LETTER:Western guilt buried in Bosnia's mass graves

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Sir: Your leading article of 4 April ("Justice in Bosnia") and Emma Daly's reports from around Srebrenica, are right to urge the international implementation force in Bosnia (I-For) to protect the mass grave sites around Srebrenica from further tampering.

The massacre in the "safe area" represents not simply the largest violation of humanitarian law in Europe since the Nazi death camps, but also the most shameful failure in the history of UN peacekeeping.

The UN International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague has indicated the seriousness of the crimes, speaking of "thousands of men executed and buried in mass graves, hundreds of men buried alive, men and women mutilated and slaughtered, children killed before their mothers' eyes, a grandfather forced to eat the liver of his own grandson. These are truly scenes from hell, written on the darkest pages of human history." (Indictment 12, 16 November 1995.)

Our belated attempts at atonement should go further than you suggest. A systematic international inquiry must be launched. Questions that need urgent answers include: Why did the Dutch Chief of Staff discover among his troops at Srebrenica "a euphoric mood that the Serbs were the good guys" (the Independent, 21 September 1995)? How can we explain the Dutch Defence Ministry's "mislaying" of a crucial list of missing Bosnian men and boys and its destruction of a video tape showing Bosnian Serb soldiers engaged in extrajudicial executions as Dutch UN troops looked on (Human Rights Watch/Helsinki report, October 1995)? And why did "a senior UN diplomat" claim that "Srebrenica was allowed to fall on purpose" (the Independent, 30 October 1995)?

Unless these and other questions are answered, members of the Dutch military, and the politicians who dictated the UN's response, can surely not escape the stain of association with these crimes.

Tim Winter

Chairman, Bosnia Aid Committee of Oxford