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Public Panel

International Decision Making in the Age of Genocide: Srebrenica 1993–1995

On July 1, 2015, after two days of closed sessions discussing the international decision making surrounding the 1995 genocide in Srebrenica, The Hague Institute for Global Justice and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum hosted a public panel featuring six participants from the conference. The panel, moderated by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Rohde, included key policymakers and witnesses to the genocide including H. E. Mr. Yasushi Akashi, Mr. Carl Bildt, Mr. Muhamed Durakovic, Mr. Zlatko Lagumdzija, Gen. Sir Rupert Smith, and Mr. Joris Voorhoeve. The panelists briefly spoke about the lessons and insights they had gained from the conference and spoke about issues such as the use of air power, the creation of the safe areas, the Dutch peacekeeping mission, and the role of the media.


WILLIAMS: Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to The Hague Institute for this public panel, part of our conference on International Decision-Making in the Age of Genocide: Srebrenica 1993-1995. As you will be aware for the past two days, we’ve hosted an extraordinary group of people to discuss the events which led to the Srebrenica genocide in July 1995. For the first time, we have brought together the key decision-makers from that period, including the leaders of the civilian and military branches of the UN mission in Bosnia, senior officials from UN Headquarters and political leaders and officials from key governments including the Netherlands, US, France, UK and Bosnia itself. And we are particularly honored to have with us a Srebrenica survivor. Our aim in convening this conference was not nearly reflective, rather through dialogue and through engagement with newly declassified documents enabled by the work of our partners at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and the National Security Archive at George Washington University. We seek to better understand the chain of events which led to the genocide, with the aim of preventing such calamities in the future. In this respect, the work we have been undertaking at the Institute this week has been both an academic exercise, as well as a service to history, and as a practical one in that it seeks to improve prevailing policy.

Over the past two days we have discussed various key issues, including the establishment of the UN safe areas, the UN mandate, the Dutch peacekeeping mission, the role of the media and lessons from Srebrenica. We now wish to broaden the engagement of our group with a wider interested public, recognizing the relevance of Srebrenica to the work of many organizations in The Hague and the interest, sometimes personal, that many in this city have on the subject. To do so, we are privileged to present a distinguished panel of speakers this morning, including Mr. Muhamed Duraković, a Srebrenica survivor who survived the genocide by making a 37-day trek through Bosnian Serb Army controlled territory, Mr. Yasushi Akashi, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in the former Yugoslavia from 1993 to 1997, Mr. Yoris Voorhoeve, Minister of Defense of the Netherlands from 1994 to 1998, General Sir Rupert Smith, the UNPROFOR Commander in Bosnia from 1995, Assistant Chief of Defense Operations from 1992 to 1994, Mr. Carl Bildt, European Union Special Envoy to the former Yugoslavia 1995, and Dr. Zlatko Lagumdžija, former Deputy Prime Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992 to 1994 and who also served as acting Prime Minister following the assassination of the prime minister in the UN APC.

Ladies and Gentlemen, on this the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica and with recognition of the long-lasting effects that the massacre has had, not just in Bosnia but also on Dutch politics and society, we very much welcome the chance to engage with you and continue the dialogue with this esteemed panel. I would like to thank our partners, particularly Cameron Hudson and Michael Dobbs of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and Tom Blanton at the National Security Archive at George Washington University for their partnership in convening this conference and today’s event. To enable a rich discussion we are fortunate that our moderator for the morning session is David Rohde. David is an award winning author and investigative reporter who won the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in 1996 for his work on Srebrenica. He later wrote Endgame: The Betrayal and Fall of Srebrenica and is now an investigative journalist for Thomson Reuters. I’m delighted that David has agreed to moderate our panel this morning and now give him the floor. Thank you.

ROHDE: Thank you so much and thank you all for coming this morning. It has been an extraordinary two days. We all actually met in this room right here. I’m going to do very little moderation this morning and we’ve agreed that we’re going to start this out by simply having each of the panelists first talk about the lessons they learned and what they thought the insights were of the last two days. After that, we are going to open it up for questions. We really want you to drive this conversation and you to explore the subjects of your choice. So thank you again and I’ll start here and I’ll just work our way down the panel, but literally with Mr. Akashi here. And as I said, I just don’t know if you can just summarize what you thought, you knew, what did you really learn from the conversation we had in this room from the last two days?

AKASHI: Thank you David for giving me the floor. I’ll try to be as brief as possible. Let me start with thanking three organizations, two American and one Dutch, for organizing this extraordinary event. The last two days were indeed soul searching as well as trying to revive memories. On this 20th anniversary of the unspeakable tragedy of Srebrenica, I offer as a former Secretary-General’s Special Representative, my most sincere remorse for the sufferings caused to too many people concerned. UNPROFOR was the largest peacekeeping operation in history but it had to operate in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the circumstances most inhospitable for its work. It had to muddle through when one of the parties in the conflict wanted peace enforcement rather than peacekeeping and the other party did not want any kind of UN operation.

UNPROFOR was not given necessary means or resources for the implementation of very complex and ambitious tasks given. I’d like to say in the beginning that, philosophically, that the perfect solution is an enemy of a good solution. We were aware that all we wanted was a durable peace, but under the difficult conditions that we had to operate, we were of the opinion that our highest priority at the moment was humanitarian assistance for people who badly needed such assistance and attainment of ceasefires to stop the bloodshed, even if we knew that they would be violated soon afterwards. Given that the European governments pressured the United Nations to dispatch a peacekeeping force in the absence of a peace to keep and even after the European Group of the wise men headed by the French Minister of Justice, [Inaudible], precautioned against premature recognition of governments concerned in the former Yugoslavia until some kind of constitutional agreement had been attained within respective countries.

I would like to emphasize that UNPROFOR had to operate under the mandate given by the UN Security Council. Some members of the Council are present in this chamber today, and the Security Council kept issuing an innumerable amount of resolutions and presidential statements which were all very high sounding but most difficult to implement for people on the ground. This I presume was a result of the pressures of the government who felt that in the light of public opinion and the media they somehow wanted to show that the UN was doing something. A typical example of a resolution which was of course a result of political compromise but it was very hard to understand. We read these resolutions ten times, fifty times and in many cases more than one hundred times and without necessarily making sense.  

Also, you must understand that it was very hard for us to operate in a sense with two headquarters on the ground. It was established initially in Sarajevo, but had to move to Zagreb which was more peaceful at that time. And to assure cooperation between civilians and the military was not easy but it was not impossible. I’m glad to say that there was a high degree of cooperation between the UN and NATO. We met here the last two days to learn lessons of Srebrenica and all other past UN operations. In the 1990s, we had the debacle of Somalia, we had the tragedy of Rwanda as well as that of the former Yugoslavia, particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina. And many of us told ourselves, let’s not repeat the mistakes made in the past operations. We told ourselves, let’s not cross the Mogadishu line, in which the UN and friendly governments, particularly the United States and Pakistan who lost, the US lost 18 Marines and Pakistan lost 24 troops. The UN ventured into peace enforcement and upon reflection, we cautioned ourselves against the UN fighting a war in which it had no such capability. Maybe some of us learned too much the lessons.

I’d like to say that so far as the Dutch troops guarding Srebrenica, you remember that Canada did not want to continue their tasks in Srebrenica, Sweden refused to do it and the Dutch undertook an almost impossible task. And how can you fight a war when you have actually 150 troops in the face of invading troops who exceeded 2,000? And you are very short on food, medicine, water was well as fuel. You had to operate on foot, and I admit there were some confusions at the use of air power. I’m afraid that not enough leaders were able to make a distinction between close air support action which is quite limited and full scale air strike. But I think that, I hope we all appreciate the Dutch courage to undertake that almost impossible mission. And I’d like to ask the Dutch people not to blame their troops or themselves too much. UN work is always difficult and sometimes even dangerous, but it does not mean that the UN is useless or is not doing the work needed for the peace of the world.

