Dutch blocked crucial air support before Srebrenica massacre

mollox

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An abbreviated extract from a Reuters report in today’s Irish Times Breaking News Section - under the title “Dutch 'blocked' support before Srebrenica massacre”

The Dutch refused crucial air support to their own troops defending Srebrenica under a UN mandate, allowing Bosnian Serb forces to take away and massacre 8,000-10,000 Muslims, it was claimed today.
Lawyers representing about 6,000 relatives of the victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, are suing the Dutch state and the United Nations for failing to stop the killings.
During the 1992-95 Bosnian war, Srebrenica was declared a safe area and guarded by a Dutch army unit serving as part of a larger UN force in Bosnia.
The lightly armed Dutch soldiers, lacking air support and under fire, were forced to abandon the enclave to Bosnian Serb forces, who then massacred Muslim men and boys who had relied on the protection of the Dutch troops.
"Shortly before the fall of the safe area air support was obstructed by the Netherlands itself," lawyers Axel Hagedorn and Marco Gerritsen said in the writ of summons to be filed at the district court of The Hague.
The Dutch state has always said its troops were abandoned by the UN which gave them no air support, but public documents show a network of Dutch military officials within the UN Protection Force blocked air support because they feared their soldiers could be hit by friendly fire, the lawyers said.
"It is a wrong idea that the Dutch soldiers were let down by the United Nations," Mr Gerritsen added.
"It was a decision by high ranking Dutch officers together with the Dutch state to see that requests for air support were denied."
After requests for air support were initially granted by UN officials the Dutch state did everything in its power to reverse this approval.


Who is suing the UN on behalf of the victims of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda? Is this the only way that the international community can be shamed into taking effective action against regimes engaged in genocide and other repressive atrocities?
 


wise_old_owl

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How about a deal like the peace process money for everyone who made trouble involved in the conflict it shuts them up and moves them on to a new line of business
 

badinage

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Re: Dutch blocked crucial air support before Srebrenica mass

I have to say this kind of legal action really sickens me. Dozens of UN troops were killed in Bosnia, loads more civilian UN workers (many of them ex-soldiers), in a war that had absolutely nothing to do with them. Suing someone who voluntarily comes to your aid, for not doing enough to help you because of the risk to their life, is disgusting.

Its like if a woman is being beaten up by a burglar, and a friendly neighbour hears the shouts and rushes into her house to help, but the burglar has a knife and cuts the good samaritan and orders him to stay back, which he does. Then afterwards the woman decides to sue the neighbour, not the burglar, because the neighbour's a decent guy and might actually pay up.

Anyway, let me get this straight. The applicants' lawyers argue that "public documents show a network of Dutch military officials within the UN Protection Force blocked air support because they feared their soldiers could be hit by friendly fire". What exactly is wrong with that? If they're arguing that UNPROFOR forces should have fought to the death to protect the male civilian population in the safe haven, what's the legal basis for that argument? It wasn't in their mandate anyway. If they're arguing that that was just an excuse, and secretly UNPROFOR and Holland wanted the muslim male population to be massacred, where's the proof?

Its very well documentated that the troops on the ground in Bosnia were extremely frustrated at their limited mandate and extremely eager for it to be widened, and their force strengthened to enable them to play a genuine role in ending the war, rather than simply helping deliver food to besieged civilians who immediately handed it over to their defending soldiers. This kind of legal action pisses all over their efforts and sacrifices.
 

Halibut

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The legal action is a bit sad alright. But every national army participating in UN missions jealously hangs on to its own directives & operating guidelines. Soldiers from some of our european neighbours taking things as far as - wait for this - voting among themselves as to whether they'd fully implement New York orders rather than those of their respective defence ministry; and having the result respected.
 

mollox

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Re: Dutch blocked crucial air support before Srebrenica mass

badinage said:
I have to say this kind of legal action really sickens me. Dozens of UN troops were killed in Bosnia, loads more civilian UN workers (many of them ex-soldiers), in a war that had absolutely nothing to do with them. Suing someone who voluntarily comes to your aid, for not doing enough to help you because of the risk to their life, is disgusting.

Anyway, let me get this straight. The applicants' lawyers argue that "public documents show a network of Dutch military officials within the UN Protection Force blocked air support because they feared their soldiers could be hit by friendly fire". What exactly is wrong with that? If they're arguing that UNPROFOR forces should have fought to the death to protect the male civilian population in the safe haven, what's the legal basis for that argument?
The victims of the Srebrenica massacre imagined themselves to be under UN protection. Doubtless, if they had known what was going to happen, they would have tried to escape from the city and, presumably, many would have succeeded.

The Dutch troops on the ground called for air support, presumably willing to take the risk of casualties from friendly fire.
The ONLY excuse that Dutch High command can offer in mitigation is that they couldn't have anticipated the savagery of the serbian forces in the aftermath of the surrender.

