The Dutch government officially apologized on June 18 to Dutch solders sent as U.N. peacekeepers to defend the Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica, who were outgunned and had insufficient manpower.
The Dutch veterans were overrun by heavily armed Bosnian Serb forces led by General Ratko Mladic, who massacred 8,000 Muslim men and boys in July 1995, in a bloodbath that an international war crimes tribunal ruled was genocide.
Speaking in a military base in central Holland, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte addressed hundreds of veterans serving the Dutchbat III battalion in Bosnia, saying that after nearly 27 years “some words haven’t been said yet.” “I apologize today on behalf of the Dutch government to all of the men and women of Dutchbat III. To you, and to the people who can’t be here today. With the greatest possible appreciation and respect for the way Dutchbat III tried to do good under difficult circumstances, even when that was no longer possible,” Rutte said in his speech.
The ceremony was held after a report published last year on the experiences of the roughly 850 troops that composed the battalion. The study ended with recommendations, including that the government should make “a collective gesture” to address the perceived lack of recognition and appreciation of what Dutch peacekeepers did, given “the exceptional circumstances in which the near-impossible was asked of them.”