Croatia, Serbia absolved of genocide

2015-02-03 18:48
 International Court of Justice

International Court of Justice

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The Hague - The United Nations' highest court ruled on Tuesday that neither Croatia nor Serbia had committed genocide against each other's populations during the wars that accompanied the violent breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Peter Tomka, president of the International Court of Justice, said the forces of both countries had committed crimes during the conflict, but that the intent to commit genocide - by "destroying a population in whole or in part" - had not been proven against either country.

Finding that neither side had violated the 1948 Genocide Convention, he called on the erstwhile Balkan foes to continue their co-operation in compensating victims with a view to "consolidating peace and stability in the region".

The cases were part of the long legal fall-out from the break-up of Yugoslavia into seven states in wars that lasted eight years and left more than 130 000 dead in Europe's worst conflagration since World War Two.

Croatia filed its case against Belgrade in 1999 and Serbia its counter-case against Zagreb only in 2010.

"Croatia has not established that the only reasonable inference was the intent to destroy in whole or in part the [Croatian] group," Tomka said of Serbia's campaign to destroy towns and expel civilians in Slavonia and Dalmatia.

Rejecting Serbia's counter claim, he said Croatia had not committed genocide when it sought to drive ethnic Serbs from the province of Krajina.

"What is generally called ethnic cleansing does not constitute genocide," he said. "Acts of ethnic cleansing may be part of a genocidal plan, but only if there is an intention to physically destroy the target group."

The panel of judges rejected Croatia's claim by fifteen votes to two. Serbia's counter claim was rejected unanimously, implying that even Serbia's delegated judge had ruled against.

The UN tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which also sits in The Hague, has long since ruled that genocide was committed in Bosnia, where more than 8 000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed when the UN 'safe haven' of Srebrenica fell to Bosnian Serb forces in 1995.

In an earlier ruling from 2007 in a case brought by Bosnia, the ICJ found that Serbia was not responsible for genocide, but that it had breached the genocide convention by failing to prevent the massacre in Srebrenica.

Read more on:    international court of justice  |  serbia  |  croatia

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