THE NIOD REPORT: HASAN NUHANOVIC
[Note: The article was originally published on April 21 2002.]
THE NIOD REPORT HAS NOT DETERMINED THE LEVEL OF RESPONSIBILITY AND GUILT OF THE DUTCH TROOPS AND OFFICIALS FOR GENOCIDE IN SREBRENICA
Hasan Nuhanovic (Srebrenica Genocide Survivor)
Now that the NIOD report has been presented to the public we can conclude that it deals with much broader scope of events than it was supposed to do in order to establish the level of responsibility of the Dutch troops and officials, unless the aim of the NIOD report was something else.
It deals not only with the events in the Srebrenica region but in the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the former Yugoslavia. It covers not only the period prior to the deployment of the Dutch troops in Srebrenica, i.e. the time of the Dutchbat 1, 2 and 3 in Srebrenica and the aftermath of the fall of the Srebrenica Safe Area, but reaches far back to the WW II, then the, so called, Tito's time, and the time after his death until the disintegration of Yugoslavia.
If we accept the fact that the NIOD, as a scientific institute, would, under normal circumstances, show tendency to conduct an in-depth historical-scientific research of the events that occurred over a loner period of time with an aim to contribute to a better understanding of the history of the Former Yugoslavia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, at the same time we have to remind ourselves that the main reason for NIOD (RIOD) to be tasked with this research was the fact that there was a number of unanswered questions on the role and behavior of the Dutch troops and officials during the events in Srebrenica in the summer of 1995, and also because the previous reports compiled by other institutions in the Netherlands have obviously not satisfied the need to learn the truth.
Therefore the NIOD report should have answered to the urgency of the matter and should have focused on several main points related merely to the role of the Dutch troops and officials during a specific period of time.
The NIOD report did not answer to the urgency of the matter and was completed and presented to the public almost seven years after the events in Srebrenica.
The official answer to the inquiries on the role of the Dutch troops and officials that the survivors and their representatives, during those seven years, made in the Netherlands was:
Wait for the NIOD report.
Also, the NIOD has threatened that it would cease its research if a parallel investigation/research is done in the Netherlands, including the one in the form of a parliamentary inquiry, claiming that it would affect its work on the Srebrenica case.
In this way the investigation/research conducted by NIOD has, over the period of six years, blocked any other initiative in the Netherlands to investigate the role of the Dutch troops and officials in relation to Srebrenica case before the results of the NIOD research are made public.
Because the Dutch government has resigned over Srebrenica issue and because the Dutch authorities are now showing interest to establish a parliamentary commission to investigate the Srebrenica case we have produced a list of questions that must be raised during the parliamentary inquiry.
The NIOD report has not produced satisfactory answer to the most important questions.
The most important points around which an investigation/inquiry into the role of the Dutch troops and officials in relation to the events in Srebrenica should be concentrated on should be as follows:
1. Situation prior to the final attack by the Bosnian Serb Army
a) Preparations/briefings, courses and training of the troops for their mission in Srebrenica/Bosnia and Herzegovina.
b) Take-over from the Canbat and conduct of the Dutchbat1 and 2.
c) Conduct of the Dutchbat 3 in the period before the deterioration of the situation in the area of Srebrenica enclave.
d) Conduct of the Dutchbat 3 in the period of the deterioration - March-June 1995
e) Conduct of the Dutchbat 3 during June 1995 and its relationship and communication with the local authorities and the local population in this period.
2. Conduct of the Dutchbat 3 during 5 days of the attack, from 06 July till 11 July
3. Conduct of the Dutchbat 3 after 11 July - Situation in Potocari
It should be strongly emphasized that the greatest number of complaints about the role and conduct of the members of the Dutchbat 3 are related to the situation in Potocari while much lower number of complaints are related to the role and conduct of the Dutchbat 3 in the period prior to arrival of the mass of refugees to Potocari. This should be taken into account and any investigation on the role and conduct of the Dutchbat 3 in Srebrenica should focus on the Situation in Potocari from 11 July on.
This does not mean that other aspects of the role of the Dutchbat 3, such as the one related to the defense of the town during the 5 days of attack from 06 July till 11 July, should be ignored but investigation of this part is not as important as the investigation on the events inside and outside of the Dutchbat base from 11 till 13 July.