This episode undoubtedly convinced the Serbians that the UN was a toothless army - and encouraged them in the belief that they could operate in any way they liked.

I wish the litigants every success in their legal action. Anything which highlights the shortcomings of the UN and forces that organisation and its members to undertake radical reform, in order to increase it's effectiveness, is to be welcomed.
 

feargach

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My own personal solution to this? Every time UN troops are interfered with, the International community should be rule-bound to massively support the troops with overwhelming force via special forces.

Basically this would have prevented the Sreb, Somali and Rwandan massacre festivals. By simply removing the incentive for local thugs to attack the UN in the first instance, the UN would never have felt the need to pull out and allow the murder-parties to begin.
 

badinage

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Re: Dutch blocked crucial air support before Srebrenica mass

mollox said:
The victims of the Srebrenica massacre imagined themselves to be under UN protection. Doubtless, if they had known what was going to happen, they would have tried to escape from the city and, presumably, many would have succeeded.
Many did succeed. However, as I'm sure you're aware, many of those killed were killed fleeing Srebrenica, not rounded up and shot at Srebrenica.

Also, there's considerable controversy surrounding the number of casualties at Srebrenica and the way in which it was used to demonise the Serbs to create public support for a widening of the UN mandate or the handing over of peacekeeping/making from the UN to NATO (SFOR)

mollox said:
The Dutch troops on the ground called for air support, presumably willing to take the risk of casualties from friendly fire.
The ONLY excuse that Dutch High command can offer in mitigation is that they couldn't have anticipated the savagery of the serbian forces in the aftermath of the surrender.
They could also use the "excuse" as you put it that it wasn't in the UN mandate that units should fight to the death. Or that using air strikes on Serbian forces in [Serbian] territory compromises the neutrality of UNPROFOR. Or that using air strikes wouldn't prevent the fall of Srebrenica and would lead to greater Serbian fury afterwards - indeed, if air strikes had been used, and the Serbs massacred 7,000 alleged-civilians afterwards, many commentators would blame the aggressive and deadly - and of course futile - UN action in calling in air strikes for causing the Serbs to ignore the Safe Haven and carry out a massacre

mollox said:
This episode undoubtedly convinced the Serbians that the UN was a toothless army - and encouraged them in the belief that they could operate in any way they liked.
Indeed. It also convinced the rest of the world that the UN mandate was inadequate and partly led to the NATO airstrikes and deployment of SFOR.

mollox said:
I wish the litigants every success in their legal action. Anything which highlights the shortcomings of the UN and forces that organisation and its members to undertake radical reform, in order to increase it's effectiveness, is to be welcomed.
I'm entirely in favour of such reform, but I think the manner in which they're going about it is a disgrace, ungrateful, and dishonourable.

feargach said:
My own personal solution to this? Every time UN troops are interfered with, the International community should be rule-bound to massively support the troops with overwhelming force via special forces.

Basically this would have prevented the Sreb, Somali and Rwandan massacre festivals. By simply removing the incentive for local thugs to attack the UN in the first instance, the UN would never have felt the need to pull out and allow the murder-parties to begin.
Right. And what would you suggest when hundreds of UN personnel are taken captive as hostages in response? And what would you suggest when the local forces respond to your overwhelming force by, say, ignoring UN rules and capturing a Safe Haven?

Taking into account that many UN operations involving warring parties that consist of Northern Ireland-style paramilitaries (various African wars, Arkan's Tigers, the mujahadeen in Bosnia) who might decide to act on their own, bombing their overall alliance in response will turn the whole alliance against the UN presence - making UN soldiers highly vulnerable and making humanitarian deliveries which require passage through checkpoints impossible.

There are no simple solutions to the problems of peacekeeping. We in this country tend to think peacekeeping is a jolly old business because our experience of it is shaped by the battalion in Lebanon, making friends with the locals, disarming landmines, that kind of thing. But the reality of UN deployments in ongoing wars is that is almost impossible not to take sides, because one side tends to be engaged in an offensive and opposed to the UN presence at a particular point in time (and in Bosnia this tended to reverse back and forth, depending on who had an ongoing offensive). So at any time, various parties are supporting and encouraging the UN presence, and allowing UN deliveries of humanitarian supplies (only to hand them over to their local forces - meaning the UN is actually supplying the losing side in a war, thus angering the side engaged in an offensive), and others are blocking the UN at every turn because they want them out of the way so they can press on with their campaign

UN operations are a mess, and using airstrikes whenever UN forces are messed with, while a nice idea in theory, puts them in considerable danger, since by the nature of UN operations, they tend to involve small units spread across a war-zone, and thus highly vulnerable.
 

