The International Court of Justice on Tuesday dismissed claims of genocide committed by both Serbia and Croatia during the wars in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
The ICJ, located in The Hague, Netherlands, is the highest United Nations court. It ruled that although crimes were indeed committed during the wars and that these crimes had the characteristics of a genocide, there was a lack of evidence that the perpetrators also had a preconceived plan to exterminate a population.
A genocide — a deliberate attempt to destroy a group based on nationality, race, religion or ethnicity — was allegedly committed in the wars in former Yugoslavia from 1991-1995, but the crime is hard to prove.
Croatia was the first to file a case at the top U.N. court in 1999 against Yugoslavia, of which Serbia was a part at that time. Croatia contended that the Serbs were responsible for a genocide committed in Croatia between 1991-1995.
The alleged Serbian ethnic cleansing against Croatian citizens is said to have been committed during the siege of the Croatian border town of Vukovar, which was ruined entirely by Yugoslav and Serb fighters in 1991. According to the claim, Croats and other non-Serbs were displaced, killed, tortured, or illegally detained.
Serbia responded in January 2010 with its own counter-claim over alleged genocide committed by Croats in 1995 in the Republic of Serbian Krajina, a self-proclaimed Serb entity within the territory of Croatia established in late 1991.
During the opening of the ICJ hearings on March 3, 2014, both sides found it difficult to prove the genocidal intent of the opposing state leadership to destroy Croats or Serbs as an ethnic group.
The task was especially difficult because no Serb or Croat has ever been indicted for genocide in Croatia or Serbia by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, also based in The Hague.
On Tuesday, Croatia’s claim was rejected by 15 votes to two, while Serbia’s claim was rejected unanimously.
After the ICJ announced its decision, the ministers of justice of Croatia and Serbia expressed their stands as to the bilateral relations of the two countries.
The ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. It was established by the United Nations Charter in June 1945 and began its activities in April 1946. The seat of the court is at the Peace Palace in The Hague. Of the six principal organs of the United Nations, it is the only one not located in New York.
Report complied with information from CCTV News.