One of the most bitterly contested questions left by the Balkan wars of the 1990s was resolved on Tuesday when Serbia and Croatia were both cleared of committing “genocide”.
Croatia and Serbia had both sued one another for alleged genocide. Croatia’s case turned on the fate of the city of Vukovar.
Croatia argued that the “attacks on Vukovar were directed not simply against an opposing military force, but also against the civilian population”. But the ICJ rejected Croatia’s case, concluding that the crucial element of an intention to destroy a specific ethnic group had not been proved, reports Telegraph.co.uk.
Under the United Nations Convention of 1948, genocide is defined as acts “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.
The ICJ found that the aim of the assault on Vukovar had been to expel the city’s Croats, but not destroy them.
Serbia, for its part, accused Croatia of committing genocide by launching “Operation Storm” in 1995.
The crucial evidence was a meeting held on the Croatian island of Brioni between Franjo Tudjman, then president, and the country’s military leaders. Serbia argued that the full transcript of this conversation showed the aim of Operation Storm was the elimination of the Serbs of Krajina, writes Telegraph.co.uk.
But the ICJ rejected this interpretation. “At most, the Brioni transcript shows that the Croatian military and political leaders envisaged that the offensive they were planning in Krajina would have the effect of causing the flight of the Serbian inhabitants of the territory,” ruled the judges.
The “specific intent to destroy which characterises genocide” was missing from the Krajina offensive, found the ICJ.
Both countries hope to move on and work on better relations.
“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,” said Nikola Selakovic, the Serbian justice minister.