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UN vehicle. Potočari. Photo: BIRN BiH
The government of the Netherlands on Thursday offered one-off payments of 5,000 euros each to members of the Dutchbat UN peacekeeping battalion who served in Srebrenica in July 1995 but failed to prevent the massacres of Bosniak men and boys by Bosnian Serb forces.
The Dutch Defence Ministry said that the payments were intended to address the “perceived lack of recognition and appreciation” that the troops have received, after they served in “exceptional circumstances” in which “the near-impossible” was asked of them.
The ministry also said that the “symbolic gesture” takes into account “the period after that event, during which they were exposed to criticism and unfair, negative media attention”.
The Dutchbat battalion, which had over 800 troops, was stationed at a UN base in Srebrenica when the enclave was seized by Bosnian Serb forces, who subsequently murdered over 7,000 Bosniaks in a series of massacres that international courts have classified as genocide.
The Dutch Defence Ministry said that as well as the payments, the ministry will organise visits for Dutchbat veterans to Srebrenica and the memorial museum that now occupies the site of the former UN base.
“Such trips can contribute to the processing of the past by dealing with the situation at the scene, through meetings with other veterans and locals,” it said.
The Dutch peacekeeping battalion’s role in Srebrenica, and its failure to prevent the massacres, has long been controversial and the subject of legal action.
In July 2019, the Dutch Supreme Court ruled that the Netherlands was partially responsible for some 350 deaths during the 1995 massacres because its soldiers failed to protect men who had taken refuge at the Dutchbat base, but who were handed over to Bosnian Serb troops and subsequently killed.
Relatives of these Srebrenica victims have been told by the Dutch authorities that they can submit requests for compensation from the start of March this year.
In January 2020, the Mothers of Srebrenica war victims’ organisation also filed a suit against the Netherlands at the European Court of Human Rights, alleging that the Dutch state “failed to take the measures within its powers” to protect Bosniak men and boys in Srebrenica.