International Court of Justice ruled Neither Croatia nor Serbia committed genocide during Balkan War

Feb 4, 2015 18:44 IST

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on 3 February 2015 ruled that neither Croatia nor Serbia had committed genocide against each other's populations during the 1990s Balkan Wars sparked by the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

The 17-judge panel headed by Judge Peter Tomka ruled that a 1995 Croat offensive to win back the territory from rebel Serbs featured serious crimes, but did not reach the level of genocide.

The Court further said that Serb forces committed widespread crimes in Croatia, but it also did not amount to genocide.

The crimes of Croatia and Serbia were not termed as genocide by the court because the intention of destruction was not present in the act of ethnic cleansing which though is an element of a genocidal plan.

The panel of judges rejected Croatia's claim by fifteen votes to two. Croatia was claiming reparations against Serbia for backing a rebel Serb minority in carrying out ethnic cleansing particularly in the eastern town of Vukovar.

Serbia's counterclaim was also rejected unanimously. Serbia counterclaimed over the expulsion of more than 200000 ethnic Serbs from Croatia in 1995 under Operation Storm in Krajina.

The court gave the ruling based on cases of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) which proved that there was evidence to show operations had the effect of making people flee, but could not establish intent for genocide as per the 1948 Genocide Convention.

The breakup of Yugoslavia

The cases were part of the long legal fall-out from the break-up of Yugoslavia into seven states in Balkan Wars that lasted for much of the 1990s and left more than 130000 dead in Europe's worst conflagration since World War-II.

Yugoslavia became a Socialist state after World War-II. It comprised of six republics Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia. The federation began falling apart in the early 1990s.

Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Macedonia declared independence, sparking conflicts with the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army. In 2006, Montenegro also emerged as a sovereign state ending the former Union of Serbia and Montenegro.

The 1948 Genocide Convention

The convention entered into force in 1951 and defined genocide as any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in 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 on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part
• Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group
• Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group

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