ICJ Verdict : Background and Implications for Serbia and Croatia

ICJ Verdict: Background and Implications for Serbia and Croatia

Q. “ICJ verdict absolving Serbia and Croatia outlines the political ramifications for holding sovereign states liable for serious atrocities.” Analyse and explain.

A. International Court of Justice Verdict: Background

The current International Court of Justice verdict has absolved Serbia and Croatia of genocide crimes in the 1990s.

• Not holding sovereign states liable for serious atrocities
• 1999 litigation wherein Croatia alleged genocide by Serbia at the time of the 1991-1995 war
• Litigation regarding secession from former Yugoslavia
• Bombing campaign where 12,000 civilians were killed; many were injured and fled their homes
• One-third of the territory was occupied by Serbian separatists

The Verdict

• ICJ dismissed the Croatian claim with 15 votes in favour while Serbia’s counterclaim was rejected unanimously
• ICJ verdict is binding
• Verdict wrapped up case filed by Zagreb in 1999 against Belgrade holding Serbian forces responsible for crimes in Croatian territory

Previous Verdicts Relating to Genocide

• 2010 encounter of alleged genocide contends that thousands of ethnic Serbs fled their homes in the 1995 military offensive for reclaiming lost territory
• As per this ruling, despite large scale atrocities and displacement of people on either side, the charge of genocide could not be proved
• ICJ has a similar stance in the 2007 verdict regarding the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre of around 8,000 Bosnian Muslims by Serbian force; Belgrade is not responsible for genocide as per the court’s verdict

B. Implications for the 2 Sovereign States

• Fine line between genocide and ethnic cleansing is difficult to tread for the Hague court
• Inter-state disputes difficult to tackle; bringing perpetrators to justice difficult for Hague court
• Such verdicts are oriented towards mutual reconciliation
• Cooperation to offer reparation to victims of violations
• ICJ verdict a way forward for lasting reconciliation: Eduard Kukan, Member of European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs
• Serbia as well as Croatia have accepted the ruling; Future and regional stability the focus of the 2 nations
• Leadership of both countries dissatisfied with ICJ Ruling
• Croats and Serbs satisfied that their suffering was acknowledged by the Hague court
• Approval of the court’s dismissal an effective defence of interpretations of conflict
• Ethnicity oriented violence a basis of the conflict; impact more narrowly viewed
• Political dynamics in the way of reconciliation in the Balkan region
• International tribunal’s judgement has prevented denial of war crimes
• EU has introduced ICTY conditionality; post-conflict resolution lessons from the 2 states are now available from the EU
• EU interest in peace and security in Balkans gains importance
• Lack of inter-ethnic rapprochement in Balkans can be dealt with
• Victims and their suffering will no longer be used for political ends
• Segments of civil society have proved to be ethnically centred rather than justice oriented so partner in reconciliation yet to be identified
• Justice for victims of the war crimes more possible now that legal question resolved
• National elites and segments of civil society have been mobilised following verdict
• This verdict is likely to boost nationalist rhetoric on both sides
• Relations between countries will be based primarily on attitude of politicos from both sides
• Reconciliation has political undertones and the case was turned down on this count
• Further cooperation in location of missing persons possible; speedy resolution of war related legal issues
• Deepening bilateral ties between the two nations
• Croatia was a member of the EU and therefore must respect the ruling of the court
• Ruling is a watershed in relations between the 2 nations
• "This marks the end of one page on the past, and I'm convinced we will start a new page on the future, much brighter and better,”: Serbian Justice Minister Nikola Selakovic
• Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic: ruling will add to "closing this historic chapter and moving on to a better and safer period for people in this part of Europe.”
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