Yes, the so-called safe areas, it’s a misnomer, they were not safe, and the UN Secretary-General kept telling the Security Council, he had three or four reports, arguing against the safe areas without requisite conditions and circumstances. The kind of tools he said he needed was not given and UN personnel had to operate under conditions of extreme vulnerability. And troop dispatching countries of course are concerned about the safety and security of their troops. And so what the UN could do in the six safe areas, including Srebrenica, was rather limited and I confess in hindsight impossible. In the larger picture, the UN is constantly undertaking reform and re-examination with the goal to make its peacekeeping operations more relevant to the changing tasks of the world. One such example was the Brahimi report of the year 2000. I think it’s a remarkable report of self-examination and just within the last week, another report after fifteen years after Brahimi has come out, stressing the need for military action to be accompanied by political process for peace and I completely subscribe to these conclusions. We cannot blame the soldiers for not being able to keep the peace. I think political leaders have to come to their tasks. We have to do our best to balance the need for justice with reconciliation.

There are many, many lessons we still have to learn but we have to accept that the UN is in constant evolution and what is needed is a more robust type of peacekeeping. So, I will end here, I can feel the hot air coming from our moderator so I would be happy to respond to your questions later.

ROHDE: Thank you Mr. Akashi. So, speaking of political leaders and diplomats, Mr. Bildt. I don’t know, what did you learn in the last two days that was new?

BILDT: New, new. I think I learned more about, they are on the technical level. I learned more about what we don’t know. We know a lot and we’ve been going through, these two days we’ve been going through sort of the sequence of events, day by day, document by document. But there’s still things we don’t know and for me the two big unknowns is the 9 of July. We know that the Bosnian Serb Army had launched an operation against Srebrenica. The orders are at the tribunal, everything’s there, but it was a more limited operation to separate it from Zepa and to reduce it to sort of a small area. But on the 9, that direction was changed and they decided to go to capture Srebrenica safe area as a whole. That’s a momentous decision that was taken. Why was that taken? We still don’t really know.

The second even more momentous decision was, according to what the tribunal thinks it knows, was the decision that was taken in the evening of the 11 of July. Srebrenica had been captured, they had thousands of what could have been regarded as prisoners of war and they decided to go for, or decided to do this sort of execution, big time. It’s not that it was the first time, there was atrocities during the Bosnian war, unfortunately not. There’s a history of atrocities, particularly, I wouldn’t say particularly, the Drina valley in 1992 and all of that, horrible stories. But it’s still a difference when you go for sort of machine like executions of thousands of men in an organized way and that decision was taken in the evening of July the 11. Why was that taken? We don’t really know. Whether we will get to know, I don’t know.

On the bigger picture, I think it’s sort of, the discussions were reinforced for me. The conclusions that a lot was decided in a way, apart from what Mr. Akashi mentioned, why did the war start and why didn’t we prevent it? That’s a separate issue. But the war started in the spring of 1992. Then, in the spring of 1993 the political process collapsed. Up until that time, it was not a peacekeeping operation, it was a humanitarian assistance operation, you can argue, in combination with a determined political attempt to settle the conflict. That collapsed, the Vance-Owen plan in the spring of 1993. We can discuss how it collapsed, I would say it was to a very large extent, disagreements over the Atlantic. There were disagreements in the region of course, that’s by definition, there’s disagreements in the region, but the fact that there was disagreements over the Atlantic collapsed the Vance-Owen peace plan and after that there wasn’t any credible political process until we come to the late summer or early autumn of 1995 for “x” number of reasons.

In the meantime, a lot of other things were done. One of them was the safe areas. Here we must be self-critical of those that were around, as Mr. Akashi said, the safe areas were not safe. The UN Secretariat, the Secretariat said repeatedly to the member states of the Security Council, “I don’t have enough forces there. It’s not going to work.” And the Security Council said to the UN Secretariat, “We don’t really care. We need to do something,” and then one sort of had “pretended” safe areas when they were not safe. And that I think is an important mistake in retrospect and with the combination of the two, then you have an ongoing conflict with a collapsed political process and you have “unserious” things that are happening and that you are pretending to do. That was, if we take them together, a recipe for a disaster to come, and that disaster did come in Srebrenica in July of 1995. It could have come elsewhere, but there it came. And I would go back a lot to the collapse of the political process in the spring of 1993 and to the, in this particular case, deciding on safe areas without making the safe areas safe.

Lessons from that? Obvious. Always have a political process, and the political process is paramount. Then you need also, needless to say, a humanitarian operation and military operations as appropriate in order to advance certain political goals, if you consider that appropriate. And then, be honest as an international community to what you can do and what you can’t do. Don’t write Security Council resolutions because you want to have a nice press conference. Write Security Council resolutions because you believe that they can be implemented, and put the resources at the disposal of the people down in the field. That makes it realistic for them to achieve what the diplomats are deciding in New York. Those lessons I think are coming out of the horrible experience of Srebrenica.

ROHDE: Thank you. I think of all the panelists and all the people here, Muhamed Duraković is in a way the most important. You deserve the most answers, and so do you feel you were given adequate answers or at least more answers in the last two days?

DURAKOVIĆ: Thank you David. I really want to say thank you to the organizers who have done a marvelous job in organizing this event. And ever since we met a few months after Srebrenica was occupied and you were doing your research on your book, I told you many things that I wanted to find the answer to. Twenty years have passed by and I think I was privileged, as any other survivor of Srebrenica would have been, anyone who survived Srebrenica, thousands of them, who went through Potocari or either fought their way out of Srebrenica, would have been privileged to be sitting with you and the other members of the panel, because so many questions have been going on through our heads for the past twenty years, and I think some of the answers we were able to find.

The most important thing that I found at this conference is, all the arguments that we were having, discussions we were having, including members of the UNPROFOR and other organizations were well supported in documents. So, in Bosnia, we live in a society, where we have three ethnically divided groups, and apparently everyone has his own truth. If you talk to someone on the Bosnian side they will tell you what really happened. Then you go over to the Serb side, and they will tell you what really happened. And I always insist on, in Bosnia we have to talk about facts. We’re not ready to talk about truth. Maybe the next generation will be willing to come in accepting the truth, which everyone will have to recognize. But before that, we have to talk about facts. And I think that was what was really important for me at this conference: every single fact which has been raised during these last two days have been well documented and supported by facts.

That said, I would like to say that, for us on the local level, and not being on the policy making level, it was very important to me those people, because the decisions that were made on the higher level had tremendous impact on people living in Srebrenica. So, if the decision was made to halt all the food convoys that had immediate effect on people in Srebrenica. If the decision was made not to stop attacking or provoking shelling and sniping of the citizens of Srebrenica, that immediately had an effect on everyone living there. So, I had the questions, under the mandate that has been given to you, as the international community, why has this not been implemented? We were able to, through our discussions, to find out that there had been, as the former minister said, a great underestimation of what was coming to Srebrenica. And I would say as a result of that great underestimation, a great failure of the international community to help save the people of Srebrenica, the civilian population of Srebrenica.

We have to recognize that, we all have to recognize that after twenty years. To me, I also felt, and I had an opportunity to have lunch here with the members of the international community and I really wanted, I’m not going to name them, but I was really hoping, I see this as some sort of truth commission. Twenty years on, we cannot bring back the dead but we can learn from the lessons of Srebrenica what went wrong. And if mistakes were made, I think it would be humane to step up and recognize these mistakes. Not to apologize to the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina, that has been betrayed by the international community. Not to apologize to me personally, as Muhamed Duraković, but to apologize to the people, to the kids who grew up without ever having knowing what it means to have a father, or a brother, or an uncle, or grandfather. You have thousands of Srebrenica children who will never know what it means to have a male member of his or her family. So these people are continually suffering today, and I think it’s important for us to recognize this, because the effects of Srebrenica are still alive. And I must say that while the policy makers were unable to understand what was about to come and how Srebrenica happened and why something happened on July 9, and when the decision was made to kill all these people on July 11, to the survivors and to people who were in Srebrenica on those days, we knew very well. We knew that Srebrenica will fall, as a result, everyone in Srebrenica will be killed. I honestly did not even believe, when I departed from Srebrenica, and I said goodbye to my mother who was walking down towards Potocari while they were being shelled, that I would ever see her again. I thought that I had a much greater chance of survival than she did. So, Srebrenica has been the final stage of the larger politics of ethnic cleansing which took place throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. And in some way, you can even claim that the people of Srebrenica were lucky, because to some extent, though some women had been killed and many raped, at least some women and children did survive. Other communities throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina were not so lucky.

