ICJ takes Croatia genocide case against Serbia

[JURIST] The International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] on Tuesday ruled [opinion, PDF; press release, PDF] that it has jurisdiction to hear a case [ICJ materials] brought by Croatia [JURIST news archive] accusing Serbia [JURIST news archive] of genocide during the Croatian War from 1991-1995. Croatia claimed in its application that Serbia had engaged in "a form of genocide which resulted in large numbers of Croatian citizens being displaced, killed, tortured, or illegally detained as well as extensive property destruction" throughout the Croatian war, during which an estimated 20,000 people were killed. Serbia objected to Croatia's claim on the grounds that when Croatia filed the application in 1999, Serbia - then the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) - was neither a UN member nor a party to Article IX of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948 [text], the treaty upon which ICJ jurisdiction was based.

Rejecting those arguments, the ICJ noted a 1992 declaration made by the Permanent Mission of Yugoslavia to the UN, promising that the FRY would "continue to fulfill all the rights conferred to, and obligations assumed by, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in international relations, including its membership in all international organizations and participation in international treaties ratified or acceded to by Yugoslavia." The court found that Serbia's conduct was consistent with that declaration, and postponed for trial on the merits the consideration of whether Serbia could be subject to claims based on events that occurred before Serbian statehood was established in April 1992. The decision is binding and may not be appealed. Trial is not expected to begin before 2010, though sources speculate that the countries may first reach a settlement. Deutsche Welle has more; Reuters has additional coverage.

Serbia's foreign minister announced Wednesday that Serbia will soon bring a countersuit [AP report] in the ICJ for war crimes allegedly committed against Serbs in Croatia during the 1995 Operation Storm [BBC report], during which more than 250,000 ethnic Serbs were displaced from Croatia. Serbia was previously sued in the ICJ on genocide charges by Bosnia. In 2007, the court found that although the Serbian government was not directly responsible for genocide [JURIST report] during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, the country failed to meet its obligations to prevent genocide under the 1948 Genocide Convention.

 

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