Sir: In his article in Section Two "They were led away and they were all killed" (21 September) Robert Block sketches a picture of actions and attitude of Dutchbat (the Dutch batallion) during the fall of Srebrenica which is in marked contrast to the actual truth.
He also fails to refer to the opinion of the Commander of the UN troops in former Yugoslavia, General Janvier, concerning the Dutch military contingent in question. General Janvier stated that the Dutch soldiers' presence and actions were "useful to ensure the protection of the civilian population" and their "action to monitor the movement of the refugees and to provide humanitarian aid has been a significant contribution to reduce the suffering of these people".
As late as 1 September the Bosnian Prime Minister Siladzic praised the Netherlands government and said "a few Dutch soldiers were unable to defend Srebrenica, were not able to take up weapons against the whole of Serbia".
In the article, absolutely insufficient attention is paid to the fact that Dutchbat was in an untenable situation, both from a military and a humanitarian perspective. Furthermore, the article contains inaccuracies with regard to a number of points. I would like to present two examples.
1. It should be pointed out that some 15,000 Muslim men had already left the enclave before Srebrenica fell on 11 July. The remaining men were separated by force. Dutchbat tried to prevent this, but was forced to give in under threat of Serb artillery shelling.
2. The Netherlands government and Dutchbat have gathered as much information as possible about atrocities in the enclave, during and following the fall of Srebrenica. All material has been forwarded to the War Tribunal in the Hague, the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva, and the International Committee of the Red Cross. This information is currently being supplemented by detailed eye-witness accounts of Dutch soldiers. The Netherlands government is determined to track down war criminals and bring them to trial as Mr Block should have pointed out in his article.
J. H. R. D. van Roijen
Royal Netherlands Embassy
22 SeptemberReuse content