So to say that we did not know and did not expect Srebrenica to happen, I think it is unfair to the victims of Srebrenica. So, that’s what I think was very important for me to say. And it’s very important also for the politicians of the international community and Europe to know, that the indicator that the genocide happened throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina is the final step in genocide. And based on Dr. Stanton’s definition of genocide, the last step in genocide is denial. You can see a very strong movement of denial of genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina which is being implemented today by the politicians in Bosnia and Herzegovina. And it’s not that it’s only an insult to the victims, it’s not only that they are forced to relive these memories again. As Dr. Stanton says, and I quote, “It is the surest indicator of the further genocidal massacres." Which means that those people who are denying genocide, if we are not able to go through the process of fact-finding, truth and reconciliation, we may be facing another, you know, problem for the future generations. And I think this is why this conference to me was very important. To use this conference as another tool to break this cycle of violence and to finally, hopefully, heal the communities of Bosnia and Herzegovina and our neighboring countries in order so we can all move forward and maybe one day become a member of the European country, and European family, thank you. 

ROHDE: Thank you. Dr. Lagumdžija, you interacted as a Bosnian government official throughout the entire war, and Muhamed mentioned truth, did you feel like you got more truth here than you did during the conflict?

LAGUMDŽIJA: Well first I want to thank all panelists, and not only panelists, but the people who we gathered in the last three days practically. Of course to the organizers as well and people who are not with us but who are behind this and who are great supporters from Madeleine Albright to other people who are behind the scene helping us to convene and do have such fruitful days on a very sad topic. I came in here with a few questions for myself. I thought I knew a lot as someone who was inside the box and someone who spent years and years trying to find out actually from the files and from the discussions with people what happened. I came here with a few questions for myself. First question is, did or do we need safe areas and rapid reaction forces as a concept regardless of the fact that they failed in Bosnia-Herzegovina? Second question was, can we say that as we heard yesterday, I have to quote one of our, because it was Chatham rules, so I don't have to say who said what, but one of the participants said that we were witnessing, and this was a question I had for myself, did we witness actually the bankruptcy of the international community in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in Srebrenica in particular, as a failure or mismanagement of particular stakeholders? And the third question, which I came to in here, was it possible to prevent? I mean, the key question for most of us, and almost all of us, one of the questions, was it possible to prevent? In order to learn the lessons, that it doesn't happen, so we can prevent it someplace else.

Fourth question, which I came in here with is, do we really know who is guilty or responsible or at least circumstantially responsible for this? Fifth question, that I came in here with, was it legally clear in sense of that we had resolutions that were supportive, and not that we had legal ground to actually do something different, to do strike, and to do deter as Resolution in particular says, but that was politically overwhelmed. Was that the case? And sixth question for me, that I came in here with is, do we have enough elements after this to create some kind of elements of new paradigm, and elements of the tools as we need to redefine as someone also said, I quote, "to redefine the notion of being neutral," because the notion of being neutral in Bosnia was very wrong. I use the expression, I mean, being neutral is like having two points where you have the butcher and the victim, or the wolf and the lamb, ready to do dinner, and you are trying to define the fact being neutral, by geometrically measuring where the middle is. That was the definition of being neutral in most cases in Bosnia-Herzegovina in particular. So we obviously have to redefine it so to be neutral in a sense of being where the values that we stand for are, where all those resolutions from the UN need to exist to all other things.

And final, maybe the key question for me, because there is a theory which I called “four M” model, mad man Milosevic and Mladic just did it. I mean it was just you know, as Bildt said, on the 9 maybe, on the 11 was Mladic thinking or not thinking, trying to do philosophy about his mental profile and so on. So you know, it happened, we have all come to this, obsessed with his past, wanting to clear himself from that and then he invented that he's a revenger for 500 years of myth that he has to do revenge. I mean those theories, I mean, it happened just because someone got crazy. Of course, that's a very dangerous theory, and my question was, can we see and was it part of strategically planned, and organized and brutally executed mass murder that ended in genocide? I won't give you answers as much as I got it, because we have enough time, but answer for all those seven questions is the same, answer is yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes and yes.

It was planned, and it was conceived from the very beginning. It started with Tomašica, Prijedor area, with white ribbons on people's sleeves. No mention to say who those people are. I mean, in Prijedor they were with white sleeves with white ribbons and today we are witnessing only in Tomašica found 400 mass graves in one spot in [Inaudible] about 700 people in June 1992. Then we have the murder of the Prime Minister in APC vehicle, then we have massacres in Markale, Tuzla, here, there, so on and back and forth. As Ambassador, as Diego said, when he was in Srebrenica in 1993, he defined it in advance, something which today, we know there was a slow motion genocide. And on the end it, as Carl said, we didn't have political solution before the end of 1995, and this is exactly what I got proven here. We did not have a political solution before the people who were ready to brutally execute their plan were stopped by force. After Srebrenica, from August 30 to September 20, we had, what we had was real air strikes according to the same mandates that we had before and that actually brought the people to the table to let's say start thinking about peace. We were discussing in certain elements, like Bildt was, on the 9 and the 10 in the morning so back and forth, were there two planes or four planes available, what can two planes do, what can four planes do and so on and so forth. General Smith knows that, I mean, in August and September, it was about 400 planes that were floating around and actually did the job.

So, my final point is, I learned a lot of lessons. I think we have, it was very valuable for me. I was afraid, I was afraid that we will come in here and to quote McNamara who in his book has said, after being, you know, in Vietnam and being in the World Bank, he made a book about how he was making decisions and he said, I paraphrase, that when he takes decision by decision, he made good decisions, but the bottom line, it was the wrong outcome. I was afraid that we would come here to the same conclusion. That everyone was making good decisions but it was the wrong outcome. No, they were bad decisions, they were terrible decisions, they were completely wrong decisions, and we confounded and we found that. Tom, I hope you won't be mad at me because you said this during dinner which was not Chatham rules thing. I was shocked when Tom, I mean you don't expect from an American to open dinner with quoting Karl Marx. And since we found out that we agree with Karl Marx in certain elements, not all of them of course, but some of them. I won't say his quote but I reply to him with a quote. So I understand Karl Marx use to say that philosophers are not about explaining the world but changing the world. So I said, we should paraphrase Karl Marx and that's how I saw this exercise. We were, I mean, we have survivor in here and he is the true survivor, representative of survivors. It could be a lot of other people, but one of the survivors was with us. To a certain extent we are all survivors, we all survived this, what we went through. And we were surviving again in these two, three days. The very same time we were going through it, so we as survivors, I saw our role not being explaining what happened, but being here to change something that this does not happen again. I think we have enough elements for it. Thank you. 

ROHDE: Thank you. General Smith, I'll say the same broad question of what you learned. But I wanted to ask you specifically, in terms of military force, based on our discussions in the last couple days and based on your experience in Bosnia, was there not enough military force on the ground or available to save Srebrenica? Or was that force not applied as it could have been in your view? 

SMITH: Can I come to answer that...?

ROHDE: Of course, absolutely.

SMITH: Putting this in slightly a more logical order. First I would like to echo, I would repeat them, all the remarks of thanks to the organizers and the members of this conversation. For me it was a reminder, a deep reminder of those cataclysmic, catastrophic, and very difficult times for everybody in their own way. Much worse for the victims than for the likes of me, in those times. I have four particular lessons, again they echo some that has been said, and then I will answer your specific question.

