Claims of genocide in Serbia and Croatia rejected by World Court

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Meeting in The Hague on 3 February 2015, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) dismissed genocide claims by Croatia and Serbia. UN Photo/CIJ-ICJ/Frank van Beek

Claims of genocide by Serbia and Croatia against each other during the Croatian war of secession from Yugoslavia have been rejected by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

On Friday, the UN's principal judicial organ agreed that both countries had committed acts of genocide in the early 1990s, but it did not find sufficient intent linked to these acts.

This, the Court says, distinguishes genocide from other serious crimes.

Stephanie Castro reports.

The conflict that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia included widespread

killing, rape and torture, the International Court of Justice, or ICJ, determined.

But these acts did not amount to genocide.

Although Serbia and Croatia had accused each other of mass murders between 1991 and 1995, they were both cleared by the Court on Friday.

About 20,000 people died during the war, mostly Croatians.

ICJ President Peter Tomka explained how the Court reached its verdict.

"Since it is the group in whole or in part which is the object of the genocidal intent, the Court is of the view that it is difficult to establish such intent on the basis of isolated acts. It considers that in the absence of direct proof, there must be evidence of acts on a scale that establishes an intent not only to target certain individuals because of their membership of a particular group, but also to destroy the group itself, in whole or in part."

Mr Tomka added that it is not up to the Court to determine the individual criminal responsibility for the acts of violence, as it settles legal disputes between States.

Rather, he said that is a task for other UN affiliated bodies, such as the International Criminal Court or tribunals empowered to do so.

Stephanie Castro, United Nations.

Duration: 1’23″

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