Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende on Friday dismissed an ex-US general’s “disgraceful” claim that Dutch soldiers failed to prevent the 1995 Srebrenica massacre as their ranks included openly gay troops.
“A disgraceful statement,” Balkenende told a weekly press conference in The Hague of the comments by John Sheehan, a retired former NATO commander and senior Marine officer.
“I find it untenable … towards homosexuals. You don’t talk that way about people.
“I find it below standard if one speaks in this manner of the work that people have to do in difficult circumstances.”
Sheehan made the remarks at a Senate hearing where he argued against plans by President Barack Obama to end a ban on allowing gays to serve openly in the US military.
“The case in point that I’m referring to is when the Dutch were required to defend Srebrenica against the Serbs,” he said on Thursday, referring to the Dutch UN peacekeeping force deployed to protect Bosnian Muslim civilians.
Sheehan claimed that Dutch leaders, including the former chief of staff of the Dutch army, had told him that the presence of gay soldiers had contributed to the fall of the enclave.
Dutch Defence Minister Eimert van Middelkoop described the statement Friday as “disgraceful and unworthy of a soldier”, while General Henk van den Breeman, who was chief of staff at the time, said the accusation was “complete nonsense”.