The damning truth written on the pages of Document No. 3206

Back To Bosnia: After one year of peace, Robert Fisk continues his journey in the former Yugoslavia. His second report tells of betrayal at Srebrenica by UN 'protectors'
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The Independent Online
The official orders to the United Nations' Dutch battalion to protect the Muslim refugees of Srebrenica still exist. Marked "Most Immediate - Restricted", and signed by General H Gobilliard, the acting commander of the UN's "Protection Force" in Bosnia, they were sent to Colonel Tom Kerremans in the Serb-surrounded enclave at 18.27 hours on 11 July last year.

"Enter into local negotiations with BSA [Bosnian Serb Army] forces for immediate ceasefire," Gobilliard ordered. "Giving up any weapons and military equipment is not authorised and is not a point of discussion."

The document - File No 3206 in the official UN log, which has been obtained by The Independent - is a fearful reminder to the survivors of the Western world's betrayal. "Take all reasonable [sic] measures to protect refugees and civilians in your care," the orders go on. "Continue with all possible means to defend your forces and installation from attack. This is to include the use of close air support if necessary. Be prepared to receive and co-ordinate delivery of medical and other relief supplies to refugees."

Hassan Nuhanovic smiles with grim cynicism as he reads through the orders. As a survivor, he knew what happened next. The only orders the Dutch obeyed were a vain request for air support and the instruction to open negotiations with the Serbs, washed down with a bottle of mess champagne.

The Dutch meekly surrendered their weapons, their armoured vehicles, even their uniforms. Not a single "reasonable measure" - save for a few worthless pleas for humanitarian behaviour - came from Kerremans. There was no defence. The Serbs were allowed to hunt through the UN's headquarters at Potocari for Muslims they had not already taken off for the slaughter. There was no medical aid. Hassan's mother and father and younger brother were ordered out of the UN compound by Dutch officers, never to be seen again.

Hassan, who was saved only because he was one of five official UN interpreters, still waits for them, ignoring the evidence of the mass graves and the terrible rumours he now picks up as a UN translator in central Bosnia. His mother Nasiha, he was told, was imprisoned in Vlasinica and later executed. His father was beaten. His brother simply disappeared. But like all the Srebrenica survivors, he is obsessed with the idea that hundreds of Muslims still hide in the remote canyons of Serb-held eastern Bosnia, high above the snow-line in winter, in caves and ravines, feeding off berries and wild animals. "My life's work is to find out what happened to the missing, to keep their names alive - I think of my parents and brother every minute. They are still with me."

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has published a glossy volume listing the names of 14,561 men, women and children who "disappeared" in the Bosnian war, the largest number of them from Srebrenica; in this mortuary volume, Hassan's family can be found on page 240, their places of birth, father's name and location at time of disappearance noted in a single line. It shows that Hassan's missing brother Muhamed was just 21 when the Dutch ordered him out of their headquarters. Thumb through the ICRC's 342 pages and you realise why you mock the dead if you claim that the war is over. Of the more than 14,000 "missing", 12,271 are Muslims, 1,519 Serbs and 432 Croats. It is not a volume that the Dutch army are likely to display in their official museum.

Nor are they likely to treasure the incredible Serb document, apparently signed by a senior Dutch officer, which was drawn up on 17 July - when the massacre of thousands was already under way - and which states baldly that on 12 July, the day of Srebrenica's fall, a meeting of Serb officials, local Muslim representatives and UN officers agreed that the "civilian population" of the captured town could stay if they wished or depart safely to the evacuation area of their choice.

The document, also obtained by The Independent, ends with the following grotesque sentences: "I assert that the evacuation was carried out by the Serb side correctly... During the evacuation there were no incidents on either of the sides and the Serb side has adhered to all the regulations of the Geneva Conventions..."

The Independent has confirmed that the signature is that of a Dutch officer. It can be seen alongside that of Miroslav Deronjic, the new Serb "civil affair commissioner [sic] for Srebrenica" and a captured Muslim who signs his name as Nesib Mandzic. Although his name does not appear on the file, Hassan's father Ibro also represented the Muslims at the 12 July meeting. His presence did not save him. When Major Franken of the Dutch battalion found he was to be expelled from the UN camp at Potocari on the evening of 13 July, he reversed the order and allowed him to stay - but insisted that Ibro's wife and younger son Muhamed must be handed over to the Serbs. The father elected to stay with Nasiha and Muhamed, and disappeared along with them out of the camp gates, watched by Hassan. "The last thing I told my father," he says, "was to tell my brother I love him."

There was little enough love between the Dutch and the Muslims. Kerremans was variously described as "unpleasant" and aloof by survivors I talked to in Tuzla. One said that he was a depressive while Hassan claims that Kerremans simply disappeared into his sleeping quarters for two critical days after the fall of Srebrenica.

"I only saw him smile once," Hassan recalls. "Before the fall, the Muslims had invited him to celebrate Ramadan with rakia drinks, and I told one of the UN officers to tell Kerremans I was happy because it was the first time I had seen him smile. I saw Kerremans giving the officer a return message for me. His reply was: 'You are an arsehole'."

Kerremans refused to talk to three British SAS officers mysteriously present in Srebrenica - they would patrol through the town without their UN berets and were supposed to be able to call up air strikes but in the final hours refused to do so - and Kerremans insisted they seek permission each time they wished to leave the UN compound. At one point in the weeks before the city's capture, Dutch troops of the 13th Air Mobile unit's Bravo company could be seen wearing T-shirts depicting a UN soldier half- strangling a Muslim child while refusing to give him a sweet.

"Franken wrote down the names of 239 males in the UN compound who were between 16 and 65 and told the Serbs he would send the list to the ICRC and New York in the hope that this would keep them alive," Hassan says. "The Serbs were angry and Franken stuffed the list in his underclothes. But when I reached Zagreb with UN troops, the list was missing and the Dutch government claimed it didn't exist. Only when a human-rights group forced them to hand it over did we see it again. But of course, in the weeks that had passed, most of the people on the list had been executed. The Dutch could have saved their lives if they'd published the list the moment their soldiers were released."

It is difficult to contradict Hassan. His family's fate has proved of no interest to a world convinced that flawed elections have ended the Bosnian war. His war - of endless hope and duty for a family probably long dead - goes on.

Tomorrow: In the third of this series, Robert Fisk reports from Banja Luka on the tragedy of a woman forced to identify the body of her son by his clothing.

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