This also applies to the situation in the latter days of July while Dutchbat 3, and the authorities in the Netherlands, should have engaged in an exhaustive search for information on the missing men and boys from Srebrenica. During those days, from 11 July on, and especially in the days that followed, the Netherlands authorities should have engaged themselves in the most intensive diplomatic activities in order to determine the fate of the men and boys and should have, with assistance of their political/military allies (NATO, EU, UN), exerted pressure on the Bosnian Serbs as well as on the FRY to, by all available means, prevent them from doing any harm to the men and boys. This could have saved at least some lives.
Instead of doing that, the Netherlands engaged itself in negotiations on departure of the Dutchbat 3 from Srebrenica while the Dutchbat 3 members were not in any direct jeopardy. It was at the time when the, so called, Dutch hostages had already been released and the rest of the Dutchbat 3 members enjoyed the safety of the UNPROFOR/Dutchbat 3 base in Potocari until 21 July when they departed Bosnia and Herzegovina arriving to Zagreb on 22 July.
It was those seven days between 13 July and 21 July that were wasted along with lives of thousands of men and boys who were being executed during those seven days including those who were taken away from the area of the Dutchbat 3 base and its immediate vicinity.
The following are some of the questions that should be raised during the discussion by the Netherlands parliament (reference is made to the aforementioned points)
It should be noted that these are only some of the questions to be raised and that the survivors' associations will, through their representatives, prepare a longer list of questions for possible parliamentary inquiry in the Netherlands or any other form of inquiry that should take place in the future.
1. Situation prior to the final attack by the Bosnian Serb Army
- In the course of 1992, and the beginning of 1993, the Bosnian Serbs carried out a campaign of ethnic cleansing of non-Serb population in the area of Podrinje (Drina valley), in the towns Visegrad, Vlasenica, Bratunac, Zvornik, Srebrenica, and the villages that surrounded those towns.
Before Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) put any armed resistance against this campaign, several thousand Bosnian Muslims, mainly men and boys, were summarily executed.
These are only some of the examples:
At the very beginning of the conflict (aggression), precisely in May 1992, the Bosnian Serbs have rounded up the entire Muslim population of Bratunac town and the surrounding villages and brought them to the soccer field. Women and young children were then deported towards Tuzla and men and boys were separated and taken to an improvised detention facility. In the nearby primary school the Bosnian Serbs tortured and executed up to one thousand Muslim males. Their bodies were buried in mass graves.
At the same time, the Bosnian Serbs burned villages in the area and committed atrocities. The first village in which atrocities were committed was Glogova, several kilometers away from Bratunac.
All men and boys, around two hundred, were rounded up, killed and buried in a mass grave.
Many other villages in the area had the same or similar fate during the spring of 1992.
The refugees from those villages fled towards Srebrenica area where they, later when the town was liberated from the Serb paramilitary units, sheltered for the next three years - until July 1995.
- in May 1992 a village of Zaklopaca in Vlasenica area was burned down and the entire population of the village was slaughtered.
In the course of the spring and summer of 1992 the same scenario was applied in Vlasenica area as in Bratunac.
The Bosnian Serb authorities in Vlasenica rounded up the Bosnian Muslim population of the town (those who chose to remain in their homes as opposed to a number of Bosnian Muslims who fled the town in April and May).
They were brought to a concentration camp/detention facility called Susica (in the suburbs of the town). The number of the detainees who passed through the camp over a period of several months reached two thousand. Most of the detained women and children were deported towards Tuzla. A number of women were raped and killed.
The males, of all ages, were tortured, summarily executed and a small number of them, those who were not killed there, were transferred to another concentration camp called Batkovic in the vicinity of Bijeljina town.
Some of them, a relatively small number, were later exchanged for Bosnian Serb Army soldiers who had been captured by the Army of BiH.
The images of the prisoners in concentration camps in western Bosnia, called Omarska and Keraterm, were in 1993 showed on all major TV stations in the world. It was Bosnian Muslims whose skeleton-like bodies were recorded on that disturbing TV footage.
In 1994 the ICTY has indicted Dragan Nikolic, a Vlasenica Serb, for war crimes committed in Vlasenica. This indictment was made ONE year before July 1995 when Srebrenica enclave was attacked.
The pattern of killings undoubtedly showed that Bosnian Muslim males in the area surrounding Srebrenica were the MAIN TARGET and that the main intention of the Bosnian Serb Authorities was TOTAL LIQUIDATION of the entire Bosnian Muslim male population in the region.
Genocide against Bosnian Muslims was well underway in Srebrenica area months before any UNPROFOR unit came in.
Apart from that, the main HQ of the Bosnian Serb Army Drina Corps, the Corps whose units surrounded Srebrenica, was located in the town of Vlasenica, the same place where one of the most notorious concentration camps in BiH was located.
