Court Rules Croatia, Serbia Didn’t Commit Genocide in 1990s

The United Nation’s top court ruled on Tuesday that Croatia and Serbia didn’t commit genocide against each others’ people during the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s.

Croatia filed a claim in 1999 saying the Serb-led Yugoslav army, supported by the government in Belgrade, committed acts of genocide during attacks on the town of Vukovar and the village of Skabrnja in 1991. Serbia submitted a counterclaim in 2010, saying Croatian forces committed genocide during the exodus of 200,000 ethnic Serbs who fled the country ahead of the advancing Croatian army.

While serious crimes by both sides were committed, “specific intent to commit genocide” was not proven, said Peter Tomka, the judge who delivered the ruling at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. He urged both nations to find ways to compensate individuals for their sufferings and lost property.

About 21,000 people were killed in Croatia during the four-year war which started when Serbs in Croatia, who made up a significant majority, rebelled against Croatia’s declaration of independence from the Yugoslav federation. About 13,000 of those killed were Croats, according to independent historian Ivo Goldstein. No appeal is possible on the verdict, which also rejects claims for reparations

Normalized Relations

Croatia, which joined the European Union in 2013 and its eastern neighbor Serbia, which is in talks to enter the bloc, have normalized relations since hostilities ended in 1995.

“These were gruesome events, and while we” are “concluding that era, our duty is to ensure that nothing similar happens in the future,” Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic told reporters in Zagreb.

Serbian Justice Minister Nikola Selakovic said in The Hague after the hearing that while the outcome “looks like a tie, there is no reason to be unsatisfied.”

Tomka also urged both countries to continue talks on missing individuals. Croatia says more than 1,000 people are still unaccounted for.

“I sincerely believe that in the time ahead, Serbia and Croatia will resolve everything that is an obstacle to bring the region to a period of a lasting peace and prosperity,” Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic told reporters in Belgrade after the verdict.

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