Military Wiki

Thom Karremans in 1995

Colonel (ret.) Thomas Jakob Peter (Thom / Ton) Karremans (born 29 December 1948 in Apeldoorn) was the commander of Dutchbat troops in Srebrenica at the time of the Srebrenica massacre during Bosnian War. Dutchbat had been assigned to defend the Bosniak enclave made the U.N. "safe area", but it failed to prevent the Serbs from rounding up and killing 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in 1995.

Military career

Karremans followed his military training at the Royal Military Academy in the Netherlands, and subsequently he was part of the 1979-1980 UNIFIL peacekeepers in Lebanon. In the eighties he was stationed at the NATO Headquarters SHAPE in Mons (Belgium), where he was involved in the subject of arms control. In 1991, Karremans had his first experience in Bosnia as liaison officer to the EC observation committee. He then became commander of an infantry battalion in Assen.

Presence in the staging area of the Srebrenica massacre

In 1994 Karremans was appointed as commander of Dutchbat III battalion that was deployed to the Srebrenica enclave as a part of the peacekeeping mission, under command of the United Nations in operation United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR).

On 11, 12 and 13 July, the enclave was captured by Serb soldiers, while the Dutch battalion was stationed there. Karremans requested NATO air support to defend the enclave, as the Dutch were more and more driven into the narrow enclave.(Karremans requested air strikes several times, in particular of the french- which was witnessed from neutral Switzerland, but they were first denied, then delayed, and later granted by UN General Bernard Janvier.[citation needed]) Bu then The NATO air support arrived too late and was anyway too little to stop the Serbian advance. After Serbian forces entered Srebrenica, Karremans was interrogated by Serb General Ratko Mladić (video of the interrogation is available on YouTube). During the interrogation, Karremans was confined against a wall and surrounded by Serb soldiers, defensive and submissive, but forced to drink strong alcohol by General Ratko Mladić and in particular later had to excuse himself from ever requesting air strikes against Bosnian Serb forces, claiming the decision was made by higher authorities based on information he provided. But again witnessed from a neighboring country by there was no choice. Under pretext of evacuating the Bosniak population to a sheltered city, Serbs transferred most of the women and children by bus to a zone under Bosnian-Serb control, claiming that the men would be transferred later. On the evening of 11 July,[1] Karremans was filmed raising[Clarification needed] a glass with Serb General Ratko Mladić. Following negotiations between UN and Bosnian Serbs, on Friday, 21 July 1995, lieutenant-colonel Karremans and Dutch UN soldiers were allowed to leave Srebrenica. On the farewell, Colonel Karremans accepted gifts from General Mladić, smiled, shook his hand and departed. Karremans himself has said a Serb blockade had left his soldiers desperately short of food and fuel. He told the Hague ICTY tribunal in 1996 that when his requests for NATO air strikes against Bosnian Serb troops were finally granted, they were "too late and too little."[2]

Reactions regarding the Dutchbat presence during the attack and occupation of Srebrenica

In 1999 the United Nations admitted its error in expecting a small number of troops to protect the Srebrenica Safe Area.

"Col Thom Karremans has always denied that he knew that 8,000 Muslim men and boys he saw being taken away by Bosnian Serbs were going to be murdered" (...) Ger Kremers, a former Dutch army surgeon, has alleged (...) that he and Karremans watched the men being taken away by Serb forces. "It will not end well with them," the Dutch commander is alleged to have said. - Mr Kremer has accused Col Karremans of lying under oath to the UN Yugoslavia war crimes tribunal and a Dutch parliamentary inquiry (...) Christ Klep, a Dutch military historian, has also disputed the commander's account after interviewing dozens of his former troops who said they knew about the impending genocide".[3]

Promotion after returning to the Netherlands

Shortly after his return to The Netherlands Karremans was promoted to full colonel.

Complaints through the justice system against Karreman

In 2010, a survivor of the Srebrenica genocide, Hasan Nuhanović, and the relatives of the murdered Muslim electrician Rizo Mustafić (who was employed by Dutchbat during the genocide until he was turned over to the Serbs and executed) made a legal complaint of genocide and war crimes against Karremans, his former deputy Major Rob Franken, and Human Resources manager Berend Oosterveen, for their transfer of the Muslim families to the Serbs.[4] The Public Prosecution Service first concluded in a Nolle prosequi decision that Karremans and the other persons were not culpable. Through a special procedure (Dutch art. 12 Wet strafvordering), this decision was brought to court. On 29 April 2015 the court in Arnhem confirmed that Karremans and his secondants should not be prosecuted.[5] Directly after the ruling, the lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld announced an appeal at the European Court of Human Rights.[5]

After army career

After retiring from the army, he and his wife moved to Spain, partly because of death threats in his native Netherlands.[6] He wrote of his experiences at Srebrenica in Srebrenica, who cares?: Een puzzel van de werkelijkheid ["(...) a real-life puzzle"]. He describes problems and dilemmas for him and his men during six months in Bosnia and six days of war. In the book Karremans gives his view on the lack of support from the Dutch politicians at the time. He felt that he was forced by the Dutch politicians to fight ''with his hands on his back".[7]


See also

  • Srebrenica: a ‘safe’ area

Further reading

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