MacEHaVelly

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The UN troops had a duty of care over those people in Srebenica; they were mandated by the UN to provide a safe zone for those people. Many people flocked to Srebenica because of this assurance. The Dutch troops failed to discharge their duty, as mandated by the UN. Ratko Mladic marched those boys and men away under the noses of the Dutch. You'll note that the Dutch Government at the time shortly afterwards resigned en masse.

Likewise I wish the litigants every success.
 

campbeca

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Re: Dutch blocked crucial air support before Srebrenica mass

badinage said:
I have to say this kind of legal action really sickens me. Dozens of UN troops were killed in Bosnia, loads more civilian UN workers (many of them ex-soldiers), in a war that had absolutely nothing to do with them. Suing someone who voluntarily comes to your aid, for not doing enough to help you because of the risk to their life, is disgusting.

Its like if a woman is being beaten up by a burglar, and a friendly neighbour hears the shouts and rushes into her house to help, but the burglar has a knife and cuts the good samaritan and orders him to stay back, which he does. Then afterwards the woman decides to sue the neighbour, not the burglar, because the neighbour's a decent guy and might actually pay up.

Anyway, let me get this straight. The applicants' lawyers argue that "public documents show a network of Dutch military officials within the UN Protection Force blocked air support because they feared their soldiers could be hit by friendly fire". What exactly is wrong with that? If they're arguing that UNPROFOR forces should have fought to the death to protect the male civilian population in the safe haven, what's the legal basis for that argument? It wasn't in their mandate anyway. If they're arguing that that was just an excuse, and secretly UNPROFOR and Holland wanted the muslim male population to be massacred, where's the proof?

Its very well documentated that the troops on the ground in Bosnia were extremely frustrated at their limited mandate and extremely eager for it to be widened, and their force strengthened to enable them to play a genuine role in ending the war, rather than simply helping deliver food to besieged civilians who immediately handed it over to their defending soldiers. This kind of legal action pisses all over their efforts and sacrifices

I disagree. The balkans was a proxy war of sorts. Croats were using Western weapons and expertise, Bosniacs were prevented from defending themselves because they didn't have a powerful regional ally, the Serbs were using Serbian/JNA/Russian military equipment.

1) It was firmly in the 'unipolar moment' when the world was active on Human Rights.
2) We stopped the Bosniacs from acquiring the necessary weapons to defend themselves on the premise the 'International Community' would defend them.

I don't think this pisses on what the individual Dutch soldiers did, rather the horrible bureaucracy and extreme casualty aversion that made UNPROFOR so ineffective in Srebrenica
 

sid

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the airstrikes issue is a little irrelevent in my view, you could get airstrikes in Bos, but the UN/NATO ROE for air power was so restrictive that you couldn't get the weight of fire neccesary to actually militarily defeat/repel a large scale attack. given the weight of fire you could get you might scare the belligerant off, but in a large scale attack you'd probably just piss them off a bit more.

it was relatively easy to stop a small-scale attack if you were in its path and being fired at - if neccesary you moved location to ensure that this happened and then screamed for air support while using your own weapons to degrade the threat - requests for support fire are much more effective if the recipient can barely hear you for the sound of a two-way range.

the Dutch made a number of very serious errors, both tactically and of judgement, which lead up to the capture of Srebrenica, but in my view the issue of air support isn't in the top five. the massive use of air power would certainly of stopped it, but it just wasn't available, so its unfair to criticise them for not using it.
 

sid

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lostexpectation said:
those dutch planes could have ended up hitting the refugees too
true, but (and this is horribly empiric) the likely civilian casualties from correctly applied airpower would of been minimal compared to the likely civilian casualties of allowing the town to be over-run, therefore one can make a case that such casualties are 'acceptable'.

however in Bos airpower was almost never applied correctly, it was used almost exclusively as the absolute last resort, usually when UNPROFOR units were about to be over-run, and that usually happened when those units were in, or next to, urban areas heaving with CIVPOP - meaning that belligerant units were in such close proximity to both UNPROFOR units and the CIVPOP they were protecting that 'real' airpower couldn't be used effectively and that the battle had effectively been won. given the very close proximity that units had to be in before UN/NATO ROE could kick-in just a break of 30 minutes from air attack could allow those belligerant forces to over-run the location being protected, and given the weather and the restrictions on UN/NATO ROE a break of 30 minutes between effective air attacks was guarranteed.

the correct use of air power would been to utterly destroy any formation before it got within five miles of Srebrenica using pretty much everything in the NATO armoury, but that can't possibly fall within the doctrine of 'minimum force at the last resort' - the 'be all and end all' of UN PK ops - its in the doctrine of 'massive force at the first instance' - which is serious warfighting.
 

