The Dutch government's intention to award its troops who remained indifferent to the massacre in Srebrenica has caused outrage in the country. The Dutch press, which printed headlines on the issue that had been brought to the forefront by Zaman last week, harshly criticized Defense Minister Kamp on the grounds that the troops did not deserve the honor.
While preparing for the general elections to be held on Nov. 22, the Dutch were shocked by the government's decision to award troop Dutch troops on Dec. 4 who, despite their duty to protect the Bosnians, remained indifferent to their murder by Serbs in Srebrenica in 1995. The news reported by Zaman last week received a great deal of attention in Holland. Volkskrant, a highly respected and prestigious Dutch paper, published a lead article on the issue. The paper, which criticized honoring the troops who were in Bosnia with a state medal, asked why they should be awarded, given their apparent negligence. Volkskrant, which has a daily circulation of 500,000, interviewed Prof. Selma Leydesdorff from the University of Amsterdam regarding the issue. Prof. Leydesdorff commented: "This moral crime has already been shouldered by Holland for a long time. The government's attitude is horrible. I am making a call to the former Dutch troops not to accept this medal." Dagblad van het Noorden and Trouw papers and Holland 3 TV Channel also questioned the rationale behind the decision to award the troops. However, despite the wave of public outrage, Defense Minister Henk Kamp is insistent on proceeding with the government's decision. Kamp responded to the criticisms by asserting that the troops did nothing but act in compliance with the orders they received.
In the interview with Volkskrant, Prof. Selma Leydesdorff said that what had happened in Srebrenica constituted a moral crime for which Holland has borne the primary liability. Noting that the current administration was eager to vindicate the troops, Prof. Leydesdorff described the attempt to honor them as a sign implying that in the eyes of the government, the records of the troops were more valuable than the lives of 8,000 innocent civilians murdered in Srebrenica. Selma Leydesdorff also called on the troops not to accept the awards.
While Dagblad van het Noorden questioned why the troops would be honored, Trouw asked for what they deserved the awards. Holland 3 TV Channel, which covered the issue extensively, broadcasted a documentary on the Bosnian War and the Srebrenica massacre. The audience participated in the program via phone and noted that they were surprised by the attempt to bring the issue up. Some viewers, commenting that a substantial number of these troops had later developed psychological problems, said that bringing the issue to the forefront again could cause a relapse.
The Dutch Defense Ministry announced that it would present an award the Dutch troops who surrendered the city of Srebrenica and the Bosnians to Serbs in 1995. In his written statement, Defense Minister Henk Kamp noted that the troops would be awarded with gold medals for the performance of their duties under difficult conditions. He also announced that he would not step back from the decision despite public reactions, and the award ceremony would be held on Dec. 4 as scheduled.