Subscription 790/year or 190/quarter

The strength that failed

7930 survivors following the Srebrenica massacre are now facing charges against the Netherlands and the UN. The Dutch UN soldiers were under the command of a Norwegian officer as they watched the Serbs slaughter. By Harald Eraker


July 11 marked the world that it has been eleven years since 8000 boys and men were massacred by Bosnian Serbs in the city of Srebrenica in Bosnia. The survivors are now going to sue the Netherlands and the UN for indecency during the worst genocide in Europe after World War II.

The plaintiffs, 7930 women known as "the mothers of Srebrenica," now demand that all who should have protected the 40.000 Muslims who had lived together in the so-called UN-safe zone in Srebrenica are held accountable.

The lawsuit is directed not only at the Dutch UN soldiers in Srebrenica who stood watching the Serbs systematically execute the defenseless Muslims, but against the entire UN command line. Directly superior to the Dutch soldiers was the Norwegian Colonel Hagrup Haukland. The Dutch also got their supplies from the Norwegian team.

Thus, with the lawsuits of the survivors, a critical focus will also be placed on Norway's role during the massacre.

- We will hold all members of the UN command line accountable, including the Norwegian colonel. All the Muslims in Srebrenica failed. We want to tell the world the story of each of those we represent, says Marco Gerritsen.

He is a lawyer in the Dutch law firm Van Diepen Van der Kroef, and leads the team of 14 lawyers from the Netherlands and Bosnia who will lead the case for the mothers from Srebrenica. Gerritsen says the case is likely to be brought before the International Criminal Court in The Hague in the Netherlands this fall.

In 1995, Srebrenica was one of five enclaves in Serbian-controlled areas in Bosnia. Two years earlier, the UN had declared these enclaves as safe zones.

The government had to leave

However, on the morning of July 6, the Serbs attacked Srebrenica. They were led by General Ratko Mladic, who is now wanted for war crimes. The Serbian forces faced no resistance from the Dutch UN soldiers who were to protect the enclave.

On July 11, the Serbs had taken over the "safe zone". Over the next few days, the Serbs systematically divided the hard-pressed population of Srebrenica into two: women, the elderly and toddlers were dispatched, while men and boys were led away and regularly executed.

On July 12, Serbian General Radko Mladic toasted Dutch Colonel Ton Karremans in the city of Potocari. This was in the midst of the Srebrenica massacre, and the incident has since served as an illustration of the UN's genocide during the genocide.

The unsuccessful attempts by the world community to create safe zones to protect the civilian population during the war in Bosnia led to several investigations, including the Srebrenica massacre.

The Dutch government immediately resigned in 2002, when the most comprehensive investigation report, ordered by the Dutch authorities, came. The report was staggering in its criticism of the role of the Dutch UN force in the genocide in Srebrenica.

Example of the betrayal

In Tuzla, Norwegian Colonel Hagrup Haukland and his staff were in charge of the northeastern sector of Bosnia, including Srebrenica.

According to the Dutch investigation report, several criticisms were linked to the Tuzla multinational command center, led by the Norwegian colonel.

The Serbian attack on Srebrenica started as early as June 6, and the enclave fell into the hands of the Serbs on July 11. The Norwegian sector chief Haukland was then on holiday in Norway, and did not return until July 15 – after the massacre of the 8000 defenseless Muslims had been carried out.

According to the investigation report, Haukland hesitated to return to Tuzla, even though his second-in-command already on July 9 called him for the first time to explain to him how precarious the situation was.

Lawyer Marco Gerritsen himself has noticed this.

- We have read the report and know that Haukland's deputy commander called for his superior. The fact that Haukland did not return by post is a good example of how everyone in the UN system failed the people in Srebrenica, says Gerritsen.

The report also stated that problems in Haukland's staff had "direct consequences" in the days when Srebrenica fell. Among other things, Pakistani soldiers were inexperienced to call for NATO aid just in the days when Srebrenica needed it most.

On July 11, the day the enclave finally fell into Serbian hands and the slaughter began, the Pakistani soldiers in charge of calling for flight assistance were absent, the investigation report points out. They were in the local mosque to pray.

The Investigation Commission also points out that the reports that went from the Haukland staff to the UN headquarters in Sarajevo, about the situation under Haukland's area of ​​responsibility, were so bad that the headquarters no longer wanted to receive them.

When Ny Tid revealed these conditions to the Norwegian public a year ago (see facsimile page 18), several people called for an investigation of Norway's role during the Srebrenica massacre.

Such a Norwegian investigation never came to fruition. In the Netherlands, however, a similar investigation, which took place as early as 2002, led to the government's departure.

