View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Saturday, 26 March 2016


This week, Radovan Karadzic, former president of the Bosnian Serbs of the mid 1990s, was sentenced to 40 years in jail. His general, Ratko Mladic, executed the occupation of and extermination of the people of Srebrenica. More than 8,000 were dead at the end of it all. 

In the 1990s, I worked for the Dutch MoD, and several of my colleagues and friends were in Bosnia at that time. One of those colleagues was a member of Dutchbat, which was supposed to guard the ostensible safe-haven of Srebrenica - with pea-shooters against tanks. He was nearly eye-balling Mladic. He, and others in the battalion, could have pulled a gun and killed Mladic. It didn't happen. 

It would not have made a lot of difference. The commander of Dutchbat, Col Karremans, has been hauled over the coals for apparently collaborating with Mladic. Dutchbat assisted Mladic - what else could they have done? Resistance would have led to many dead among the UN forces. Collaboration was odious. But in truth, what option did they have?

This is a very sore point in recent Dutch history, and the Netherlands government has been reprimanded over the role of Dutchbat. However, it strikes me that the United Nations should similarly be reprimanded for not issuing its forces with proper kit to match that of Mladic's troops. Gorazde and Srebrenica are two names of infamy in the annals of the UN. Srebrenica is a black mark on the Dutch conscience.

Bear in mind that the Yugoslav civil war of the 1990s was justified by referring to a battle from the 14th century. 

Beware of living in the past.