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Dutch government quits over Srebrenica

Ditto Much

TRIBE Member
Leaders, UN share blame for 1995 massacre of Bosnian Muslims, report alleges

By Marcel Van De Hoef Associated Press

THE HAGUE (AP) - The Dutch government resigned today over a report criticizing its role in Europe's worst civilian slaughter since the Second World War - the 1995 massacre in the Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica.

Prime Minister Wim Kok took the letter of resignation to Queen Beatrix, accepting responsibility "in the name of the victims and survivors" for peacekeeping failures in Srebrenica. Some survivors called it an insignificant political gesture.

With elections set for May 15, the resignation has little practical effect. Kok's ministers remain as caretakers until a new government takes office.

Last week's report by the respected Netherlands Institute for War Documentation confirmed what many Bosnians suspected all along: Dutch peacekeepers did little to prevent Serb forces from rounding up Muslims who had sought refuge at an area declared "safe" by the United Nations. Some 7,500 Muslims were killed.

Kok told parliament the time was overdue for a political price to be paid, nearly seven years after the Srebrenica debacle.

"The international community is anonymous and cannot take responsibility in the name of the victims and survivors of Srebrenica. I can and I do," he said. "I decided to offer my resignation and the entire cabinet followed.

"The Netherlands does not accept blame for the gruesome murder of thousands of Bosnian Muslims in 1995," Kok said, "Rather, the Netherlands accepts partial political responsibility for the circumstances in which they happened."

In Bosnia, survivors spurned the Dutch government's decision.

"I want justice - and it's not done by the resignation of ministers," said Hasan Nuhanovic, 30, a Bosnian Muslim who lost his parents and brother in the massacre. "I want to see justice done in the courts."

"They should have resigned ages ago," Sabaheta Fejzic, a 50-year-old Muslim who recounted how her son was dragged away. "They will never wash the guilt off their faces."

Sefket Hafizovic, the mayor of Srebrenica, said the resignations meant "the government confessed its responsibility for what happened in Srebrenica."

"There is no collective responsibility, but there is a collective obligation to disclose the names of political and military individuals who are responsible for what happened," he said. "Every future Dutch government must remember its obligation to Srebrenica."

Kok was prime minister in July 1995 during the events in Srebrenica, but it was two other ministers who forced the government to consider a dramatic response to the report. Environment Minister Jan Pronk, who was development co-operation minister in 1995, and Defence Minister Frank de Grave, who was not then in the cabinet, said accepting political responsibility was the inevitable consequence.

Kok's successor as Labour Party chief, Ad Melkert, said Kok's decision was more than symbolic.

"It was his personal courage that made him make a choice now" and accept the consequences "to restore credibility in national politics as well as international politics," he said.

After nearly six years of research, the institute concluded that political leaders had carried out an "ill-conceived plan" intended to boost Dutch international prestige. Unprepared troops were sent into a conflict to carry out a "mission impossible" and defend some 30,000 refugees from Serb forces in the surrounding hills.

Some 200 lightly armed peacekeepers could do little more than stand by while Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic ordered the segregation of men and women. The women were deported and the men and boys were hauled off to execution sites where they "were gunned down like beasts," the report said.

The Dutch military command had not provided the mandate needed to respond to 1,500 Serb attackers, and the United Nations had declared Srebrenica a "safe zone" without defining what that meant, it concluded.

Political analyst Galen Irwin questioned the timing of the Tuesday's resignation, less than a month ahead of elections.

"I don't understand why it had to be today, why it happened anyway," he said. "If Pronk wants to step down he can do so, but why do the others need to resign as well? I don't see how that helps anybody."

It was the second time the three-party coalition government resigned in the nearly eight years it held power.


The general of the Military has also resigned for having given the illdefined orders as well at this point.

Basically I found it impressive at minimum as a jesture that the entire dutch government has resigned and admitted there wrong doing. Rather than fight it out and wait for legal implications they have as a group stepped down and said to the people that they were no longer fit to govern because of this.

I wonder how many other countries this would happen in, it was a report that they did on themselves that caused the resignation. A report that stated that the Dutch governemtn was responsible for the masacre not by having shot anyone but by not having prevented it. And not just for not having prevented it, but for putting an inadequate military force to deal with the problem in control.

I wonder if Canada would do the same?


TRIBE Member
I don't understand how the UN was supposed to prevent it. It would have probably errupted into a major battle, and that is not what the peacekeepers are supposed to do. I don't think standing by watching was the right idea either. But I don't hold the dutch government or any other government responsible for what happened.
Even if some people do, what is a resignation going to justify now?