Outgoing Dutch PM begins his Bosnia visit at memorial to Srebrenica genocide victims

SREBRENICA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Monday began a two-day visit to Bosnia with a stop in Srebrenica, where he paid his respects to victims of the 1995 genocide.

The Netherlands has long wrestled with the legacy of the massacre, Europe’s only acknowledged genocide since the Holocaust. Dutch troops served as U.N. peacekeepers in the town during war in the Balkans but were overrun by Bosnian Serb forces who went on to kill more than 8,000 Bosniak — mostly Muslim — men and boys.

Victims’ remains are still being unearthed from mass graves and identified.

Rutte on Tuesday will join European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic for discussions about Bosnia’s bid to join the European Union.

Bosnia remains ethnically divided and politically unstable long after the end of the 1992-95 war that killed more than 100,000 people and displaced millions.

In 2002, then-Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok resigned after a report harshly criticized Dutch authorities for sending soldiers into a danger zone without a proper mandate or the weapons needed to protect about 30,000 refugees who had fled to the Dutch base in eastern Bosnia.

In 2019, the Dutch Supreme Court ruled that the Netherlands was partially liable in the deaths of about 350 Muslim men killed by Bosnian Serb forces during the massacre.

In Srebrenica, Rutte laid a wreath at the memorial site. He was accompanied by a delegation from the Mothers of Srebrenica group that represents survivors whose family members were killed.