Koenders: Srebrenica genocide must never be forgotten

We must always remember the horrific murder of ‘thousands of innocent men and boys’ after the fall of Srebrenica, said foreign minister Bert Koenders in a speech at the 20th anniversary commemoration of the tragedy in Potočari last Saturday. 
‘The genocide committed here is a dark chapter in our European history,’ said Mr Koenders. ‘The atrocity that occurred here must never be forgotten.’ 

The responsibility for the crimes committed in 1995 rests with the Bosnian Serb army. But, Mr Koenders admitted, the international community failed to offer adequate protection in the so-called safe areas, including Srebrenica. ‘As part of that community, the Netherlands shares political responsibility for the situation in which this could occur,’ said the minister. ‘And that is why, after a thorough study into what happened, the Dutch cabinet resigned in 2002.’
Mr Koenders also said that the Dutch feel deep sympathy with the people of Srebrenica. ‘Our deepest conviction is that a tragedy like this must never happen again.’ The events of July 1995 reinforced the Netherlands’ determination to take part in talks on strengthening UN missions, promoting justice at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and ensuring that war criminals are tried in The Hague.

‘Nobody can undo what happened here,’ said the minister. ‘But we mourn with you.’ It was the first time that a member of the Dutch government had taken part in the commemoration in Potočari.

Moving towards reconciliation, justice and truth are just as important as giving the victims and survivors a voice, Mr Koenders said. The Netherlands will therefore continue to support the efforts of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) to help find and identify those who have not yet been located. The Netherlands is also cofinancing the memorial centre in Potočari and two organisations that help young people and provide psychosocial support to next of kin and their children.

The minister said that while the tragedy of 20 years ago still lives on in people’s hearts and minds, there is also hope. Mr Koenders, who visited Bosnia and Herzegovina as development minister in 2009, said a great deal had been achieved in those 20 years.

The region has transitioned from war to peace and has undergone economic development. These transitions, and the country’s progress towards accession to the European Union, require ongoing support, said the minister. ‘It is our common duty to provide prospects for future generations.’