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Thread: Dutch blocked crucial air support before Srebrenica massacre

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    Default Dutch blocked crucial air support before Srebrenica massacre

    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?

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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

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    Default 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.

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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.
    +5.75 +1.13

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    Default Re: Dutch blocked crucial air support before Srebrenica mass

    Quote Originally Posted by badinage
    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.

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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.
    When you see the words "Mises" or "Hayek" in someone's post, just ask yourself: do I really want to ban paper money and go back to gold?

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    Default Re: Dutch blocked crucial air support before Srebrenica mass

    Quote Originally Posted by mollox
    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)

    Quote Originally Posted by mollox
    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

    Quote Originally Posted by mollox
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by mollox
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by feargach
    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.

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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.
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    Default Re: Dutch blocked crucial air support before Srebrenica mass

    Quote Originally Posted by badinage
    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
    "I thought that I had a duty to help those that weren't as lucky as me." -- John Hume

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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.

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