Court’s muddled ruling does little for survivors of Srebrenica massacre
THE ICJ RULING, BOSNIA vs SERBIA, SHOWS GOVERNMENTS CAN AVOID LIABILITY FOR GENOCIDE, EVEN IF THEY ARE FOUND TO BE COMPLICIT IN GENOCIDE
Antonio Cassese, the first president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and later the chairperson of the United Nations International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur, teaches law at the University of Florence.
The judgement of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) concerning Serbia’s involvement in the massacre of Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) at Srebrenica in 1995 should be greeted with considerable ambivalence.
On the one hand, the fact that an international tribunal has pronounced on the responsibility of a state in the matter of genocide is an undeniably positive development. On the other hand, however, the Court’s decision is one of those judicial pronouncements that attempts to give something to everybody and leave everything as it was.
The Court was not supposed to hold specific individuals criminally responsible; that is the job of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The ICJ, which instead deals with controversies between states, was faced with Bosnia’s claim that Serbia was responsible for the Srebrenica massacre. Although the Court ruled that genocide had taken place, it decided that Serbia was not responsible under international law.
According to the Court, the Bosnian Serb generals who were guilty of this genocide, the various Mladic’s and Kristic’s, were neither acting as Serbia’s agents nor receiving specific instructions from Belgrade.
The genocide could not therefore be imputed to Serbia, even if the Serbian government was paying salaries to Mladic and his colleagues, as well as providing them with financial and military assistance.
Nor was Serbia guilty of complicity, because, though it exercised considerable influence over Mladic and his people, it did not know, at the moment when the genocide was taking place that such a crime was being committed.
Having “absolved” Serbia from the principal crime, the ICJ offered a sort of “consolation prize” to Bosnia, affirming that the killings in Srebrenica had the character of genocide – a conclusion already reached by the ICTY.
Moreover, according to the ICJ, Serbia violated international law by failing to prevent genocide, because, though it could have thwarted the massacres, it did not, and subsequently did not help the ICTY arrest Mladic (who, notoriously, is still hiding in Serbia).
The Court’s decision thus attempts to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. To decide whether Mladic acted on Serbia’s account when he was planning and ordering the Srebrenica massacre, the Court demanded proof that Serbian officials sent him specific “instructions” to commit this act of genocide.
Obviously, such instructions would never be found. Why was it not enough to prove that the Bosnian Serb military leadership was financed and paid by Serbia and that it was tightly connected to Serbia political and military leadership?
More importantly, the ICJ’s decision that Serbia is responsible for not having prevented a genocide in which it was not complicit makes little sense. According to the Court, Serbia was aware of the very high risk of acts of genocide and did nothing. But Serbia was not complicit, the Court argued, because “it has not been proven” that the intention of committing the acts of genocide at Srebrenica “had been brought to Belgrade’s attention”.
This is a puzzling statement at best. The massacre was prepared in detail and took place over the course of six days (between July 13 and 19).
Is it plausible that the Serbian authorities remained in the dark while the killing was in progress and reported in the press all over the world?
It seems far more reasonable to believe that Serbia’s leaders were informed about what was going on, and that, despite this, Serbia’s military, financial, and political assistance to Mladic was never interrupted.
The fundamental problem with the ICJ’s decision is its unrealistically high standard of proof for finding Serbia to have been legally complicit in genocide. After all, one can also be guilty of complicity in a crime by not stopping it while having both the duty and the power to do so, and when, through one’s inaction, one decisively contributes to the creation of conditions that enable the crime to take place.
The survivors of Srebrenica, for whom Bosnia was seeking damage awards, will receive nothing from Serbia. And if former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic were alive, he would be absolved of the charge of genocide. [End of Mr. Cassese’s report]
MARK COLVIN: There have been strong reactions to the decision handed down in The Hague last night which exonerated Serbia from the 1995 massacre of thousands of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica.
The International Court of Justice said the killing of around 8,000 people was indeed an act of genocide.
It ruled that Serbia had failed to prevent the mass killing – which was carried out by Bosnian Serbs under the command of General Ratko Mladic – and that the Milosevic Government in Belgrade had failed to comply with its obligations to punish those responsible.