This was a well-known fact as the public indictment against Dragan Nikolic, made in 1994, clearly indicated. This was the first indictment the ICTY made.
It should also be mentioned that in the course of 1992 and beginning of 1993, the Bosnian Muslim population, the population that was trapped in an area isolated and surrounded by Serb forces, organized armed resistance against ethnic cleansing. A number of clashes took place in this period and Bosnian Muslims even managed to gain some ground. There were casualties on both sides. Still, during that period, the area controlled by Bosnian Muslims remained isolated, surrounded and the population trapped in this area lived through a period of starvation, continuous bombardments including air raids. Only ONE convoy of some 25 trucks with food was allowed to enter Srebrenica within the period of 12 months (2,5 kg of food per person in 12 months).
For the sake of comparison, food that was flown into Sarajevo airport amounted to tens of tons daily.
The population was forced to search for food outside the besieged area, across the line of confrontation. This too caused a situation in which clashes took place resulting in casualties on both sides.
If we assume that, due to a successful information blockade and propaganda of the Bosnian Serb authorities, not all information mentioned above could reach the Netherlands it is hardly believable that the character of ethnic cleansing carried out by the Bosnian Serb authorities was unknown in the Netherlands.
- What information on the events in Srebrenica area and the Drina valley (operational area of the Dutchbat) that took place prior to the deployment of the Dutchbat (and Canbat) were presented to the Dutch soldiers and officers?
- What were the Dutchbaters told had happened in Bratunac in 1992, a town 2 km away from their base?
- What image of the Bosnian Serb Army and the Bosnian Muslims (or the A BiH) was presented to the Dutchbatters during their preparation for deployment in Srebrenica?
- Were the Dutchbaters told that the Bosnian Serbs committed Genocide or, at least, mass executions of the Bosnian Muslim population?
- Were the commanding officers of the Dutchbat told that in Vlasenica, town in which HQ of the Drina Corps was located (Dutchbat commanders met with the commanders of the Drina Corps several times), there was a concentration camp in which war crimes were committed-the ICTY, tribunal that was investigating those war crimes in 1994, was seated in the capital of the Netherlands?
- What image of the Bosnian Muslims was presented to the Dutchbaters prior to their arrival to Srebrenica/BiH.
- Who exactly briefed the Dutchbaters for their mission? Names and the background of the teachers/trainers?
- Was a clear instruction/order given to the Dutchbaters to avoid "unnecessary contacts" with the local population, i.e. not to socialize with the local population, and if yes - why?
2. Conduct of the Dutchbat 3 during 5 days of the attack, from 06 July till 11 July
According to the report of UN on Srebrenica the Dutch troops did not fire a single round on the attacking Serb forces.
This is true not only in situation in which the Dutch troops were not directly targeted but also in the situation in which the Observation Posts (OP) were shot at. In the Debriefing Report on Srebrenica published by the Dutch Ministry of Defense it is written that, for instance, the OP F was directly targeted.
- if the Dutch were shot at why did they not returned fire?
- if they were not shot at, where is the basis for the claims that the Dutchbat troops were themselves in direct jeopardy and thus were unable to remain at their OPs and at the, so called, blocking positions?
- Why have they not fired mortar rounds, at least as a warning (they possessed signal mortar rounds) at the attacking Serb forces? The Dutchbat 3 had around 9 mortars deployed around the enclave, plus several TOW rocket launchers, plus a number of hand-held rocket launchers?
On 02 June 1992, just after the OP E was occupied by the Serbs, at a meeting with the commander of the local defense, late Ramiz Becirevic, Karemans stated:
"I have enough ammunition on every OP to fight for 72 hrs. Your guys should be behind my OPs, but should remain invisible for the Serbs. If my guys run out of ammunition or if they are forced to abandon an OP, your men should jump in and take an OP before the Serbs do it. From now on your men do not have to hide weapons from my soldiers but they should make sure that the Serbs do not see them or otherwise the Serbs will figure out that we approve of this".
This was understood by the local commanders as an ad hoc military alliance with the UNPROFOR/Dutchbat 3.
- Why has Karemans not stuck to that agreement and why has he later never mentioned that he had made such a deal with the local fighters?
On the contrary, he later claimed that the local fighters violated the rules despite the intention of the Dutchbat 3 to carry on with the demilitarization of the enclave.
This, in the previous reports, showed the local fighters as the main factor of destabilization prior to the Serb attack on 06 July.
