Serbia cannot be held responsible for the Genocide that happened in Srebrenica, International Court of Justice rules

The BBC World Service had the first reports out of the Hague: “The UN’s highest court has cleared Serbia of direct responsibility for genocide in the 1990s Bosnian war. The International Court of Justice was ruling in the first case of a state charged with genocide. If Bosnia’s lawsuit had been successful it could have sought billions of dollars in compensation from Serbia. The court ruled the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica was genocide but said it could not be established that Serbia was complicit…The president of the court, Judge Rosalyn Higgins [of Britain], said: ‘The court finds that the acts of genocide at Srebrenica cannot be attributed to the respondent’s (Serbia) state organs’. Earlier Judge Higgins had rejected Serbia’s argument that the court had no jurisdiction.”

That shows her even-handedness.

The BBC report also noted that “The court’s ruling that Srebrenica did constitute genocide confirmed an earlier ruling in the UN war crimes tribunal…The war crimes tribunal in The Hague has already found individuals guilty of genocide in Bosnia and established the Srebrenica massacre as genocide.”

And the BBC report points out that “The ruling also comes with Serbia still facing challenges linked to the break-up of the former Yugoslavia. Its passage into the European Union has stalled over its failure to hand over war crimes suspects for trial. It also faces final talks with the United Nations on the future of Kosovo, with the province heading towards near-statehood despite Serbian opposition.”

Certainly we could never accuse the ICJ of having political considerations…

The documentation is now available on the website of the International Court of Justice in the Hague:

The Associated Press filed a report adding these details: The ICJ “ruled Monday that Serbia failed to use its influence with Bosnian Serbs to prevent the genocide of Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica, but exonerated Serbia of direct responsibility for genocide during the 1992-95 war. In a lengthy ruling, the International Court of Justice said the leaders of Serbia also failed to comply with its international obligation to punish those who carried out the 1995 massacre in which some 7,000 Bosnian Muslims were killed. The Serbians ‘should have made the best effort within their power to try and prevent the tragic events then taking shape’, in the U.N. enclave of Srebrenica, the scale of which ‘might have been surmised’, the ruling said.” [I wonder if the Court thought this might also have been surmised by the UN Peacekeeping force there, UNPROFOR, which had a UN SC mandate to use “all available means” to defend the “safe havens” proclaimed gallantly by French General Janvier…but nothing was done, and the Dutch Peacekeepers there, though outnumbered as they later explained, still did nothing, as the men were separated from the women, and led off to their deaths...]

The AP story reports that the ICJ decision “rejected Bosnia’s claim for monetary reparations. ‘Financial compensation is not the appropriate form of reparation for the breach of the obligation to prevent genocide’, the judgment said. [I couldn’t wait to see what is appropriate, according to the Court — an acknowledgement and an apology? But, when the Judgement was finally posted on the website hours later, there was no suggestion for what would be the “appropriate form of reparation”, other then the ICJ ruling itself! This flies in the face of a 25-year trend in international diplomacy, favoring compensation for war crimes, that started with Iraq’s expulsion from Kuwait in 1991 by the U.S.-led ‘Desert Storm’ coalition, following its August 1990 invasion] Reading the decision, Judge Rosalyn Higgins said it was clear to leaders in Belgrade that there was a serious risk of a massive slaughter in Srebrenica. Yet Serbia ‘has not shown that it took any initiative to prevent what happened or any action on its part to avert the atrocities which were being committed’. Serbia’s claim that it was powerless to prevent the massacres ‘hardly tallies with their known influence’ over the Bosnian Serb army, the court ruled. The case was the first time an entire nation was held to judicial account for genocide. Earlier Monday, the court ruled that Bosnian Serbs [emphasis added] committed genocide during the Srebrenica massacre. Bosnia claimed that Serbia [emphasis added] bore responsibility for the genocide.”

Earlier this month, Carla del Ponti [who must have been privately aware of the direction the wind was blowing from the ICJ] told a conference in Zagreb that “More must be done to search for the truth about crimes committed during the Balkans wars, the Hague tribunal’s chief prosecutor told an international conference held in Croatia. Speaking at the Zagreb conference Establishing the Truth about War Crimes and Conflicts organised by the Croatian NGO Documents, the Belgrade Humanitarian Law Centre and the Sarajevo Research and Documentation Centre, Carla del Ponte argued, ‘It is certain that much more has to be done, and many more perpetrators must be brought to justice for the war crimes [committed in the Balkans]’. At the event held on February 8 and 9, Del Ponte also spoke of the limitations of war crimes tribunals, which, she said, ‘cannot establish all truth and all facts’. She also implied that Serbian authorities were continuing to withhold important archives and documents from the tribunal. ‘In Serbia, the authorities still cannot find where the Milosevic archive has disappeared [to]. Strangely enough, the war time archive of Karadzic has also disappeared without a trace. What a coincidence’, she said.

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