The Dutch government apologized for the first time on Monday to relatives of victims of the 1995 genocide in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica.
“The international community has failed to protect the people of Srebrenica,” Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren said at a ceremony marking the 27th anniversary of the massacre.
“As a member of this community, the Dutch government shares political responsibility for the situation in which this failure could occur. For this, we offer our most sincere apologies,” she said at the event in the village of Potocari, where many of the victims are buried.
Ollongren’s comments came a month after Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte apologized on behalf of the government to veterans of the Dutch military unit responsible for defending the city during a peacekeeping mission from the UN. Rutte acknowledged that a lack of government support had left the Dutchbat III unit unable to fulfill its protection mission.
His comments sparked incomprehension from relatives of the Sebrenica victims, who said the Dutch should have apologized to them first.
Ollongren echoed Rutte’s remarks on the “great helplessness” of UN soldiers who are insufficiently equipped to fulfill their mandate.
Srebrenica was considered the worst war crime on European soil since World War II.
The Dutchbat was tasked with protecting Muslim civilians from Bosnian Serb forces during the 1992–95 war. In July 1995, Bosnian Serb forces invaded Srebrenica, a UN-declared “safe haven”, and Dutch forces failed to stop them from massacring more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys who had sought there. refuge.