Very briefly, the first lesson, is that you don't stand around in other people's wars unless you are prepared to fight one or all of the parties. And I mean prepared, prepared up here and prepared with whatever you hold in your hand. So, intervention requires you to decide before you march in, who am I going to fight? All of them? Or one of them? Make up your mind before you start. First lesson.

Second lesson, is don't have two operations in and over the same place by which I mean NATO and the UN, answering to different political direction being conducted simultaneously. Someone will ask me a question, or one of us a question about the dual key. That's why you have a dual key. If you conceive of this idea of having two operations in and over the same place to different political direction, you will get the muddle we've been talking about. 

Third lesson is to the political/military debate before this goes in. There is an awful tendency to see this as a debate in which you compromise your positions to arrive at the solution. Ladies and gentlemen, it isn't. You can't compromise a military position, because the military position is measured against the opponent, not your political master. And if he's part of the negotiation, his political position isn't measured against you, it's measured against the person he's negotiating with. In that political/military debate, oh capitals of the world, those two people, and those two parties in this debate must arrive at a result that accommodates their position, not compromises them away into some comfortable phrases, in for example, a Security Council Resolution. And it's a savage, iterative, hard argument. And that is the relationship you and your political masters, or your political masters and your generals should have. You do not compromise, if it comes to compromise, you ought to go. And the last lesson is that throughout this story however awful it is, it's the people, the decision-makers as well as the victims, who matter. In the end, they make the decision. So that was my lessons.

To answer your question, in the light of what I've just said, no, I do not think military force applied by the UN or NATO in any combination you like, would have prevented something like the collapse of Srebrenica. It may have delayed it, it may have made it slightly different, but I don't think we would have changed the price of fish to any great degree. 

ROHDE: Thank you. Mr. Voorhoeve, you know, obviously we're in the Netherlands, and obviously this tragedy has had a huge impact here as well. Were any of your questions answered in the last two days? And you've written a book, you're going to talk about the lessons and many of us had mentioned, do we need safe areas? Should there be peacekeeping? Is it possible to do it successfully? Any thoughts on those broad questions as well? 

VOORHOEVE: Thank you. I'm very grateful for these two days because the exchange, the very candid exchange, between the participants with also a lot of self-criticism and candor, led us to understand better, how to avoid such disastrous developments in the future. That is ultimately the goal of a study like we were making together. I'm afraid the mass murder after the fall of Srebrenica was not the last mass murder. We live in a world with a poisonous mix of the spread of arms into every corner of the world. We have enormous groups of uneducated, unemployed young men. We have collapsing and poorly designed states in many areas of the world and ideologies or from religion derived ideologies which are used to justify the inclination of young men with arms to commit crimes. That is why an analysis of past Holocausts is so important. If we don't apply the lessons well in the future, they will be repeated again and again in different spots on earth.

One of the most important lessons I learned in these meetings was that looking for a scapegoat is exactly the wrong approach because once you have pointed your finger at a particular official, or institution, or country, you stop thinking. Then you have this sense of relief, he or she or this is guilty. Well actually in cases like this there is a collective failure and the disastrous end is the sum of many collective failures and individual failures and an underestimation of, let me use that old fashioned word, the power of evil. There was an English philosopher in the early 19th century who said, "All that is necessary for evil to be victorious is that good men do nothing." We can amend that, evil prevails if there is a collection of inadequate decisions based on underestimating the power of evil. And the evil that we saw in the former Yugoslavia, ethnic hatred, mobilizing people for positions of power. Once a country declines, and once an ideology declines, mobilizing them on group differences is poisonous. And that is the process in many countries. So that is why I hope that the organizers of this conference will continue on this very good road of analyzing situations which lead to lessons of prevention. Prevention after all is the purpose that bounds us all together.

ROHDE: Thank you. I want to open it up to questions now from the audience. If people want to raise their hands. Go ahead sir, and could you just state your name? [Inaudible] There’s a microphone.

QUESTION #1: [inaudible]…of the conflict in 1994 because we do not understand exactly what happened and many of us did our utmost, not successful in finishing and ending up in tragedy as we all know. I have a question, in two parts, in the end of 1994, the Bosnian Serbian government offered to the Bosnian government to make safe passage to Bosnian territory from the enclaves, granting safe passing through and going to Bosnian territory. President Izetbegovic, the President of Bosnia didn't accept the offer. My question is, did the UN put pressure upon Izetbegovic, and if it was not successful, why afterwards did the UN not reinforce the enclaves, because after that there was a buildup of extra Serbian troops around the enclaves and we all noticed and reported that something was going to happen and we took no counter measures as it seemed from inside the enclave. That's my question. 

ROHDE: Thanks, I guess first, Dr. Lagumdžija, do you remember that offer being received and what did the Bosnian government decide?

LAGUMDŽIJA: Let me put it this way, some people are saying that we could prevent the war from the very beginning if we accepted Karadzic's offer that we and Milosevic and Tudjman, the deal that was on the ground. But Karadzic very clear offer in Bosnia-Herzegovina, that we simply exchange people. That two million people go in one direction and two million people go in another direction. It was called "peaceful agreement about ethnic cleansing." I remember rest of it from that thinking, when one very high ranked representative of the international community, after the war when I was complaining that we were supposed to, this is not the war of civilizations, this is the war against civilization. And Srebrenica is a clear example of the war against civilization. That this is not about fight in between religious or ethnic groups. This was fighting between two concepts of future of that country and any country in the world. It was fighting between shared society and segregated society. It was fighting between exclusive societies and inclusive societies. That was the fight between good and evil as far as I'm concerned. Some people think that it's good to live in segregated society and promote it. But regardless of them, we all think that it’s fighting between good and evil because those people think that the good things are what we think are evil things. Anyway, one serious representative of the international community told me, "Mr. Lagumdžija, you are promoting something which is people living together. You have a constitution, which is, you know, actually promoting that people go separately and that we actually peacefully finish what was tried to be finished in the war." So he said, Mr. Lagumdžija, it's not our fault that some people in your country are wrongly parked. Okay? Then I realized how far it could go when you allow that way of thinking.

Let me put it this way, the question is not why people did not go out of enclaves, why they didn't, why we didn't do peaceful ethnic cleansing, in 1994. The question is then why we didn't do it in 1992? Why we just didn't say, okay people, Bosnians you are in the wrong country. When you were for 500 years, when you were in the Ottoman Empire and the Astro-Hungarian Empire, and the Kingdom under Tito, under fascism, you lived in one shared society with people living together in shared society under those difficult circumstances. Then democracy came and then they said, well you cannot live in one society because we have democracy. What is the conclusion? So we could of course back in 1992 go to the safe areas, the only areas where only Muslims live, where only Christians live, where only Jews live and so on and so on.

If that was the idea, so my point is, I was always and I still am, strong promoter of something which is called shared society. Some people think, in my country some people think that I'm evil. People who deny genocide, people who think that all that we are doing is a plot against who knows whom. So, yes, there was an idea to do that, that okay let's leave people to get out, but I mean wait a second, we have more safe areas. Does it mean that we're supposed to remove people from Zepa, from Srebrenica, from Gorazde, from Bihac? Some people, I asked one international representative, do you think that we should leave people in Bihac area, and only to withdraw those people from Zepa, Srebrenica and Sarajevo direction. He said well, maybe Bihac can stay. Bihac can stay? What do you mean? So we will group Bosnian Muslims around Sarajevo and Bosnian River, and then we will have over there in Bihac some of them? So why don't you call it West Bank and Gaza, because anyway we call it western Bosnia. So that can be West Bank, and Sarajevo strip can be Gaza strip.

With all due respect, I fully understand people who, and I'm really saluting to the people who put their lives and jeopardized their lives to be part of the peacekeeping missions in our country and any place in the world. But, forgive me for this, but we have to stand up for certain values. If I was asked personally, if I was the one who was making the decisions with that offer, I would also say, no we have to keep fighting for actually the values that UN, European Union and we want to be because after all if democracy and shared society cannot co-exist in Bosnia-Herzegovina, I don't know where it can. And then, I think, you have a problem in Holland as well. Not mentioning other European countries that are let's say over flooded with the same problem. But thank God the UN is not going to guard and Akashi is not going to be in charge of being surviving. 