But it cleared Serbia of direct responsibility.
Emily Bourke reports.
(sound of protesters chanting)
EMILY BOURKE: As the decision was handed down in The Hague, Bosnians rallied outside chanting “Genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
And afterwards they slammed the verdict, labelling the judges corrupt.
In handing down the 170-page ruling, the judge made clear the killing of thousands of Bosnians in the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica was in fact genocide.
JUDGE: As the court hasn’t found that the respondent has committed or was responsible for the genocide at Srebrenica, the issue of massive of repatriations for that doesn’t arise.
As to the breach of its obligation to punish genocide, the court has determined that that is a continuing breach.
EMILY BOURKE: But that’s not satisfied those in Bosnia who filed the case more than a decade ago.
Chairman of the Bosnian Presidency Haris Silajdzic says further legal action is still an option.
HARIS SILAJDZIC: This is a violation clearly – a violation of the convention, of international law. And Serbian Montenegro must take the full political, legal, moral and material responsibility for that.
EMILY BOURKE: Justice John Dowd is from the Australian branch of International Commission of Jurists. He says the decision will serve as a deterrent to governments that embark on ethnic cleansing campaigns.
JOHN DOWD: It clearly is a decision based on the evidence. And if in fact the Serbian Government was complicit in the killing of these people, they obviously didn’t leave evidence around. Governments tend not to leave paper trails for this sort of thing. And it must be disappointing for the Muslim community involved, but it’s not surprising.
It is good, however, that they’ve found that the Serbian Government could have done more to prevent what happened.
EMILY BOURKE: But an expert on international criminal justice, Professor Mark Findlay argues the ruling shows governments can avoid liability even if they’re found to be complicit.
MARK FINDLAY: As was the case in the Serbian situation it seems that at the very least the state created a political atmosphere in which the militia believed that what they were doing was certainly in the state interest. The state was not doing anything, if you like, proactively to prevent this. But that’s not enough when you’re looking at rather conventional notions of individual liability.
We need now to think about can states and large organisations be prosecuted in the first place.
EMILY BOURKE: He says the system is inherently flawed because while it can convict military leaders and politicians it can never successfully prosecute a state for war crimes.
EMILY BOURKE: And Steve Mark, the Chairman of the International Commission of Jurists in Australia, says the case should prompt a review of international law.
STEVE MARK: We need to develop international law to deal with the emergence of the corporate state, we need to develop international law to deal with the concept of a state having personality, such as a corporation does under international law.
And I think that what this means for us is that our international legal concepts are still a little bit lost in the 19th and 20th centuries, and we need to develop them for the 21st Century.
EMILY BOURKE: And what if we don’t?
STEVE MARK: Well if we don’t, I think that individuals that are victims of state atrocities are not going to find reparation, they’re not going to be able to… to have a voice or an answer to their cause.
MARK COLVIN: Steve Mark, Chairman of the International Commission of Jurists in Australia, ending Emily Bourke’s report.
[Note: To read descriptions of images bellow, hover with your mouse pointer over them.]Brief Introduction: The International Court of Justice finds that Serbia has violated its obligation under the Genocide Convention to prevent genocide in Srebrenica and that it has also violated its obligations under the Convention by having failed fully to co-operate with the International Criminal Tribunal. The fact that the court found that the Serbian troops of General Ratko Mladic had committed genocide in Srebrenica came as no surprise. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) had reached the same conclusion. But that tribunal only gave its verdict on individual cases, not on the complicity of governments. The ICTY never got round to dealing with the question of whether rump Yugoslavia was responsible for the genocide, mainly because the key figure, former President Milosevic, died before his trial ended. According to the statement by Chief UN War Crimes Prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, to the Security Council on June 7 2006, the Prosecution has proven an international armed conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina no less than five times.
The United Nations’ highest court ruled that Serbia failed to use its clear influence with Bosnian Serbs to prevent the genocide of Bosniaks at Srebrenica, but exonerated Serbia of direct responsibility for genocide or complicity in genocide in Bosnia during the 1992-95 war.
