Archive for Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Dutch government falls after Bosnia report

April 17, 2002

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— The Dutch government resigned Tuesday over a report criticizing its role in Europe's worst civilian slaughter since World War II the 1995 massacre in the Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica.

Prime Minister Wim Kok took the letter of resignation to Queen Beatrix, accepting responsibility "in the name of the victims and survivors" for peacekeeping failures in Srebrenica. Some survivors called it an insignificant political gesture.

With elections set for May 15, the resignation has little practical effect. Kok's ministers remain as caretakers until a new government takes office.

Last week's report by the respected Netherlands Institute for War Documentation confirmed what many Bosnians suspected all along, that Dutch peacekeepers did little to prevent Serb forces from rounding up Muslims who had sought refuge at an area declared "safe" by the United Nations. Some 7,500 Muslims were killed.

Kok told parliament the time was overdue for a political price to be paid, nearly seven years after the Srebrenica debacle.

"The international community is anonymous and cannot take responsibility in the name of the victims and survivors of Srebrenica. I can and I do," he said. "I decided to offer my resignation and the entire Cabinet followed.

"The Netherlands does not accept blame for the gruesome murder of thousands of Bosnian Muslims in 1995," Kok said, "Rather, the Netherlands accepts partial political responsibility for the circumstances in which they happened."

In Bosnia, survivors spurned the Dutch government's decision.

"I want justice and it's not done by the resignation of ministers," said Hasan Nuhanovic, 30, a Bosnian Muslim who lost his parents and brother in the massacre. "I want to see justice done in the courts."

"They should have resigned ages ago," Sabaheta Fejzic, a 50-year-old Muslim who recounted how her son was dragged away. "They will never wash the guilt off their faces."

Kok was prime minister in July 1995 during the events in Srebrenica.

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