UN court to rule on Serbia and Croatia genocide cases

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The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague is to announce its ruling on genocide cases between Croatia and Serbia.

The Croatian government has alleged that Serbia committed genocide in the town of Vukovar and elsewhere in 1991.

Serbia later filed a counter claim over the expulsion of more than 200,000 Serbs from Croatia.

About 20,000 people died during the 1991-1995 war, when Croatia broke away from Yugoslavia.

The Croatian town of Vukovar was devastated when it was occupied by Serbs for three months in 1991. Tens of thousands of ethnic Croats were displaced, and about 260 Croat men were detained and killed.

Four years later, the Croatian military’s Operation Storm bombarded the majority ethnic-Serb Krajina area, forcing about 200,000 people from their homes.

Croatia filed its initial case with the ICJ – the top UN court – in 1999, accusing Serbs, led by President Slobodan Milosevic, of targeting ethnic Croats during the conflict.

It also wants Serbia to pay compensation for damages “to persons and properties as well as to the Croatian economy and environment”.

UN 1948 Genocide Convention

  • Act committed with intent to destroy in whole or part a national, ethnical, racial or religious group
  • Killing members of the group
  • Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group
  • Deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring physical destruction
  • Imposing measures intended to prevent births
  • Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group

In 2010, Serbia responded to Croatian’s case with a countersuit, saying that ethnics Serbs were expelled when Croatia launched its 1995 operation to retake territory captured by Serbs.

The BBC’s Anna Holligan in the Hague says that for some this legal judgement will help to shed light on what actually happened during the darkest years of the Balkans.

Although genocide is the most serious of international crimes, it is also the hardest to prove, our correspondent adds.

The ICJ is to decide whether either country or both are guilty of genocide, incitement to commit genocide or complicity in genocide.

Both sides have said they will accept the rulings, which are expected to begin at 10:00 local time (09:00 GMT).

‘End of a process’

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic has described the verdict as “one of perhaps the most important events for our bilateral relations with Croatia”,

“It will probably be the end of a process that has lasted for 15-20 years [and] will put an end to both sides’ fight to prove who the worst criminal is,” he told reporters on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Croatian Justice Minister Orsat Miljenic has previously said that the government’s main goal is to “present what happened in the war and that was aggression against Croatia”.

“Expectations have already been met” through the case being discussed at the ICJ, Mr Miljenic added in quotes carried by AFP.

Relations between the two countries have improved in recent years but in 2012 Serbia was outraged when Operation Storm commander Ante Gotovina, was cleared on appeal by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

 

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