Letter: Why the Dutch did not fight at Srebrenica

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The Independent Online
Sir: In Robert Fisk's article "The damning truth written on the pages of Document No 3206" (October 8) a United Nations order issued by the acting commander of Unprofor on 11 July 1995 to the Dutch UN commander in the Srebrenica enclave is presented as a new fact. The decision of the Dutch commander not to execute this order is presented as quite shameful.

However, Mr Fisk's interpretation is completely beside the facts.

The document "revealed" by Mr Fisk was made public by the Netherlands Ministry of Defence a year ago in the official report on Srebrenica, based on an extensive briefing of Dutch UN personnel. In this report, which was widely distributed and translated into English, and in response to parliamentary questions, the UN order was described in full detail.

The reasons why the order could not be implemented by the Dutch UN commander were also given.

His military assessment of the situation, hours after the fall of Srebrenica itself, was that defending the military compound in Potocari would provoke heavy shelling by the Bosnian Serb army, which had completely surrounded this compound, in which Dutchbatt and thousands of refugees were present. This would have certainly meant a very high number of casualties, especially among the refugees.

It is important to note that this assessment was shared by Sector North East of Unprofor, which communicated its views to Unprofor headquarters.

HANS van der HEUVEL

Director of Information

Ministry of Defence

The Hague

Netherlands

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