Oct 3rd, 2008 | By De-Construct.net | In Bosnia, Current, Earlier
Aleksandar and Marco
Aleksandar Gavrilovic and Marco Van Hees
Through the Eyes of Dutch Soldiers
“In July 1995, 450 poorly armed soldiers of the Dutch battalion were supposed to ‘defend’ the entire well equipped 28th division of the Bosnian Muslim army, which counted some 10,000 troops! Why didn’t they defend themselves? I always wandered why is everyone protecting Muslims and no one is protecting the Serbs. We also had our bases in the torched Serbian villages, like Zalazje, for example. We could see the kind of atrocities Muslims were committing against the Serbs”, Marco Van Hees, now 34, former member of Dutch battalion (Dutchbat III) stationed in Srebrenica in 1995, told Belgrade daily Vecernje Novosti.
Van Hees wants to help his fellow soldiers who continue to suffer terrible denigration, rejection and virtual isolation in their own country, being unjustly blamed for the Serb takeover of mujahideen-occupied Srebrenica during the Bosnian civil war.
He wants to remove the irrational stigma from Dutch soldiers who were stationed in this part of eastern Bosnia under the UN auspices, who were accused of “failing to protect” Muslim fighters under the command of the war criminal Naser Oric, who were using Srebrenica safe haven status to raid the surrounding Serb-populated villages three years prior to the Bosnian Serb Army takeover.
At the same time, as a soldier who was in the eye of the storm during the Bosnian civil war, Van Hees disagrees with the version of events imposed by the Western mainstream media, according to which Bosnian Muslims are declared victims, while the suffering of Bosnian Serbs is being swept under the carpet.
Investigating Srebrenica Events in Netherlands
This led him to Aleksandar Gavrilovic (22), born in Tilburg, whose parents came to Netherlands from the Serbian town of Cacak 25 years ago and who recently formed a Serbian Investigation Society.
“My main mission is for the people to learn the truth about suffering of Serbs, not only in the latest wars, but in the entire 20th century”, Gavrilovic said.
“For starters, the Society will translate into Dutch the book by Milivoj Ivanisevic, Director of the Center for Research of the crimes against the Serb nation, ‘Srebrenica, July 1995, In Search for the Truth’,” Gavrilovic said.
“It is Not Our Fault Muslims Lost the Battle!”
“Bosnian Federation lost the case against Netherlands which it sued for the alleged failings of our battalion. They sued us, although no Muslim lost his life while we were stationed in the bases in and around Srebrenica! The fact they lost the case, however, doesn’t mean that our troops got any measure of satisfaction”, Van Hees said, explaining that Dutch battalion was comprised of young troops, aged 19-20, unprepared for clashes.
“We were saddened by the fact we are being sued by the ones we were helping out for almost two years… by those who were stealing our food and gasoline, who were cursing at us, insulting us… It is not our fault they lost the battle. Our task was to ‘protect them from the Serbs’, while they were attacking us. They killed one of our soldiers and wounded several others!”, Van Hees said.
“There’s lots of problems with the Muslims”, he unexpectedly said in Serbian. “With Serbs there are ‘no problems’,” Dutchbat veteran said.
“Commander of the Dutchbat, then-Lieutenant Colonel Karremans publicly said that the battle for Srebrenica was an ‘exceptionally well carried out military action’, after which he was criticized in Netherlands. Our battalion was withdrawing from Srebrenica on July 9, 10 and 11. Practically nothing was going on at that time,” Van Hees said.
Serbs were Not Killing and Abusing Muslim Civilians
Regarding the wish former members of the Dutch battalion expressed to testify on behalf of the Serbs in the Hague, Van Hees explained that “no Dutchbat soldier saw or heard of either the killing or raping of the Muslim civilians in Bosnia. Our soldiers who were on the buses, transporting [Bosnian Muslim] women and children from Potocari to Tuzla can testify there was no mistreatment or killings by the Serbs. Those who were in Kalimanici could also confirm they saw no killing of the Muslims. There was a lot of crime among the Muslims themselves in Srebrenica…,” Van Hees said.
“Our task was to ‘protect’ Muslims from the Serbs, but the Muslims were attacking us. They killed one of our soldiers and wounded several others,” Van Hees told Vecernje Novosti. [Group photo of the members of Srebrenica Dutch battalion, from Dutchbat III web site’s online gallery]
Dutch Media Competed in Maligning their Own Troops
When he first came to the region, Van Hees weighed 90 kilograms (198 pounds), he left weighing only 75kg (165lb).
Q: Why did the Netherlands Government tarnish their own troops?
MVH: When we returned home, the Dutch media were competing who will besmirch us more, assessing we are directly responsible for Srebrenica events. The Government and all the other state institutions attacked us. A number of battalion members, at least hundred of them, broke down completely at the time. They went crazy. Few of them committed suicide. We received no moral support. Most of the troops are permanently disabled due to psychological problems. By the way, more than 90 percent of them have finished no school prior to going to Bosnia.
According to Vecernje Novosti, Dutch Srebrenica veterans are now suing the state of Netherlands, seeking both the moral satisfaction and the monetary compensation. Right now, they are being thrown around 200-300 Euros a month, which is far from being sufficient for living in Netherlands. They are continually exposed to humiliations. Marco says that even the girls are refusing to date soldiers who were in Srebrenica, “they regard them as failures”.
What’s Good for the Goose…
Meanwhile, Stefan Karganovic, head of the NGO Historical Project Srebrenica and the member of the legal team investigating crimes in Srebrenica region, recently announced a lawsuit against the UN and Netherlands because of the suffering of the Serb population in the UN safe haven.
“If they are responsible for the Bosnian Muslim victims, then they are, according to the same principle, also responsible for the Bosnian Serb victims in the same time period, in the events that took place during the Bosnian war in and around Srebrenica”, Karganovic said.