- Why the Dutchbat never considered an option to give their weapons, or at least heavy weapons such as mortars and rocket launchers to the local defense units? Ramiz Bacirevic asked captain Wiliam for it two days before the fall. He rejected it immediately.
- Why have two Dutchbat YPR-s (APC-s) on 09 July blocked the only artillery piece in possession of the local fighters not allowing the crew to fire at the Serb forces approaching the town from the south?
- Why has Major Bouring, with Cap Wiliam and Sgt Major Rave, in the early morning of 11 July come to Ramiz Becirevic to tell him that the air attack by NATO that Karemans promised would take place (at a meeting the previous night) will not happen unless the Dutchbat 3 scouts see "at least one Serb soldier in the town"? This came as a total surprise after Kareman's promise from the previous night.
- Why did Major Bouring claim that the Dutchbat 3 scouts did not see any Serb soldier in the town (the Serbs were at that moment just in front of the town's bakery) and why was that relevant to the calls for air strikes when the Serb forces were 6 km deep in the enclave?
- Why has Karemans, or Major Franken, or Major Bouring, not come to the town for one single moment (except shortly for a meeting in the night of 10 July) during the five days of the attack in order to himself oversee the situation and to command the Dutch troops on the blocking positions?
The command over the blocking positions was left to be managed by Captain Groen while Karemans, and other higher ranking officers, were all the time sitting inside the base 8 km away from the area where the fight was taking place and the blocking position was located.
Neither Karemans nor any other high-ranking officer had any visible contact with the attacked area or the Dutchbat blocking positions during the entire period of the attack.
The highest ranking officer at the blocking positions was a lieutenant. Even Captain Groen did not leave his office in the town during the entire period of the attack, except maybe for one occasion.
- Why have the crews of all the OP-s in the attacked area decided to move to the Serb side in a situation when they could choose between this option and an option to conduct a military maneuver called "falling back"?
Not one crew fell back even when they were contacted by the local fighters and asked to withdraw together, for instance at the OP U.-Why has Karemans not sent reinforcements to the attacked area? The crew of the OP F was left alone to deal with the situation from 06 July till 08 July, when it did try to withdraw and when the unfortunate incident took place in which one Dutch soldier was mortally wounded?
At the time when the OP F was under fire, on 06, 07 and 08 July, the remaining part of the Dutchbat 3 was sitting inside the bunker of Potocari compound around 10 km away from the attacked area.
- Who has called off the NATO air attack at the moment when it was gaining momentum?
Was it the Dutch Minister of Defense or Jasushi Akashy, as it is claimed in the NIOD report?
- Was the reason for that the Serb threat to execute the Dutch soldiers who were in their custody or it was something else?
- Has Karemans opposed that or he gave his consent to this decision? Was he in contact with the NATO Command that was directing the aircraft? Was he at all in situation to influence this decision?
- How many members of UNPROFOR have been harmed in such a way in the UNPROFOR mission in BiH - in a situation that the Bosnian Serb Army ANNOUNCES in advance to harm/kill a member of UNPROFOR?
3. Conduct of the Dutchbat 3 after 11 July - Situation in Potocari
It is the situation in Potocari, inside and outside the Dutchbat base, that makes the Srebrenica case unprecedented in respect of the history of the, so called, peace-keeping missions not only for the Dutch Army but for the entire international community, UN and other international organizations engaged in such missions.
Had the Potocari situation been handled in a different way by Dutchbat 3 the Srebrenica case would have had very different outline.
If we accept the fact that responsibility for the fall of the town and the enclave does not lay only on the Dutchbat 3, or Dutch officials, but on
- the UNPROFOR (UN), NATO,
- and even partially on the local defense units and their commanders who, despite the fact that they were in inferior position to the attacking Serb forces, were deceived by false promise about air strikes and confused by behavior of the Dutchbat 3 members to the extent that the Dutchbat 3 caused more harm by its presence than good for defense of the enclave, we can conclude that the Dutchbat 3 was very much responsible for making wrong decisions and for commission of wrong acts from 11 July on.
As we could see the Dutchbat 3 was, most of the time, passive during the attack, but speaking of the responsibility of the Ducthbat 3 in Potocari we must conclude that it was not only passive but also ACTIVE. The Dutchbat 3 took an active role in Potocari in a wrong way.
So, the Dutchbat is blamed not because IT DID NOT DO ENOUGH, or because IT DID NOTHING, but because IT DID DO a number of things that WERE WRONG.
Thus, we are here speaking not of PASSIVE RESPONSIBILITY but of ACTIVE RESPONSIBILITY.