Requires Norwegian investigation

- This is both new, serious and extremely interesting. In the Netherlands, political responsibility was taken, despite the fact that the Dutch forces were also formally under UN command, said professor and Balkan expert Svein Mønnesland at the University of Oslo at the time.

- There is not much difference between the Dutch and Norwegian command structure, so it will now be natural to investigate the Norwegian authorities' possible responsibility for the Srebrenica tragedy, Mønnesland continued.

Colonel Haukland's response was that he would like to see an investigation of his role initiated, while emphasizing that he was directly under UN command and thus had nothing to do with Norway.

The Ministry of Defense distanced itself from Hagrup Haukland by emphasizing that the Norwegian colonel was made "available to the UN". Haukland was therefore not under «control and control from the home country». The Ministry also stated that "there is a difference between individual officers occupying positions in the UN chain of command and when a Norwegian contingent is placed at the UN's disposal". In the latter case, Norway will normally have a national contingent chief in place, who is not under UN command and who reports directly home, according to the ministry.

Haukland, however, regularly briefed Arne Sollie's defense chief about the conditions in the sector he was responsible for. When Hagrup Haukland left Bosnia on his aforementioned vacation to Norway, he even traveled with the same aircraft as the defense chief.

Norway also had another link to the Dutch. In the summer of 1995, over 600 Norwegian UN soldiers, including eleven staff officers, were stationed in Tuzla. One of the responsibility of the Norwegians was supplies to the Dutch soldiers in Srebrenica.

Hiding Norway's role?

Attorney Gerritsen states that it is not yet clear how large the total amount will be in the lawsuit against the Netherlands and the UN. The plan is to conduct individual cases on behalf of 10-15 women, and to run a joint case for all the 7930 survivors through a foundation.

- The mothers from Srebrenica tried for a long time to get an out-of-court solution. When it did not work out, they chose to go to court, says Gerritsen, who together with the other lawyers has worked to prepare the case for two years.

Today, neither the Ministry of Defense nor Hagrup Haukland, who has been promoted to general, will comment on the forthcoming lawsuit from the survivors of the Srebrenica massacre.

Instead, spokesman Kåre Helland-Olsen said in an email: "In the Soria Moria declaration, the government has expressed a desire to strengthen the UN. It includes contributing to and strengthening the UN's ability to carry out military peace operations. "

- Some try to hide the truth about Norway's role when Srebrenica fell, said one of Haukland's former subordinate officers in Tuzla to Ny Tid last summer, about the unwillingness to talk about the Norwegian role during the genocide in Srebrenica.

- It has amazed me for a long time that the Norwegian commitment in relation to Srebrenica has not come into the spotlight before. There was not even a Dutchman who was commander of the Dutch UN forces in Srebrenica, the commander was Norwegian, said the officer, who did not want to stand

forward with name.

- Must be illuminated

[settlement] – When a Norwegian officer had command of the Dutch soldiers in Srebrenica, I take it for granted that the lawsuit against the UN leads to debate in the Norwegian authorities and professional circles, says Finn Martin Vallersnes, Conservative representative in the Foreign Affairs Committee.

He thinks it is interesting that a case is being raised against the UN. It could help to further specify the UN's stated goal of becoming more operational, he believes, pointing to the UN's failure to prevent genocide in Rwanda, Darfur and Bosnia.

- I take it for granted that one is given orientering in the Storting about Norway's role during the Srebrenica massacre, says the Conservative politician.

SV's representative in the Foreign Affairs Committee, Bjørn Jacobsen, also thinks this is interesting.

- All facts must be on the table. This is not only important for the bereaved after the Srebrenica massacre. The UN will face more and more such situations internationally, says Jacobsen.

He believes that individual countries – not even Norway – can apologize for being part of the UN system.

- I can not say directly whether there will be a demand from me that the government should investigate Norway's role in light of the victims' case against the UN. But it can be the result, says the SV politician.

The massacre of SREBRENICA

  • The Srebrenica enclave was declared a "safe zone" by the UN in 1993, during the Bosnia war. A Dutch UN force of just over 100 men was set to protect 40.000 Muslims from Serbian forces.
  • On July 6, 1995, Serbian forces attacked Srebrenica. July 11, the "safe zone" fell into Serbian hands. The following days, at least 8000 Muslim men and boys were massacred.
  • 7930 left after the massacre announced on July 3 this year that they are going to sue the Netherlands and the UN. The lawsuit will also hold Norwegian Colonel Hagrup Haukland, who was the sector commander in charge of Srebrenica, responsible for the genocide.

You may also like