Badges of dishonour - 1
by The Independent (London)
The massacre at Srebrenica 11 years ago is regarded not just as the most shameful episode in the civil war that followed the break-up of Yugoslavia, but as Europe's single worst atrocity since the Second World War. It is also one of the most shameful failures in the history of international peacekeeping. Those who were entrusted with protecting this Bosnian Muslim enclave failed in the most comprehensive way possible to accomplish what they had been sent to do.
The events at Srebrenica in July 1995 are well chronicled. Almost 8,000 were killed when Bosnian Serb forces overran the settlement. The Dutch peacekeepers surrendered and even assisted with the evacuation. The Serbs shot the men and boys methodically in cold blood and buried the bodies in mass graves. The Bosnian Serb commander, General Radislav Krstić, was subsequently convicted of genocide by the International War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague - one of the first to be found guilty of such a charge. The judge memorably described the killings as characterised by ‘scenes from hell, written on the darkest pages of human history’.
Unfortunately, however, even though the ignominy was shared with the United Nations, it was primarily the reputation of Dutch troops and the Netherlands that was tarnished by Srebrenica. For the Dutch government now to revisit its verdict on that failure casts doubt on whether the lesson of this massacre has really been learnt.
This leader appeared in The Independent (London), 6 December 2006