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Dutch PM apologizes to troops involved in Srebrenica massacre, rubbing salt into wounds

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A woman prays at a graveyard, ahead of a mass funeral in Potocari near Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina July 11, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)

The Dutch government has formally apologized to hundreds of former soldiers who were sent to defend the Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica, rubbing salt into the wound of Muslims in Europe.

Despite sharp criticism directed at the Dutch soldiers over their shortcomings and association with criminals in the Bosnian war, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutter on Saturday tendered an apology to the veterans, depicting their mission in Bosnia as “impossible”.

“Today, I apologize on behalf of the Dutch government to all the women and men of Dutchbat III. To you and the people who can’t be here today," he said while addressing the veterans of the Dutchbat III peacekeeping unit in the central Netherlands.

"With the greatest possible appreciation and respect for the way Dutchbat III under difficult circumstances kept trying to do good, even when that was no longer possible."

In July 1995, around 8,000 Muslims were massacred after Dutch forces handed them over to the Bosnian Serb troops, which the international war crimes tribunal labeled as genocide.

Rutter defended the former soldiers and stressed that their firepower and manpower were insufficient.

“Your mandate, your equipment, and the military support you received during your mission were all inadequate (for a mission) that ultimately proved impossible to carry out,” Rutter asserted.

In addition to the apology, soldiers deployed to Srebrenica were also given the Bronze Medal of Honor by Dutch defense minister Kajsa Ollongren.

The Dutch premier’s apology comes a year after a report made a series of recommendations on how to support the 850 troops of Dutchbat III, who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

In 2019, the Dutch Supreme Court ruled that the country was partially liable for the deaths of hundreds of men in the massacre, saying that they had deliberately removed the men from a Dutch base despite knowing they “were in serious jeopardy of being abused and murdered” by Bosnian Serb forces.

The then-premier Wim Kok resigned in 2002 after a report harshly criticized Dutch authorities for sending soldiers into a danger zone without a proper mandate or the weapons needed to protect about 30,000 refugees who had fled to the Dutch base in eastern Bosnia.

The Netherlands, which played a major role in this massacre, has the greatest share in preventing the administration of justice for the murderers of thousands of innocent Muslims.

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