ROHDE: To be fair to Mr. Akashi you mentioned that you repeatedly pointed out that there weren't adequate troops to implement the safe havens that were being created in Srebrenica. Did you continue to bring that up over the years and you know, you were the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in 1993, 1994 and 1995? 

AKASHI: Yes, we with the good advice of our military experts, argued that Secretary-General would need over 30,000 additional troops to implement the safe area mandate which was given to him by the UN Security Council, especially under Resolution 836. It may have been an error on the part of the Secretary-General to say that he would need over 30,000 troops but the lightest option may be about 7,000. And the Security Council picked up on the lightest option of 7,000, who however arrived in the theater only about one year later. In hindsight the Secretary-General should have said, the only choice is to have heavy option of 30,000. But this assumes also the full cooperation between NATO and the United Nations on the basis of so-called dual key system.

It's a cumbersome system, dual key, but I think it's necessary to ensure a marriage between political and military considerations, and most of the time in the theater there was full sharing of information and very frank discussion between the UN and NATO. Also, I had within UNPROFOR a committee of civilian and military experts with a civilian majority and we examined all the possible angles of air strikes. Close air support was an act of self-defense, so without any qualifications or reservations. We approved them. It's a question of life of death of our soldiers and our personnel. But air strike is a political action which needed very full examination of the question from all possible angles and so I would say that we could have done much better job with full resources on the basis of the Secretary-General's demand for 30,000 troops. But I cannot say for sure that it would have been a panacea. 

ROHDE: And I'll take another question but I want to actually ask Mr. Voorhoeve, the Dutch government has a certain responsibility for the number of Dutch soldiers that are in the enclave. I know you didn't decide that in 1994, but do you think it was a mistake particularly for Dutchbat III that the troop levels got so low, the rotations were happening and the soldiers weren't able to come back from leave. As a leader at that time looking back do you think you made mistakes then? Just in terms of the number of forces.

VOORHOEVE: That is not what the problem was, not the major problem. The fall of the enclave has very little to do with Dutchbat although it looks like it has a lot to do with Dutchbat. The fall of the enclave has to do with a number of causes. The prime cause is the wrong design of this peace operation. It should have been not a blue helmet but a green helmet peace operation. The eastern enclaves, which were extremely vulnerable, should have been under the protection of NATO, and NATO should have given a warning to the Bosnian Serbs and should have applied deterrence which is the most humane form of applying military power, because if you do it well there are no casualties. And deterrence means you tell the enemy, if you touch these people, we will take out your command centers, your air fields, your arsenals, you will suffer much more damage than you can gain by overrunning these enclaves. This is very important and this principle of deterrence was forgotten, brushed aside by many politicians after the Cold War, because the world, the word deterrence was linked to nuclear deterrence, but it's an age old principle of applying power. It's basically playing poker against your enemy, but your enemy has to know you can call your enemies bluff because you have escalation dominance. Now NATO has escalation dominance and the fact that Dutchbat went down to a much smaller number of people than were required has nothing to do with this.

The fact that Dutchbat could not be rotated with fresh new personnel, that there was convoy terror from the side of the Bosnian Serbs, that they didn't get fuel, that they had to eat emergency rations for months at a time, that everything became extremely difficult to the extent that Dutchbat was militarily not operational any more as of the beginning of June. Karremans warned us against it, we cannot do what we are supposed to do. But the horrible fate of Srebrenica is not related to these offenses. It's related to the decision to overrun the enclave, with a not so large but still relatively, overwhelming force from the side of the Serbs and as was explained in the beginning, the question that Carl Bildt raised, this terrible decision to put the machine guns on the prisoners that had been taken and on the enormous stream of refugees which had left the enclave on the 10, the 11 and the 12. Those are the origins of this horror that we have been discussing. 

ROHDE: Thank you. Other questions here, sir, right in the front row, or second row, sorry. 

QUESTION #2: Thank you. My name is [Inaudible] from International Human Rights Commission. Those responsible for the Holocaust sentenced, punished in Nuremberg, but their graves are still subject to surgical operation, their bones and their skulls are still being operated to condemn them, but we are not able to condemn all those responsible for Srebrenica genocide. The gentleman in the middle, he could speak about the truth, the only truth, but General, I'm extremely disappointed and shocked that you are still not able to confess that yes, we all are responsible for this miserable genocide. Genocide which again is going on in Burma, Myanmar. United Nations, other international community, isn't there again thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been burned alive, but the countries of European Union and United States of America is signing MOUs rewarding the present genocide which is being committed. Sir, you spoke about Colonel Karremans. He could raise a glass with the butcher of Srebrenica, but he was not able to order his soldiers to fight against that butcher? Having a well-trained army, well equipped army, blue berets, but still we are not ready to say yes, Dutchbat, United Nations, and all other players are responsible for this genocide. Thank you very much. 

ROHDE: Thank you for your thoughts, I didn't hear a question, does anybody want to respond to a specific question?

VOORHOEVE: Yes, indeed. You raised a number of widely spread misconceptions. Let me start with Mr. Karremans. If you take the trouble, everyone can do this to see on YouTube, the entire conversation between Karremans and Mladic. You notice first of all that he asks nine times for Mladic's cooperation for an evacuation of the population together with Dutchbat. His concern was, what happens to the 20,000/27,000 refugees around the compound. Secondly, you raise this question of the glass. That is also a misconception. It shows us the power of a video cut. What went across all the channels in the world was this glass and not these nine requests to cooperate with taking care of the refugees and a joint evacuation of the refugees and Dutchbat. Mr. Karremans refused the glass three times. That is what Mladic wanted at the end of the conversation, to have glasses raised, he refused it. He said, "I'm an officer, I'm on duty, I'm not drinking." It was put in his hand and he did not at all congratulate Mladic with a victory which was said later on. It was a false image. 

ROHDE: Thank you. This woman here in the center.

QUESTION #3: My name is [Inaudible], military analysis intern with the ICTY. I have a question specifically for Mr. Bildt and possibly Mr. Voorhoeve. Whenever you read about this topic, the European Union, it always looks like the European Union, it was happening in its own back yard, we didn't really do anything about it, European decision making was very confused until finally America stepped up as its leadership role and made Dayton happen. That's what comes up a lot. It seems like that's the general narrative, and I would just like to hear what your experience was back then.

BILDT: I can recommend five books, but I agree with you, that is the popular perception. In my opinion, that is not the case. Specifically, the role of the European Union as a Union, was limited to being one of the two elements of the peace process. At the conference, at the London Conference, summer of 1992, there was set up the peace process, the international conference on the former Yugoslavia, and that was co-headed by the European Union and by the United Nations. That resulted in the two personalities that were there in the beginning, or not quite at the beginning, but the moral operation phase was David Owen and Cy Vance. And they did produce the Vance-Owen peace plan in the early days of 1993. That peace plan collapsed due to disagreements across the Atlantic. Effectively the Clinton administration coming in and saying we want to do something better.

I wouldn't say that the Vance-Owen peace plan was perfect, neither is Dayton by the way, but the collapse of the Vance-Owen peace plan guaranteed two and a half more years of war, and all of the deaths and all of the displaced, and all of the suffering that happened. Then we were, I came in a couple of weeks before this particular thing, Srebrenica, replacing David Owen in the peace process and then eventually with the cooperation with the Americans and Holbrooke and everything, we managed to get something going. I think other elements, what's important militarily. I think the key element was the British and the French Rapid Reaction Force, the French guns around Sarajevo were far more important than all of the planes flying there. I mean the devastating accuracy, firepower and consistency of the artillery fire around Sarajevo really changed the equation in the way that people flying from Aviano air base can never do, and that tends to be forgotten.