“The acts committed at Srebrenica … were committed with the specific intent to destroy in part the group of the Muslims of Bosnia-Herzegovina as such, and accordingly … these were acts of genocide'” committed by Bosnian Serb forces, the judgment said.
The judges took 10 months to study the case over the 1990’s war in which at least 100,000 people, mostly Bosnian Muslims, died. It took two hours for the court’s president, Judge Rosalyn Higgins, to read out the complex final verdict; all the findings are final and there can be no appeal.“The verdict is positive for Bosnia and would improve the relations in the Balkans. The verdict made Serbia finally recognize the genocide and also confirmed Bosnia’s legal identity as a sovereign country,” a Bosnian legal expert Cazim Sadikovic said.
“I didn’t expect a different verdict,” Izet Gagic a survivor from Travnik, in central Bosnia, said. “I remember the early days of the war and how international community’s sanctions against Bosnia prevented the country from defending itself.”In 1997, Germany handed down first Bosnia Genocide conviction to Serb soldier Nikola Jorgic for crimes committed in Bosnia-Herzegovina. (Oberlandesgericht Dusseldorf, “Public Prosecutor v Jorgic”, 26 September 1997).
“Whoever hoped … something like the genocide of the Nazis against the Jews could never be repeated sees himself cruelly disappointed after the events in the former Yugoslavia.” – German Judge Guenter Krentz concluded in his judgement.The highest UN court cleared the Serbian state today of direct responsibility for genocide in Bosnia during the 1992-95 war, but said it had violated its responsibility to prevent genocide.
The International Court of Justice said Serbia also failed to comply with its obligations to punish those who carried out the genocide after the Bosnian Serb army captured the U.N. enclave of Srebrenica in July 1995, and ordered Serbia to hand over suspects for trial by ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia) – a separate U.N. court.Bosnia had asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to rule on whether Serbia committed genocide through the killing, rape and ethnic cleansing that ravaged Bosnia during the war, in one of the court’s biggest cases in its 60-year history.
Bosnia submitted its genocide case to the court in 1993. Since then, the separate International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which judges individuals accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity, has determined that the Serb onslaught in at least one instance, the attack on the Srebrenica enclave in 1995, amounted to genocide.The case before the International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, was the first time a state had been tried for genocide, outlawed in a UN convention in 1948 after the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews. A judgment in Bosnia’s favor could have allowed it to seek billions of dollars of compensation from Serbia.
ICJ President Judge Rosalyn Higgins said the court concluded that the Srebrenica massacre did constitute genocide, but that other mass killings of Bosnian Muslims [Bosniaks] did not.But she said the court ruled that the Serbian state could not be held directly responsible for genocide, so paying reparations to Bosnia would be inappropriate even though Serbia had failed to prevent genocide and punish the perpetrators.
“The court finds by 13 votes to 2 that Serbia has not committed genocide,” she said.
“The court finds that Serbia has violated the obligation to prevent genocide … in respect of the genocide that occurred in Srebrenica.”
It is important to note that the legal team of Bosnia-Herzegovina did not present all the main evidence to the Court of Justice.
As Editor-in-chief of the NTV Hayat News network, Senad Hadifejzovic, pointed out:“Unfortunately, key arguments were not submitted to the International Court of Justice in the Hague at all! The most significant evidence clearly proving the intentions and aims of Serbia were the records of the sessions Milosevic held with the military and political leadership of Montenegro are already in the Hague, but not in the premisses of the International Court of Justice but ICTY where individuals have been put on trial. However, this evidence, according to the deal made between the ICTY and the government of Serbia MAY NOT BE USED for any other purposes except the stated ones, in particular not to be used in the case of Bosnia-herzegovina vs. Serbia and Montenegro. So simply put, legal team of Bosnia-Herzegovina was not allowed at all to submit the crucial evidence to the Court of Justice at all!” (Interview
February 24th, 2007). Over 8,300 Bosniaks from Srebrenica and surrounding villages in eastern Bosnia were killed in July 1995. Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander Ratko Mladic, both accused of genocide over Srebrenica, are still fugitives.
Earlier in the ruling, Higgins said the court found it established that Serbia “was making its considerable military and financial support available” to the Bosnian Serbs but that it had not known they had genocidal intent.
