Twelve Srebrenica veterans suing Dutch government

Over 20 years after the fall of Srebrenica, 12 veterans from Dutchbat III are suing the Dutch government for sending them on an "impossible mission", their lawyers announced on Thursday. According to lawyers Michael Ruperti and Klaas Arjen Krikke, the government was "seriously negligent and careless", ANP reports..

"Dutchbat was sent on a hopeless mission without being adequately prepared, without adequate resources and capabilities and with a weak information position", Ruperti said.

In 1995 the Dutchbat III soldiers were sent to the Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica to deter the Serbs and protect the local population. This was done within UN framework. Eventually they could do nothing but watch helplessly how nearly 8,400 Muslim men and boys were taken away and killed by Bosnian-Serb forces led by Ratko Mladic.

The 12 veterans now suing the Dutch state were very young soldiers back then, only corporals and warrant officers, according to lawyer Ruperti. "They passively had to watch a humanitarian disaster unfold before heir eyes", he sad. Due to the government's actions before and during the mission, the soldiers were unable to protect the civilian population and themselves, he concludes.

"For over 20 years Dutchbat III was held responsible for the failure of the mission, because the government did not openly acknowledged that the battalion was knowingly sent on an unfeasible mission", Ruperti said. "Because of this the twelve veterans suffered irreparable harm socially, emotionally and financially."

According to the lawyer, Defense's current internal arrangements to compensate veterans are not sufficient in this matter. Which is why the veterans are turning to the independent court. They find it unacceptable that the government could judge its own role in the massacre and decide for themselves how the veterans would be compensated.

The Ministry of Defense would not give ANP a response to the lawsuit. During a veterans day on Saturday, Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert herself said that Srebrenica was a mission "that - already in advance - was impossible to do".

In December the government asked the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation (NIOD) to launch an investigation into the fall of Srebrenica. This followed statements by Joris Voorhoeve, responsible minister in 1995, to TV program Argos last summer. He said that a secret agreement between France, Britain and the United States resulted in the Dutch UN soldiers not getting air support during the fall of Srebrenica.