Vital questions unanswered by Dutch inquiry into Srebrenica massacre

Paris - Reacting to the report published by the Dutch Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry into the fall of Srebrenica, Médecins Sans Frontières calls for the remaining, unanswered questions to be taken up in further, national inquires in Britain and the United States.

Eight years after the fall of the enclave and the massacre of more than 7,000 people, who were supposedly protected by the UN, crucial issues have still not been resolved in inquiries by the UN, France and now the Netherlands. MSF, who had a medical team working in the enclave, believes that the UN’s failure has not been adequately explained.

Most significantly, the reasons which led General Janvier, FORPRONU’s commander, to refuse NATO air strikes remain obscure. These strikes had been asked for by the Dutch UN battalion in July 1995, in order to halt the Serb offensive against the Srebeniza enclave and protect the civilian population. The Dutch report does clear up some of the ambiguities which remained after the French parliamentary enquiry. Notably, the report reaffirms that all the conditions were met for an air strike and concludes that the decision to not use air power is the responsibility of General Janvier.

However, the report does not furnish any explanation of what led to the decision. The Dutch parliamentarians restrict themselves to commenting that &#“uncertainty remains concerning the motivations of General Janvier and that &#“his decision was met with incomprehension from his team. MSF also regrets that General Janvier was not allowed, by the French authorities, to be auditioned by the Dutch parliamentary commission.

Questions remain about what negotiations could have led to the decision by the UN to abandon Srebrenica. Was there an agreement on the liberation of UN soldiers held hostage, or was it part of a deal in the peace negotiations being conducted by the Contact Group?

In accordance with the UN report on the fall of Srebrenica, which requested that all concerned member states carry out national inquiries, MSF calls on the United States and Great Britain, who played a major role in the military and diplomatic management of the Bosnian conflict, carry out open, public investigations.

MSF says that these inquiries must lead to increased protection for civilians. The failure in Srebrenica, where the deployment of military forces with a purely humanitarian mandate made them incapable of opposing criminal policies against civilians, must never be repeated.