Serbia had said a ruling against it would be an unjust and lasting stigma on the state, which overthrew its wartime leader Slobodan Milosevic in 2000. Milosevic died last year, just months before a verdict in his trial on 66 counts of genocide and war crimes was due. The UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague has already found individuals guilty of genocide at Srebrenica.Bosnia used evidence from trials there for its case against Serbia. In Bosnia, now split between a Bosniak-Croat federation and a Serb Republic, sentiment is split along ethnic lines, with Bosniaks and Croats hoping the court would brand Serbia an aggressor.
A Solomonian judgment is how some experts have responded to Monday’s ruling. Others are more negative: “a half-hearted compromise”, “neither one thing nor the other”. About 50 Srebrenica massacre survivors demonstrated outside the court on Monday in favor of a genocide verdict.Initial reactions from Bosnia have been bitter. The members of the collective presidency in the divided nation expressed “deep disappointment”.They still believe that the order to execute the Bosniak men of Srebrenica came directly from Belgrade. The ruling is likely to make it much harder for Bosnia to be eligible for compensation from Serbia.
“A ruling that Serbia committed genocide in Bosnia means everything to me,” said 34-year-old Hedija Krdzic who lost her husband, father and grandfather at Srebrenica. “Without such a ruling I fear that one day the massacre will be forgotten.”
“Shame on the people who reached such a verdict. How can they say not guilty of genocide when there are photos, video footage. They are again torturing our people, these mothers,” said Zinaida Mujic, representative of Mothers of Srebrenica association, who lost two sons in the war.It is almost 14 years since Bosnia first sued the rump Yugoslav state from which it seceded in 1992, but the case has been repeatedly held up by arguments over jurisdiction.
In a key ruling at the outset Monday, Judge Rosalyn Higgins rejected Serbia’s argument that the court had no jurisdiction in the case, saying Serbia had the obligation to abide by the 1948 Genocide Convention.
The fact that the court found that the Bosnian Serb troops of General Ratko Mladic had committed genocide in Srebrenica came as no surprise. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) had reached the same conclusion. But that tribunal only gave its verdict on individual cases, not on the complicity of governments. The ICTY never got round to dealing with the question of whether rump Yugoslavia was responsible for the genocide, mainly because the key figure, former President Milosevic, died before his trial ended.In 1995, the Eastern Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica was packed with Muslim refugees from the entire region. Dutch troops were deployed to guarantee their safety, but they were overrun by the Bosnian Serb forces of General Ratko Mladic, still wanted for war crimes by the ICTY.
Political tensions in Bosnia rose ahead of the ICJ’s verdict, with speculation running high on television and radio and in the newspapers. Attention will now shift to the Republika Srpska, the Serb republic in Bosnia, according to one analyst: “If the orders didn’t emanate from Belgrade, they must have come Pale”.He was referring to the then capital of the Republika Srpska, which is now one of the two “entities” in Bosnia. As it enjoys a large measure of autonomy, it remains a thorn in the eyes of many non-Serbs in Bosnia.
Observers say Sarayevo will now try to end the Republika Srpska’s autonomy on the grounds that “its very existence is founded on genocide”. In other words: without the mass slaughter of thousands of Muslims, the RS would never have existed. Bosniak politicians have long called for terminating the Serbian entity’s special status.
Other analysts believe that the UN court has tried to alleviate the pain for Serbia, which now looks set to lose Kosovo. The mainly Albanian-populated province, administered by the international community, is officially still part of Serbia, but recent proposals by special UN envoy Martii Ahtisaari would give it more self-rule. And although Belgrade is dead set against the idea, Kosovo now seems firmly on the road towards independence. “In order not to alienate Serbia entirely from the international community, the UN court just had to come up with a compromise,” was one of the comments on Monday.
Speaking in Belgrade, Serbian Prime Minister Boris Tadic said the ruling, while generally ‘positive’, had the ‘very serious’ aspect that it confirmed Serbia did not do everything in its power to stop the Srebrenica genocide. He said he would ask the Serbian parliament to adopt a declaration condemning the crimes committed in Srebrenica.