Then, just one remark also on the European contribution, and something that worries me slightly, you talk about a lot about the consequence of Srebrenica and we should, we should learn the lessons but we should not be afraid of trying. One of the big problems that the United Nations has, and there are a number of them, is to get countries to go and send forces, soldiers, to do dangerous things, and we know, we will be responsible for going to our respective parliaments and saying we want to send soldiers to this particular, we want to send soldiers to Afghanistan, the Netherlands and Sweden are now sending soldiers to Mali in a very dangerous operation. Can we guarantee that we will bring peace to Mali? No we can't. And we can easily say, it went wrong in Bosnia, so it's better to stay home and pontificate for a while and let the UN try to find something else to do. And there's been a tendency after Srebrenica for European nations to back away from participating in UN peacekeeping because it is dangerous for the soldiers and it's politically difficult for the respective governments because it might not succeed. And we have to be honest and say, this is extremely difficult. Sometimes it does succeed, sometimes it fails, but the key crime should not be trying, the key crime should actually be staying home and not even trying. And I fear there's a certain Srebrenica effect in the European opinions that is been that it's better to stay home and pontificate than actually be there, out there with the risk of failure that its coming. And I see that also from, now we're concentrating on Dutchbat, and it's easy to say that sort of failure in Bosnia.

I was Prime Minister at the time, go back to sort of the Bosnian war proper, I was responsible for sending five battalions of Swedish soldiers, mechanized battalions down there. Did they give peace to the country? No they didn't. Did they save lives? Yes, they did. Did they facilitate a lot of humanitarian assistance? Yes, they did. Would things have been better if they had not have been there? No, it wouldn't. And the same with the Dutch. Absolutely. Was it perfect? No, it didn't. Would it have been better if the Dutch government would have said, we stay at home and issue a press release? No, it wouldn't. So I think we've, for all of the soul searching we should have, on the failures and try to learn from them, as painful as they are, the key failure is still not to even try and there are too many governments at the moment who are not even trying to do something. 

DURAKOVIĆ: David, if I may, if I may add.

ROHDE: Sure, Mr. Duraković. 

DURAKOVIĆ: I think we have to, we really have to be fair and to say that with all the failures that Carl has mentioned, with all the misconceptions about the power of evil, the population of Srebrenica in 1993 when the UN came to Srebrenica was overwhelmed with joy, hoping that the onslaught and killing will be over. And as we are now focusing on the UNPROFOR segment of the UN, let's not forget the other agencies who were in Srebrenica during that time, including the British Rescue Services agency who had the fantastic job in making sure that the people in the overpopulated area in the town of Srebrenica were able to move away from Srebrenica and live in much better conditions. Let's not forget about the courageous work of UNHCR that have been working on every day, fighting their way through these checkpoints set up all the way almost from Belgrade to Zvornik, to Bratunac, to eventually coming to the yellow bridge, OP Papa, as you call it in your military terms, and getting into the enclave. Let's not forget these people. They have done fantastic job, they have done very courageous job. They have been shot at, some of them were wounded, some of them died. I know people who actually died executing their humanitarian assistance. And let's not, after the fall of Srebrenica, forget a great contribution the UN gave through the ICTY to the process of fact finding, truth and reconciliation for that part of the world.

So we have to be fair as I was saying during this conference, while we are focusing on the failures of the policy makers, focusing on the failures on the tactical level and the people who were making decisions in Zagreb, let's not forget those I would call them unsung heroes who actually have saved many lives, many lives in Srebrenica, and not only in Srebrenica, but throughout Bosnia. I think they do deserve every respect and just because what happened in Srebrenica, their role should not be forgotten, that actually they played a very positive role. And I would agree with Carl that my life, my whole entire life, is split between the time before Srebrenica and after Srebrenica. I think Srebrenica made me determined to be as much human rights activist, or support of human rights as I possibly can. My heart goes to the people who are currently suffering. I just made address to the United Nations at their event because I couldn't be there because I thought that I should be here. And in my last sentence in my address to the United Nations I said, "While we remember the fate of Srebrenica and the victims of Srebrenica, let's not forget as we speak today, even at this conference, there are people who are going through exactly the same kind of torture throughout the world," and my last message to the UN at that time, "Let's not betray them again," because those people have been betrayed. We have to admit that the civilian population, I'm not talking about now about the governments, either talking about the Republika Srpska or Serbian members of the government, Bosnian members of the government, international community and their representatives. I'm talking about local people, population of women and children have been betrayed, and they have paid a horrible price, their lives have been changed forever and there's nothing we can do to fix it.

Actually, we can as I was mentioning in my earlier statement. If we heal Bosnia, and if we heal Bosnian society by condemning those who are promoting the polities of genocide denial, we can heal the whole community. Hopefully their children will have a better life than I had. But again, I'm sorry to interrupt and jump in, but it's really important to say that the need of the intervention, responsibility to protect, is still here, and I would agree with you, we need to learn from the lessons of Srebrenica and we need to be ready to go in and when we go in, we go in strong, and we are always on the right side, as Dr. Lagumdžija was saying. In every conflict you may have, you may pick whatever side you want, but you always, in case of Bosnia and many other cases, in terms of morality, your conscience is telling you which side to pick. You can never be on the side of the perpetrator, you have to be on the side of the victim. Sometimes you have to be only on one side, like in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, where you were using the analogy of the wolf and the sheep, and sometimes you have to be on all sides because the conflict is committed in such a way that different groups are committing atrocities against other different groups in other parts. So you either have, as the General was saying, you either have to go and fight only one side or you have to go in and fight all sides. Thank you. 

ROHDE: Thank you. In the back, standing up, if you could just wait until the microphone, and again please introduce yourself.

QUESTION #4: Okay, my name is Ivana [Inaudible]. I come from Belgrade, so, I'm a PhD student here. And following up to this story of victim and perpetrator, I would like to pose a question to Mr. Voorhoeve. There is a question of implicating subject maybe, you know, and maybe speaking of Hasan Nuhanovic, for whom I'm not sure why he's not with us today. Do you feel implicated, do you personally and maybe the Dutch state, only in his case, for not being able to protect at least his family, you know, from protected area, I think they were thrown out in the end. So I'm not generalizing, I'm just talking about one guy and one family. Thank you.

ROHDE: Just one thing, the organizers of the conference were the ones who decided whether Hasan would be here or not, and they're happy to answer your questions afterwards. It wasn't Mr. Voorhoeve's decision over whether he could come or not. So, go right ahead. But again, please ask the organizers that question.

VOORHOEVE: This question is in the Netherlands courts and the question of who is responsible for what I think is to be decided by the judges. I should not mingle into this. Secondly, personally, I had no role in the decisions concerning Hasan. I talked to him in the fall of 1995 and he came to my office and he explained what his horrible experience was, the loss of his father and his brother. I offered my sincere condolences and I continue to do that but I should not now enter into the question which has already been before the courts, has been appealed, some questions continue to the European court. I think I should leave it up to the judges now. 

MUHAMED DURAKOVIĆ: If I may just say a few words. Hasan Nuhanovic is a long friend of mine actually. As a matter of fact he has a brother who was a few months older than me, we had the same name. Muhamed and I were very good friends. Hasan was much older so at that time when we were seventeen/eighteen we considered him to be very old and not someone that we should affiliate with really. But ever since Muhamed died, I took upon myself to be, I would say, Hasan’s closest friend, and some of you who did visit Hasan recently, you could see that we are talking to each other on a daily basis.

We are invited to many different occasions to talk about Srebrenica. Hasan has a very specific story to tell, as every other survivor of Srebrenica. So what happened in Srebrenica, it’s not really one story, it’s thousands of stories. So anyone who has survived Srebrenica, this way or that way, could have been here in my chair today. I really feel privileged that after numerous consultations with Hasan and everyone else, the organizers have given me this opportunity. As I have mentioned, I have turned down an opportunity to go and be today in New York. I think it’s very important to see the faces of the people, some of them I haven’t seen for twenty-two years, like Larry from UNHCR. I mean, as I was talking about unsung heroes, the last time I saw Larry was back in 1994 and twenty plus years later we are sitting around at the same table. I thought for me it was a privilege to be here and meet some of these people that I thought gave a great contribution. But also at the same time, to confront some people that I felt had failed to do their job as well.

