Dutch gov't apologizes for not supporting its soldiers after Srebrenica massacre
Prime Minister Mark Rutte apologized to hundreds of Dutchbat veterans on Saturday for the government's actions regarding the fall of Srebrenica in 1995, during a "day of recognition and appreciation" at the Oranjekazerne in Schaarsbergen. In addition, Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren presented Dutchbat soldiers who were deployed to Srebrenica with a Bronze Medal of Honor.
The government wants to express support for and solidarity with the veterans of Dutchbat III, according to the minister. These soldiers had to guard the Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica when it fell in 1995. The siege ended in genocide, with Bosnian Serb troops killing more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys. The Dutch Blue Helmets could not prevent the mass murder.
Many veterans have since struggled with the feeling that they have been abandoned and that the Department of Defense has not taken care of them. Last year, a committee advised the Cabinet to rehabilitate and declare "recognition and appreciation." On Saturday, 325 Dutchbat soldiers came to Schaarsbergen with their loved ones.
"The world failed in a terrible way," Rutte said in his speech on Saturday. "You got easy reproaches afterwards from critics who were themselves high and dry in the safe Netherlands." According to the Prime Minister, the Dutchbat veterans still feel the lack of recognition every day. "For the fact that the mandate, equipment and military support were inadequate during the deployment. That you were sent on an assignment that gradually proved unfeasible."
According to Rutte, there was also insufficient support from politicians and defense leaders when a shower of unjustified criticism descended, according to the Prime Minister. "Some words have still not been spoken after 27 years," Rutte said before apologizing. "The Cabinet takes this feeling of lack of recognition into account and wants to be clear about it today. The greatest possible appreciation and respect, although the pain and memories do not just disappear."
A minute of silence was observed in Schaarsbergen for the civilian victims in Srebrenica and the two Dutch soldiers who died. Most Dutchbat soldiers came from the barracks in Assen at the time. A plaque unveiled on Saturday will be placed there.
Reporting by ANP