, and assigned the responsibility for enforcing it to the UN's Dutch Battalion, the Dutchbat.

In July 1995, Serb forces led by war criminal Ratko Mladic launched a large-scale attack on Srebrenica. Not only did the Dutch forces fail in their mission to protect civilians and repel the Serb attack, they also handed over 350 Bosniak Muslims who had taken refuge in a UN base to Serb forces, who later killed them.

Bosnian Muslim men and boys were separated from their families, held in various locations, and systematically executed in what would later become known as the "Srebrenica massacre." Serbs slaughtered at least 8,372 Bosniak men and boys in forest areas, factories, and warehouses, and the Bosniak dead were buried in mass graves.

black mark

The failure of the international community to protect the so-called “safe area” in Srebrenica in July 1995 is a black mark on the history of peacekeeping operations around the world. Even today, much controversy still surrounds the United Nations and Dutch peacekeepers and their role in failing to prevent the killing of more than 8,000 Bosnian men and boys.

In January 1995, Dutch peacekeepers arrived in Srebrenica. The battalion, based in an old battery factory in nearby Potocari, was undersupplied and under-equipped, and its superiors at the UN Command in Sarajevo were unwilling to give it extensive support.

Following the fall of Srebrenica on July 11, 1995, some 25,000 refugees sought refuge in the safe zone manned by the Dutch battalion. At the time, both the United Nations and the Netherlands agreed that refugees and peacekeepers should be evacuated. But families say the Dutch force failed to protect civilians by cooperating with Mladic's force by allowing men and boys to be separated from the crowd during the mission to transport refugees to buses.

Netherlands 'partly' responsible

The Dutch Supreme Court had previously ruled in July 2019 that the Netherlands was “partially” responsible for the deaths of 350 Bosnian men and boys, and the Dutch government set up a committee of experts to decide how much compensation to award to the victims’ relatives. But in a break with an earlier ruling, the court reduced Dutch responsibility for the massacre to 10% from 30%.

“The Dutch state bears very limited responsibility in the case of the Mothers of Srebrenica,” the Supreme Court said when it announced the ruling. The Mothers of Srebrenica are a group of families and loved ones who say Dutch peacekeepers did not do enough to prevent the slaughter of Muslim men and boys by Serb forces led by Ratko Mladic, the “Butcher of Bosnia,” who was convicted of genocide and war crimes in 2017 and sentenced to life in prison.

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