Dutch royal scandal sheds light on former ‘Bosnia lobby’
Mabel Wasse Smit, Mabel van Oranje Muhammed Sacirby
The ‘charity’ War Child was used a a cover for arms lobbying during the Bosnia war. War Child was always a politically dubious organisation, and was involved in financial scandals before. The current scandal in the Netherlands about the fiancee of Prince Friso – Mabel Wisse Smit – has unexpectedly given an insight into War Child. Mabel was a co-founder of War Child Netherlands, and that is not as admirable as it seems.
The scandal has been misreported outside the Netherlands as a sort of romantic tragedy. Even in the Netherlands, attention concentrated on Mabel’s affair with gangster Klaas Bruinsma while she was at university.
But the later period is much more interesting. The truth is that Mabel Wisse Smit was thoroughly involved in the international pro-Bosnia lobby, including its illegal arms lobby activities. She worked at the United Nations in 1993: there was an all-out war in Croatia, and the Bosnian war was starting. See the chronology
There she met the charismatic Bosnian ambassador to the UN, Mohammed Sacirbey, and began an affair with him which lasted several years. He later became Foreign Minister – he is now in an American jail awaiting extradition to Bosnia, on charges of embezzlement during that time.
Mabel helped him with his lobby work on behalf of Bosnia, her role was largely behind the scenes. The Dutch inquiry into the Srebrenica massacre later confirmed that the two of them had direct access to the Foreign Ministry, and influenced Dutch policy, in the run-up to the massacre (1995).
In 1994 Mabel set up the ‘European Action Council for Peace in the Balkans’, she did that together with Willemijn Verloop en the lawyer Phon van den Biesen. Van den Biesen represented Bosnia at the International Court in The Hague, when Bosnia charged rump ‘Yugoslavia’ (= Serbia) with genocide. He made the opening speech together with Sacirbey. The EACPB operated from his office. It is very unclear what exactly it did at the time, or since. Two meetings in the last 8 years are all that show on internet searches. But it’s clear that the founders defined ‘peace’ as Bosnian success in the war – not as the absence of fighting.
By mid-1995 the war had reached a critical phase. The Croatians went on the offensive with American-trained troops, and captured the Serb-inhabited Krajina region in August. In July, Serb forces had captured Srebrenica, which was protected by Dutch troops, they abandoned the enclave. Details of the subsequent killings there emerged during the following months.
During 1995 the same three people set up a Dutch branch of the existing English ‘charity’ War Child. Willemijn Verloop was paid by the EACPB – its funding is also unclear – to organise its activities. So War Child Netherlands was being run by the Bosnian Foreign Minister’s girlfriend, the Bosnian governments lawyer, and its organiser was in paid service of a separate political organisation – of which all three were directors.
The Bosnian forces were under severe pressure in 1995. They were geographically isolated and badly armed, and Sarajevo was surrounded. Officially no-one could help them militarily, because there was an arms embargo. UN Resolution 713, adopted in 1991, states:
“…all States shall, for the purposes of establishing peace and stability in Yugoslavia, immediately implement a general and complete embargo on all deliveries of weapons and military equipment to Yugoslavia until the Security Council decides otherwise following consultation between the Secretary-General and the Government of Yugoslavia”.
Bosnia had four strategies:
1. to seek secret arms supplies from western powers. That meant they would break their own arms embargo, but they had already done that to aid the Croatians.
2. to campaign to get the arms embargo lifted. Pro-Bosnia campaigners in the west supported this option.
3. to encourage a NATO invasion of Bosnia, which would be a de facto war against the Serb militias.
4. to seek illegal arms supplies from others, mainly Muslim states. Bosnia certainly got arms, and money to buy arms, from a network of Islamic sympathisers, including the then little-known Osama bin Laden. Supplies through Croatia in 1995 were tacitly approved by President Clinton. For the Iran-Bosnia connection, see
Sacirbey would have been involved with all of these strategies. He certainly tried openly to break the arms embargo, see this Reuters item for instance…