So, prior to me coming here I spoke extensively to Hasan Nuhanovic about this and I thought that we had an agreement that it is important that a representative, a Srebrenica genocide survivor, would be at this table here and I really did not see any reason why we should not be represented. I’m sorry if the media has been using this particular, I would call it, incident to sideline the importance of this event. This event is not about Muhamed Duraković, and it is not about Hasan Nuhanovic and it is not about it. This is the event which has historical, which is going to become a historical record, where we are settling accounts, putting things straight, and that’s why I’m going back and reiterating why was it so important for me actually, to see that the organizers, for every argument that was brought up had ample evidence, written documents, which were declassified, which are no longer secret, and we finally can bring some things out.

So I can put my demons to rest. As you remember when we were speaking in that restaurant back in 1996, the conspiracy theory that we were living through, the anger, the anguish, the disappointment in the international community and the rest of the world, that we as survivors, that we felt that we were failed by the civilized world. The civilized world decided that we should no longer live. The civilized world that we felt was racist. The civilized world that we felt was Islamophobic. The conspiracies that we had, that we were let down just because we were blue eyed, blonde Muslims in the middle of Europe and that Europe would not allow such a state to exist.

I was able to learn, through the documentation, and some of these conspiracy theories to really see that they have no ground to stand on. What really happened is something that we have to continue investigating and I will personally spend the rest of my life investigating. Reading and learning so I can pass on the messages and hopefully help the future policy makers not make the same mistake as they made in Srebrenica.

ROHDE: Thank you Muhamed. And as a journalist, I'll let the other panelists speak, but we learned that there were multiple failures at multiple levels. The system failed, I mean there's no one person who if they had made a separate decision all of this would have been prevented. That was at least very clear to me. But just as a journalist I also want information to flow out there, Cameron do you mind talking just briefly about, you want to do that afterwards?

HUDSON: Can we do it afterwards? I want to give the panelists time to speak.

ROHDE: Okay, but that was regarding the specific question in Hasan. Yes, here in the purple shirt, just wait for the microphone please. 

QUESTION #5: Amir Hasanovic, from the [Inaudible]. I'm going to ask in Dutch because my Dutch is better than English, if somebody can translate. [SPEAKS IN DUTCH] for Mr. Smith thanks for everything that you did for Bosnia-Herzegovina, for Carl Bildt [SPEAKS IN DUTCH]. 

VOORHOEVE: My Dutch is not up to standards. 

ROHDE: Sir if you could. So, there was a first question, can we take them one at a time.

QUESTIONER: I'm finished [SPEAKS IN DUTCH] and you say one time, that Milosevic is a nice guy, yes? Can you explain?

VOORHOEVE: A number of questions for me, the first one was, what did the Netherlands do to prevent this evil? The short answer is, not enough. We failed, but the cabinet in January 1994, the Lubbers-3 Kok cabinet, of which I was not a member, took the decision to make part of a battalion available for the United Nations at the request of the United Nations as the Canadians wanted to leave as fast as possible. The only country willing to send these troops was the Netherlands. Other countries refused because it looked like too dangerous an operation. Was it successful, what the Netherlands did and what the success of Dutchbat troops did? In the end it failed. But they did achieve significant results in the field of humanitarian aid and I think had there not been blue helmets at the time that Mladic attacked and overpowered the entire population, he would probably have killed many more than the men. I'm afraid so. So, I think the presence of the United Nations, whether they were Dutch or Norwegian or Belgian or French, it helped to reduce the terrible disaster somewhat. I cannot prove this point, but that's my feeling.

When will the Netherlands give complete openness? It has done so already. There is a very thorough study of 3,500 pages without all the annexed books done by the Netherlands Institute of War Documentation. One of the best pieces of current history writing that I know of, and it's based on, it was done by this group of researchers who also had access to secret material. They also could read the always top secret minutes of the Netherlands cabinet meeting and they also saw intelligence information. Then later on, this very thorough study was followed up by the Parliamentary inquest, in which people were questioned under oath. I myself was questioned under oath for two days. There was no way to hide for a politician or a military officer the questions of the commission. So, I understand very well that those who are victims of these horrible effects, of these horrible deeds, continue to search for answers. This afternoon I will publish a book which is based on my own diary in part, but the story really is not all that different from the conclusions of the Parliamentary inquest or the NIOD report. Then I hope I've answered your question.

I can put it around, can you mention another country that tried to do more than the Netherlands? It was inadequate, and it was not enough, and if you want to know what I blame myself for, I think you have the right to that answer too. It is that I waited for air power, NATO air power, in early July. I said on the 9 of July to the office of the French General Janvier, the United Nations should give close air support. It's at your discretion, you are the commander, I'm not the commander, I was sitting in The Hague, a politician, not a military person, not responsible for the actual military operations, but I said, air power in the sense of close air support has been promised to the Netherlands by the United Nations Secretary-General. This is the time that it should come, even though there are thirty Dutchbat members in the hands of Mladic and he could execute them if he wished so. That was the awful responsibility. What I blame myself for is not having taken the plane, early July, and said this personally to General Janvier. It was a telephone message and I think had I been there, I could have pressed the point more strongly. I expected a lot of air power to be applied to help Dutchbat and it was promised to me on the night of the 10 of July, the morning of the 11 nothing had come, and later on, around noon, a limited close air action took place which was too little too late. So, I think that's the best answer I can give you. Now the question that you've raised to Mr. Bildt, in the end you went over into English so I hope he has enough question to answer.

BILDT: Yea, yea I got that. 

VOORHOEVE: You advocated attacking Croat soldiers but not Bosnian Serb soldiers in the case of Srebrenica and you were declared, the questioner asked, persona non grata, in Croatia. I myself do not entirely understand the question but perhaps you do.

BILDT: No I don't. I'm not aware of having advocated attacking Croat soldiers, what's that? 

QUESTIONER: [inaudible]

BILDT: Yea, yea, yea, no that's true. But that I advocated attacking Croatia, fantasy. I mean the Balkans is a charming place, I love it, but it has this tendency for conspiracy theories that has the least bit of quality to it. And that's probably [Inaudible]. But it's certainly true that there was a time when my relationship with President Tudjman was less than perfect, to put it in those particular terms. I was not entirely alone, and that has to be said, because he had, sometimes he had a concept, we can go back to some of the things that Zlatko said concerning the type of society you're going to build. He had sometimes a concept that was slightly different and there were times when I might have been somewhat more explicit on that particular point. [Inaudible] No, I wouldn't say, I mean they were all personalities. I can say good things about all of them, they were nice people, but, and Milosevic had slightly different, but essentially the same. 

LAGUMDŽIJA: Similar to Tudjman.

BILDT: Similar to Tudjman, absolutely, but I dealt with these, I dealt with Tudjman extensively, I dealt with Milosevic more, I dealt with Izetbegovic even more. I got to know them rather well. None of them is around any longer and I've written a book where I also have a lot of description of what I thought are there personalities and their politics. But it is true that sort of the Franjo Tudjman concept of society was slightly different and I think if you go to President Mesić and President Josipović and now Kolinda, they favor more European view of how to build a society.

ROHDE: Thanks. I wasn’t to open it up to other questions. The gentleman in the back, yellow shirt with the red tie.

QUESTION #6: Hello, I'm Robert Fox, I was the chief foreign correspondent for the Daily Telegraph at the time of Srebrenica working in and out of Bosnia. Can we go back to dual key? Dual key really was a thing that journalists teased around at that time. You said it was a marriage, I would put it to you Mr. Akashi, at times it showed symptoms of a divided command at the highest political level because it seemed to us particularly from the very forthright pronouncements of Mr. Holbrooke and others, that the US did not approve of the way the European contributions to UNPROFOR were acting. So there did seem to be two agendas. I'd just like to fast forward briefly to 1999 at Kosovo where we didn't talk about dual key, you may remember, we talked about red cards all the time. But this is the general thrust of my question, how on earth are you going to get a unified command in these circumstances? I'd like to know from General Smith, when he ordered the guns to fire on Sarajevo in that very spectacular fire power demonstration, did he clear it with Naples, did he clear it with Brussels and Mons, did he clear it with Washington, and did he clear it with the UN? Who did you clear it with? And what I'd like to just throw in at the end, this division of command seems to bedevil so many very concept of international operations that is missions, whether it’s what we do in the Mediterranean following Mare Nostrum, or the joint allied, so-called joint allied operation against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. How are you going to get unified command or perhaps like Richard Holbrooke at times, I'm on the wrong track as well. 