Kf

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The major problem with the Srebrenica issue is that all the players from the Sarejevo Govt to the UN HQ recognised that the safe hazen concept has become a blockage to a ceasefire. A defacto partition of BiH was unworkable with the three eastern safe zones and so it was in everyone interest for the Zepa, Srebrenaic and Gorazade to fall to the serbs. I would be of the belief that the Bosnian govt has agreed to the loss of Srebrenica, that the UN has tactilly agreed to it and that the airstrikes therefore were never going to happen.

The porblem arose then when Ratko Mladic decided to go off script and murder the men folk.

Srebrenica is one of those events that if the truth came out a lot of powerful men would have a hell of a lot of explaining to do.
 

campbeca

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Probably true. A horrible precedent for future ethic conflicts. But then again there was no other obvious solution
 

merle haggard

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I disagree with a lot of this stuff . A massacre of Bosnian muslim troops happened at srebrinica because their own commanders, themselves despicable war criminals , mismanaged their troops retreat and they were unsurprisingly massacred in the ensuing rout . Nobody has yet been adequately able to explain to me why such a large force of Bosnian fighters would surrender to a far smaller force of Bosnian serbs who werent even armed with heavy weapons and had only a couple of elderly tanks that were almost world war 2 vintage. While Ive no doubt serbs committed war crimes in srebrinica I dont buy into this 6000 prisoners executed stuff at all . I strongly believe the vast majority were killed in actual fighting . The muslim refugees from srebrinica actually sought refuge in serbia, a bit odd if serbs are rounding them up and massacring them by the thousands .
I also remember the footage of the serb extermination camps with the starving looking man talking to reporters through the wire . Turned out the guy had TB which was why he looked so emaciated , and hes alive and well today in austria . And what sort of extermination camps allow inmates to talk to reporters ?
A propaganda war was waged by the west in yugoslavia from the outset , srebrinica was part of that .
 

Kf

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merle haggard said:
I disagree with a lot of this stuff . A massacre of Bosnian muslim troops happened at srebrinica because their own commanders, themselves despicable war criminals , mismanaged their troops retreat and they were unsurprisingly massacred in the ensuing rout . Nobody has yet been adequately able to explain to me why such a large force of Bosnian fighters would surrender to a far smaller force of Bosnian serbs who werent even armed with heavy weapons and had only a couple of elderly tanks that were almost world war 2 vintage. While Ive no doubt serbs committed war crimes in srebrinica I dont buy into this 6000 prisoners executed stuff at all . I strongly believe the vast majority were killed in actual fighting . The muslim refugees from srebrinica actually sought refuge in serbia, a bit odd if serbs are rounding them up and massacring them by the thousands .
I also remember the footage of the serb extermination camps with the starving looking man talking to reporters through the wire . Turned out the guy had TB which was why he looked so emaciated , and hes alive and well today in austria . And what sort of extermination camps allow inmates to talk to reporters ?
A propaganda war was waged by the west in yugoslavia from the outset , srebrinica was part of that .
Wow! Some claims there. Have you anything to back any of this up?
 

campbeca

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why is my birthday a day of infamy merle?
 

Kf

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Ok, I'll start with your statement.

1. A massacre of Bosnian muslim troops happened at srebrinica because their own commanders, themselves despicable war criminals , mismanaged their troops retreat.
Their own commanders, and specifally Oric, has been physically removed some weeks before by the Sarajevo govt. The 5,000 or so fighters left literally had no leadership. Their retreat was spontaneous and in reaction to the events going on in the town in fist 36 hours. They had two choices, Tuzla or Zepa, most took the option to try to go to Tuzla. They had no vehicles and were armed only with automatic rifles and a few hand held motars. The trip through the mountains from Potocari to Tuzla would be around 70 kms and the BiH army in Tuzla were not expecting them.

2. Bosnian serbs who werent even armed with heavy weapons and had only a couple of elderly tanks that were almost world war 2 vintage.
The Bosnian serbs were armed with artillery and tanks both of which were 1980 era. In additon they had flamethrowers and motars, as well as helipcopters which the UN rarely enforced the no fly policy against.

3. The muslim refugees from srebrinica actually sought refuge in serbia.
This is not true. The IDPs sought refuge in Tuzla, then and still part of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, contolled by Bosniac Govt.

Merle, there was a lot of demonising of Serbs in the Yugo wars and the Croats literally got away with murder time and again (operation storm and flash as examples) but the Bosniacs fought brazely with limited resources and were the victims of consitient destructive interference in Bosnia. The Serbs did murder thousands in and around Srebrenica, a fact that Serbia itself has accepted and that Karadic himself accepted.

The fact was that Mladic was unhinged, he was under the influence of ultra nationalist right wing super serbs and he made a strategic, miliatry and moral mistake in killing the male prisoners.

One of the most interesting tapes released by the Hague is of Karadic screaming at Maldic about the massacre. He was apoletic with rage at the senseless of it. It was after Srebrenica that Milosevic decided to cut of the backwoods boys from RS and negotiate a peace deal.
 


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