Europe

Srebrenica: Dutch soldier scarred from Mladic attack

  • 3 June 2011
  • From the section Europe
Rob Benner says he still suffers emotional stress because of Mladic's actions

The seizure of Srebrenica by Bosnian Serbs under Gen Ratko Mladic in 1995 was a shock for Dutch UN peacekeepers guarding the so-called "safe" enclave.

Dutch army officer Rob Benner was there at the time. With Gen Mladic now facing trial in The Hague, Mr Benner told the BBC what happened that day.

The peacekeepers were later criticised for not doing more to stop Gen Mladic's men.

They overran the enclave, starting with my observation post.

We were the first, we were seven guys and then a lot of well-trained and well-supplied troops came.

What can seven guys do with only one pistol, one hand grenade, an anti-tank missile and nothing more?

They put our vehicles in an army place and they took us hostage in an old hotel.

That's where later on you saw images of the [Dutch Commander Thom] Karremans being interviewed by Mladic - I was sitting about 10m (33ft) away.

After that they took us to an old high school, where they gave us hardly any food. Six weeks later I was 12kg (1.9 stone) lighter.

We saw all the buses and trucks with the Muslim men and boys in them taken away.

They took them to an Olympic stadium and they put machine guns in the terraces where the people normally sit, and then they killed them.

Later on I saw bulldozers full of people - arms sticking out, legs sticking out.

Of course I feel guilty, I couldn't do anything about it, we had no weapons, we had nothing.

People have the wrong image of what happened there.

Before we went they said you can't have anything bigger than a 120mm, those are the rules of engagement.

So what do you do when they come at you with old war tanks from the Russians and they start shooting at us?

The tank driver has a normal 9mm, an Uzi and a hand grenade, we only had our personal weapons with two magazines of ammunition - you really can't do anything.

It has affected me. I have my ups and downs - six girlfriends later and a lot of stress later I am still dealing with it.

The images stick in your mind. I remember every little detail and now they have Mladic - it brings it all back.

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