ROHDE: General Smith, did you have a unified command when you were able to fire those guns?

SMITH: I commanded the guns, I commanded the soldiers on the ground, and I commanded the rapid reaction force. That was a unified command. I answered to the UN, but as a result of the decisions made directly after the catastrophe of Srebrenica, the authority to use air power over and above close air support had been vested in the military commanders. It had been removed from the political chain of command after the London Conference, 21 July, I think is the date. The key, the two keys of the two key system, one was therefore held by the NATO commander, an Admiral Smith in Naples, and the other held by General Janvier in Zagreb, who was the overall military commander of the UN peacekeeping forces.

On this particular occasion, at the end of August, General Janvier is out of theater on leave and the key is in my hands. I talked to Admiral Smith who talked to General Smith and he turns his key. I do not turn my key precisely at that moment because I wish to extract some potential hostages from the consequences of what I'm about to do. Twenty-four hours later or thereabout I turn my key. I think I told Mr. Akashi and people behind me what was going on but I do not recall if I did or not because the authority was now in my hand. Srebrenica for all its awfulness, had this catalytic effect on the political direction of the use of force. The keys were given to the commanders. Whether they should have been or not, there's a profound set of questions in there. You should ask yourself whether you want your political leaders to hand automaticity to using force to the soldier. It's not such an easy thing to do, but that was done then and that's what I did. 

ROHDE: Actually Mr. Akashi wanted to address that. 

AKASHI: I'd like to make a short comment on the dual key system, perhaps during the period previous to what Rupert Smith is talking about. In February 1994, there was a crisis over Sarajevo after the open market incident in which 68 civilians were killed, and during that time the UN and NATO were convened together on the use of force specifically on the use of air power. There was an excellent coordination between NATO and the UN, we had the same assessment of the tragedy and the means to improve the situation and we met several times with the Force Commander of NATO Southern Command who was Admiral Roorda of the United States. I must say he was an outstanding military leader who understood both the effectiveness and the danger of the use of force, but with our complete agreement we engaged in discussions with both sides in the Bosnian picture, that is the Bosnian government and the Serb leadership there and also I spoke a number of times with President Milosevic of Serbia. Milosevic at least had a good understanding of the imminent threat of the use of force with which we were able to extract agreement of the two parties to engage in ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy weapons twenty kilometers outside of Sarajevo. So, I was quite happy that with the threat of the use of air power we did not have to use actually, the air power, that's the best way to resolve a situation.

In April the same year, there was another crisis over Gorazde, and here again we had the NATO air power available to us if we wanted, and we had prolonged discussions and with a larger group but I asked Milosevic, we were discussing these matters in his presence, in the presence of Karadzic and Mladic and on the UN side, General de La Presle and myself only. And Karadzic and Mladic persisted, but here again, Milosevic acted like a professor trying to convince the [Inaudible] students. After twelve hours of discussion we reached an agreement which was ratified the following day just before ten minutes to my time limit given by New York to me for negotiations. And here again without resorting to the use of air power of NATO, somehow we extracted agreement of the Serbs, which was unfortunately not adhered to and we found soon afterwards evidence of sabotage of the agreement. This time NATO leadership was not very happy that we reached that agreement through negotiations but I consider that it was the duty of the United Nations to use the threat if necessary, but if it can be attained through negotiations, we should, but as time went on it became more and more difficult to reach agreement of both sides, NATO and the UN. But, I gave my agreement for the use of force in this case, full scale air attack which was requested by Rupert Smith on the 25 of May, 1995. As well as on the 28, and we produced a lot of UN personnel being made hostage and very indignant Serb leadership. So, my authority was soon deprived of by the UN Secretary-General for putting my finger on the dual key. I thought that my military leaders are essentially subscribed to the same philosophy of negotiation and the use of force as required and as necessary. So I was not happy about this transfer of power. Thank you. 

ROHDE: Yes, we've just a last comment.

VOORHOEVE: I would like to say something about what General Smith said. It was clear when General Smith and Admiral Smith turned keys things started to work. Gorazde was saved, Sarajevo was saved, because of the application of strong military power. Then the Serb leadership understood it was time to sit down at the negotiating table and then become serious. That led to the Dayton peace agreement. My wish of course is that the policies that helped save Gorazde, a lot of military power and the threat of it, had been applied five weeks earlier. That might have made a difference of 8,000 lives, those who were killed in Srebrenica. This follows the logic unfortunately of law and politics. Things, sometimes have to get worse before they get better. They have to get worse because it shows that muddling through doesn't work anymore and that something radically different is necessary. After the horror of Srebrenica, the United States leadership understood they had to give leadership to this failing peace operation and they talked to Boutros-Ghali, they talked to the Generals and they decided, we are now going to apply strong military power. That's the message that the Bosnian Serbs and Belgrade understand. And that worked so we owe, I think, the end of the war to this combination of British military cunning, represented here, and American and NATO power. 

ROHDE: Thank you, we have run out of time. I think we're all happy to take additional questions from you afterwards and I'm the lone journalist who participated in the two days and I'll just say that what you've heard here is accurate. There was a deep division about the use of force, a critical moment, and I just want to get this out there, is July 10. There is the request for close air support that goes all the way to Zagreb. It's the first one that General Janvier receives. He declines that request for close air support. General Janvier is not here but various participants said he had a sincere doubt, Janvier, in the efficacy of using air power. You can see the division here about the importance of air power. He felt that ground troops would be more effective and there was a general belief that air power complicated things or might make them worse. Others thought air power would be very effective, but he turns down that request.

There's all kinds of other mistakes by Dutchbat, there's questions Bosnian, a key commander, Naser Oric was outside of Srebrenica, journalists failed in our coverage, we all failed in Srebrenica, but you know, I think it’s' a fair summary to say that what General Smith said is correct. The savagery of what happened in Srebrenica created the political will for that use of force. The political will, the unity did not exist until this tragedy happened. Again, we're all happy to answer any questions you have and I thank the organizers. We all learned a tremendous amount and hope you did as well. Thank you. 

HUDSON: Thank you. Thank you David. Before everyone goes, I just want to thank on behalf of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, all of you for coming out today. Our hosts, The Hague Institute, where we have spent three very edifying days in discussion, and the National Security Archive, our partner in Washington, who compiled, I don’t know if we have, David has a briefing book here, but compiled the documentation that served as the basis of our conversations. I wanted to just let people know about some of our next steps as a group, because I think you’ve heard just an hours’ worth of conversation about what we delved into. We got into these and many more issues over the course of our several days of conversation. Ours was not a court room by any means. It was a policy investigation, a historical investigation, and self-investigation, an introspection on the part of not just these panelists, but thirty more men and women who lived through from varying perspectives the genocide in Srebrenica. So, I wanted to let people know that later on today in Washington time the first batch of documents that we used will be released on the website of the National Security Archive and will shortly be joined on our respective websites, with more documents to come. So I would encourage you to look at that. We will be releasing from these proceedings not just a video transcript of today’s event, but also a rapporteur’s report that summarizes the finding such as they are from the last several days of conversation as well as a verbatim transcript of everything that was said, identified not in Chatham House rules but to the speaker. We do this for historical transparency and to really hopefully build both a better transcript, a better understanding, and provide some additional resources for students and scholars of this. Our interest has always been to try to learn from this lesson. We were here last year, on the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide and I’m grateful for the participants this year for coming and being so frank and so candid and so agreeable in offering their views and opinions and their own self-critique. So with that I want to thank you all for coming. Thank you for being with us today.