Let's list the moments when the Dutchbat 3 took an active role:
- Dutchbat 3 PREVENTED the mass of refugees from entering the base. The Dutchbat 3 allowed the first group of about 5000-6000 people to enter the base but DID NOT allow the rest of around 20.000 who were forced to stay outside of the base. The Dutchbat 3 deployed a platoon of soldiers who formed a line and PHYSICALLY PREVENTED the mass of refugees from entering the base.
- Dutchbat 3 SEALED the whole in the fence of the base (with use of a welding machine) through which the first group of refugees entered.
- Dutchbat 3, in certain moments, DIRECTED the men and boys to buses while the Serb soldiers were sitting and watching. These were not buses in which women and children were allowed to board but buses with men and boys only. Dutchbaters Rutten and Kolsteren attested to this in their statements in NOVA TV program.
- Dutchbat 3 ORDERED, FORCED AND PUSHED the refugees who were inside the base to leave it.
- Dutchbat 3 DISARMED or DEPRIVED the refugees of their belongings (such as pieces of wire, knife pockets, or any metal object that they claimed could be used as a weapon) on their way out of the base.
- Dutchbat 3 deliberately KEPT secret information, on the killings that were taking place in front of the base, from the refugees inside the base in this way keeping the refugees inside the base unaware of the fact that the Dutchbat 3 members witnessed some of those killings.
- Dutchbat 3 LIED to the refugees inside the base telling them that they were going to be transported and not telling them about the separation that was taking place just in front of the main gate.
- Dutchbat 3 DEPRIVED those who wished to stay inside the base of their right to stay in spite of the internationally accepted rule that non-combatants are entitled to a safety inside the base.
- Dutchbat 3 DISCRIMINATED against men and boys by deciding to set priorities according to which the need to immediately evacuate the women and children was over the rights of the men and boys to live.
This is, in fact, what the Dutchbat 3 commanders claimed but it was Mladic who saved women and children by deciding not to kill them and not the Dutchbat 3 which did nothing for their safety.
- it DISCRIMINATED against the boys/children younger than 18 by accepting Mladic's rule that all males of age between 16 and 65 have to be screened against the list of the "war criminals".
- Why has Dutchbat 3 not allowed all refugees to enter the Dutchbat base?
- Why has Duthcbat 3 not tried to take the men and boys from outside the base to the base when it became obvious that killings of some men and boys took place on the spot?
The Dutchbat could have taken all the men and boys from outside of the bays to the base and keep them together with those men and boys who were already inside the base. At the same time the evacuation/deportation of the women and children from outside and inside the base could have continued. In this way after the deportation of the women and children only men and boys would have been left behind but in the safety of the base. Then the Dutchbat 3 would have dealt with the situation in which there were no women and children.
- Who decided that the refugees from the base be expelled and handed over to the Serbs?
- Why was this decision made?
- What happened with the list of the 239 names of the men and boys who were inside the base?
Major Franken signed the list and promised that he would use it to protect those whose names were on it. The list along with information related to the list was withheld by the Dutch Defense Ministry for almost 3 months. It was the Human Rights Watch/Helsinki organization which managed to obtain the list from the Dutch Defense Ministry almost three months later.
- How come the MSF local employees and their families were allowed to stay inside the base and it was not allowed for the UN employees (interpreters)? Was the MSF coordinator Cristina Schmidt the one who arranged it with the Dutchbat 3?
- How come her demand was met and the demand of the others was not?
Who are the Dutchbat officers who made these decisions?
Has the Dutchbat 3 informed their superior commander in both UNPROFOR and the Dutch Army, and Defense Ministry, of the decision to expel the refugees who were inside the base?
What was the reaction of UNPROFOR and the Dutch Army/Defense Ministry?
If the Dutchbat 3 did not inform anyone about this decision, why not?
If the answer is negative, does it mean that the Dutchbat 3 command made this decision on their own?
Has the Dutchbat 3 commands alerted its superior command, UNPROFOR and Dutch Army/defense Ministry, or the public in the world of the fact that lives of the men and boys who were inside and outside of the base were in danger?
Has the Dutchbat 3 command informed the superior command and the world public of that fact that the men and boys from the list 239 were in acute danger?
If the Dutchbat 3 has informed its superior command, what have the Dutch authorities do in order to determine the fate of those men and boys? They had the list of 239 names to start with.
Why was the list 239 kept secret at the Dutch Defense Ministry instead of being used as a tool to save peoples lives and exert pressure on the Serb authorities?
Association of the victim's families
Sarajevo, 21 April 2002