Srebrenica and the United Nations

The killing of 7,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica focused attention on the failure of the Dutch peacekeeping battalion, known as Dutchbat, to protect the United Nations “safe area” and prevent the worst massacre of civilians since World War II. As this chronology shows, Dutchbat commanders repeatedly called for close air support from NATO planes stationed in Italy, but were overruled by their superiors in Sarajevo and Zagreb.  By the time token air strikes were finally ordered on July 11, 1995, it was too late to save the enclave. 


January 18: Dutchbat 3, under Lieut. Col. Thom Karremans, takes over from Dutchbat 2 in the United Nations “safe area”.

June 4: General Bertrand Janvier meets General Ratko Mladic in Zvornik. Mladic demands cessation of NATO air strikes in return for freeing United Nations hostages.

June 9: Janvier tells colleagues that elimination of “safe areas” would be the “most realistic approach and makes sense from the military point of view but it is impossible for the international community to accept.”

July 6: Bosnian Serb forces begin the offensive in Srebrenica. Karremans requests air support at 13:50, but request turned down by superiors in Sarajevo (Dutch general Kees Nicolai).

July 7: European Union Special Envoy Carl Bildt holds meeting with Milosevic and Mladic. He urges Serbs to ‘exercise restraint’ but does not mention the July 6 Serb attack on Srebrenica.

July 8: Dutchbat makes second request for air support at 13:00. Prompted by further Bosnian Serb advances, capture of United Nations observation post, and death of Dutchbat peacekeeper. Blocked by Nicolai in Sarajevo, due to “sensitive negotiations” underway in Belgrade between Milosevic and Bildt.

Karremans writes in his diary that he is “disappointed” and now realizes that “higher echelons” are interested only in “politics” and cannot be “bothered by a minor observation post in the Safe Area of Srebrenica.”

July 9: U.N. military observers reported on July 9 that Serb offensive may be widening because of “almost non-existent” UN response.  UN Special envoy Yasushi Akashi authorizes use of close air support, but no action taken.

Karremans drops request for air support because of fear of Serb retaliation.

July 10: Dutchbat makes third request for air support at 0855, prompted by Serbian attacks on peacekeepers. Request shelved in Sector North East. Serb shelling of Srebrenica provokes fourth request in late afternoon. Refused in Zagreb by Janvier because of lack of suitable target list and poor nighttime conditions.

July 11:  Dutchbat makes fifth request for air support at 08:00, prompted by final Serb advance into Srebrenica. Serbs now less than a mile from the town. Request shelved in Sector North East (Lieutenant-Colonel Rachid Sadiki, Pakistan) because it was submitted on the “wrong form”.

Sixth request 
at 10:00. Prompted by rejection of previous request. Request approved by Zagreb (Janvier) but implementation delayed because aircraft have “all returned to their bases.” Two Dutch F-16s (led by Lieut Manja Blok) eventually attacked a single Serb tank at 14:40, but failed to stop Serb advance into Srebrenica and fall of “safe area.”
Srebrenica falls around 17:00.

July 21
: After negotiations between the UN and Bosnian Serbs, Dutchbat is allowed to leave Srebrenica. Video shows Dutch soldiers drinking beer and dancing as Karramens receives gifts from Mladic.