Prelude to Srebrenica

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From 6th to 8th July 1995, Bosnian Serb forces had laid siege to the Srebrenica enclave, where tens of thousands of Muslim civilians had taken refuge from earlier Serb offensives in north-eastern Bosnia. Lt. Col Thom Karremans was commanding 600 Dutch/UN troops in Srebrenica, which had very little fuel and food. The bureaucracy delayed his call for support of UN Headquarters in Sarajevo, and when help (in the form of Dutch F-16s) arrived it was too little, too late.

The Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic entered Srebrenica, accompanied by Serb camera crews. In the evening, General Mladic summoned Colonel Karremans to a meeting at which he delivered an ultimatum that the Muslims must hand over their weapons to guarantee their lives. During the meeting at the Bosnian village of Potocari (above) on July 12, 1995, Karremans was defensive and submissive, excusing himself from ever requesting air strikes against Bosnian Serb forces, claiming the decision was made by higher authorities based on information he provided. In a Serb military recording, a frightened and timid Karreman was seen virtually pleading for the life of his troops during negotiations with Gen. Mladic. After this Karremans was filmed raising a glass with Mladic (above left).

Following the negotiations, on Friday, July 21st, 1995, Karremans and UN left Srebrenica. On the farewell, Colonel Karremans accepted gifts from General Mladic, smiled, shook his hand and departed. Although he managed to negotiate the leaving of Muslim women, he had failed to prevent the Serbs from rounding up and killing 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys. It was Europe’s worst civilian massacre since World War II.

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