The trial of General Ratko Mladic may help to shed light on some of the more obscure events at Srebrenica.
The responsibility of the UN peacekeeping force UNPROFOR, and in particular of Dutchbat, the Dutch Blue Helmets charged with protecting the supposedly safe haven, have been called into question.
Alex Hagedorn is the German lawyer for 6,000 families of the victims of the massacre. What does he expect Ratko Mladic’s defence strategy to be?
“That is a big question now, what shall the court do? What will be the defence of Mladic also? Who will he blame? Does he say ‘it was myself, I made the decisions’ or does he hide behind Karadzic or behind Milosevic? At this time it seems that he wants to hide behind Milosevic. And that can be very interesting for our case, too. For us, Mladic is a very important witness in this case. We have to see what he is going to say.
“The Dutch soldiers and the UN have the task from the mandate to protect the people of Srebrenica, and they did not do it. They did not shoot one single shot at the attacking Serbs. They did not use air support even though all conditions were met from the mandate and that is why Mladic could go on. They just went back to the compound and just did not do anything. There was no resistance against the attacking Serbs, even though they knew they were going to attack, and they did not take any measures to avoid it.”
Dutch General Cornelis Nicolai served as UNPROFOR’s Chief-of-Staff in Bosnia Herzegovina. General Bernard Janvier was the UN Commander for Bosnia.
Lawyer Axel Hagedorn went on:
“What you have to know, what many people don’t know, is that most people in the command line in these days were Dutch officers and Dutch generals. So until General Nicolai, only General Janvier was up there. And the air support, for example, General Nicolai did not ask and did not even forward the request by Dutchbat for the air support to General Janvier. Only the sixth one he sent on.
“Our lawsuit is about (this): that the Dutch soldiers – or the Dutch government, I have to say – and the UN did not do what they had to do to protect the people of Srebrenica, and therefore, they are jointly responsible, but not in criminal terms, but in terms of civil and international law liabilities.
“What was Dutchbat doing there and what will Mladic say? If he, for example, will admit that the Dutch did not do anything and that is why he went on with attacking the Safe Area, then this is very important.”
Joris Voorhoeve was Dutch Defence Minister at the time of the Srebrenica massacre. He rejects suggestions that the Blue Helmets bear responsibility for what happened.
“The Netherlands was unjustly blamed for not being able to save the enclave, while the enclave was militarily indefensible, and secondly, while the Dutch were under the military command of UN officers of France and Britain”, he said.
Euronews correspondent Sergio Cantone said, reporting from The Hague:
“Despite the attempt to use the case against Ratko Mladic to shed light on the question of the UN’s responsibility, the trial itself seems to concentrate only on that of the Serb general: the sole and exclusive architect, according to the accusations against him, of the massacre at Srebrenica.”