The United Nations International Court of Justice delivered the verdict in the landmark case «Croatia vs. Serbia» on February 3. The Republic of Croatia filed the suit against Serbia in 1999 to accuse it of committing genocide during the armed conflict on the territory of former Yugoslavia in 1991-1994.
The barefaced impudence comparable with the affirmations about Russia being «an aggressor» (1) made Serbia respond. It counter-filed a genocide lawsuit against the Republic of Croatia in 2010. In reality the case «Croatia vs. Serbia» is actually Serbia's and Croatia's mutual accusations of genocide.
The International Court of Justice in the Hague decided that neither Serbia nor Croatia committed acts of genocide during the Croatian war of secession from Yugoslavia. Based on the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1948 the Court’s reasons were convincing enough. Article 2 of the convention defines genocide as «...any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group».
The International Court took into consideration all the evidence related to each point of the definition and ruled that there was no evidence to support the claim. How just is the ruling?
It is just in the sense that Croatia provided no serious evidence to substantiate the claim that acts of genocide were committed during the civil war on its territory, in particular by Serbia. It sounds absurd as the armed conflict was started by Croatia itself. As a result, Serbs were deprived of all civil rights. The Republic of Serbia did not take part in the Croatia’s internal conflict, as well as the conflicts that took place in other republics of former Yugoslavia.
It’s quite different in case of Serbia. Unlike Croatia, Serbia provided enough evidence to prove its point in accordance with the definition of genocide, including the intent to destroy a national group. It was not a case of ordinary killings. Croatian leaders felt free to say what they found appropriate; they openly spoke about the extermination of Serbs as a nation. But the Court ruled there was no dolis specialis (proof of specific intent). It sounded like if saying «Yes, we killed, yes, we tortured, true - almost all Serbians were made flee - but there was no special intent…»
Before the war Serbs accounted for around 12% of the Croatian population to be reduced to 4% after the war. The situation was even more dramatic in some parts of the country: there were no Serbs left after the war in the areas where they accounted for 80-90% of population before the war started. According to the United Nations International Court of Justice, it all happened without special intent. A more powerful court is located at the distance of just a few steps from the UN Court’s building. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has already «established» a lot of facts which should not be overestimated. This court has a lot more authority in comparison with the United Nations Court of Justice. At present the Tribunal is considering the case of Goran Hadzic, former president of the so-called «Republic of Serbian Krajina /Republika Srpska Krajina» («RSK») in Croatia. Milan Martic, another former president of the unrecognized Republic of Serbia Krajina, is serving a 35-year sentence according to the Tribunal’s ruling. Milan Babic, the third president of the Republic of Serbia Krajina, admitted guilt and made a plea bargain with the prosecution. He testified against his former associates and the Serbia’s leadership. Babic was found hanged in the prison cell in 2006, an apparent murder. The fact that he killed himself was supported by evidence. (2) Too much effort was applied by the so called international justice to come up with a new version of events that took place during the former Yugoslavia conflict to let anybody meddle in and change the story.
The ruling of the UN International Court of Justice was a majority decision. Some judges expressed separate or dissenting opinions that were added to the ruling. (3) The Croatia’s claim was declined by 15 vs.17 votes. Two judges from Brazil and Croatia said they found the evidence provided Zagreb convincing. The claim of Serbia was declined unanimously to give rise to some questions. The Russian judge said the case is out of the jurisdiction of the UN International Court. In his dissenting opinion judge Leonid Skotnikov offered a detailed and legally perfect argumentation. He said there was no Serbia as a separate state at the time as it was part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia which was later transitioned into Serbia and Montenegro. The Court never explained why all of a sudden Serbia became a defendant. Moreover the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia joined the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide on April 27, 1992 and the Court could not consider the case which applied to the events that had happened before the date. But the Court ignored these fundamental rules as if they did not exist. With all the argumentation presented to support the dissenting opinion judge Skotnikov failed to come up with a fair judgment regarding the provided evidence.
The dissenting opinion expressed by Serbian ad hoc judge Milenko Kreca was hardly up to par. He said the fact of genocide was not proven but the Ustashe ideology was preached by Croatian authorities at the time and it provides ground for qualifying those events as «instigation to genocide». A rather strange statement in view that the Croatian government was involved in the activities aimed at extermination of Serbs. A question pops up who was instigated to genocide by the government which was itself involved in mass killings and expulsion of Serbs? A dissenting opinion of Serbian judge was in stark contrast with the outstandingly solid evidence provided by the government of Serbia.
The miserable arguments put forward by Russian and Serbian judges prove that the ruling of United Nations International Court of Justice on the case «Croatia vs. Serbia» is a result of political compromise: there is no evidence of genocide committed by Serbia and its just impossible for the political forces represented in the United Nations International Court of Justice to admit the claim of Serbia and dismiss the claim of Croatia at the same time.
The only thing that is left to do is to hope that enormous work done by the government of Serbia will be remembered and put to good use by historians and lawyers who do not depend to so much on the need to find political compromises. (4)