The head of the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party Tomislav Nikolic, whose former party boss Vojislav Seselj has been tried before The Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), said he was worried about the fate of the Bosnian Serb entity, the Srpska Republic, following the verdict.Haris Silajdzic, Bosniak member of Bosnia’s tripartite state Presidency, stressed that the ICJ’s ruling should mark the beginning of a process to erase results of genocide in Bosnia.
“Results of the genocide should be annulled with a new constitution to create a democratic system in accordance with Bosnia’s multiethnic society as it was before the genocide.” He said the current Bosnian constitution, which created two entities, the Srpska Republic and the Bosniak-Croat Federation, was based on ethno-territorial principles and genocide, and must be dismissed as such.
Mr Silajdzic told ABC News that despite the verdict he will continue to call for the abolition of the Serb Republic. He feels that Serbia and Montenegro have escaped responsibility for their complicity in genocide during the Bosnian War.“Bosnia-Herzegovina must therefore purge itself of the remnants of the genocide that permeates throughout Bosnian society. We will achieve this by altering what has been founded on the genocide’s outcome — the interior structure of Bosnia and its constitution,” Silajdzic said.
The Chairman of Bosnia’s Presidency Nebojsa Radmanovic warned that the verdict would provoke bitter feelings and disappointment in Bosnia, and would increase the tensions in the country.“This decision will provoke some tensions. I hope those tensions will not further grow into large demonstrations,” said Radmanovic.
Milorad Dodik, prime minister of the Republic of Srpska, said that individuals must be held responsible for the crimes committed in Srebrenica and not the institutions or the people of Serbia as a whole.
Legal experts in Bosnia-Herzegovina said the verdict was disappointing for the country, especially for the families of the victims, but should however help in building the peace and reconciliation between the former Yugoslav states.“The verdict is positive for Bosnia and would improve the relations in the Balkans. The verdict made Serbia finally recognize the genocide and also confirmed Bosnia’s legal identity as a sovereign country,” a Bosnian legal expert Cazim Sadikovic said.
In its ruling in The Hague, the court said that Bosnian Serbs operated under a degree of independence from the central government in Belgrade.
The German Ambassador and representative of the German EU Presidency in BiH, Michael Schmunk called on Belgrade on Monday to understand the ICJ verdict in the case of BiH lawsuit against Serbia and Montenegro as an opportunity to distance itself from the crimes committed by Milosevic’s regime on behalf of the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and to establish full cooperation with the ICTY.BBC journalist Alain Little, who reported from Sarajevo during the war in the former Yugoslavia, also known as the author of documentary “The fall of Yugoslavia”, declared that the decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has not put an end to case Srebrenica.
The Chief Prosecutor of The Hague Tribunal, Carla del Ponte said on Monday that she is “very satisfied” with the verdict rendered by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which states that the massacre in Srebrenica constitutes genocide.
Professors at the Faculty of Islamic Sciences in Sarajevo Resid Hafizovic said on Monday that the verdict of the International Court of Justice has not come as a surprise to him, that it is a political verdict because the ICJ has been under strong political pressure.
Republika Srpska Prime Minister Milorad Dodik stated charges that Serbia failed to prevent genocide can be responded to with the question “why have the UN failed to prevent it, even though they were present on the ground, but perhaps no one has sued them yet”.Party of Democratic Action (SDA) President Sulejman Tihic told FENA that he is not entirely satisfied with the verdict delivered by the International Court of Justice in the Hague.
However, he added, the court did establish that genocide was committed in BiH, that many mass crimes were committed, that the RS authorities are to blame, and that they received military, financial and logistical support from Yugoslavia.
“I am pleased with the fact that Yugoslavia has been found responsible for breaching the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide by or failing to stop or diminish genocide in Srebrenica. They are responsible for not punishing the perpetrators, they are responsible for not cooperating with the ICTY and they are responsible for not acting in accordance with the court’s temporary measure requesting them to do all in their power to stop genocide in BiH, the temporary measure from September 13 1993”, Tihic said,I am dissatisfied, he said, with the fact that Yugoslavia has not been identified as the perpetrator and being directly responsible for genocide.
The Mothers of Srebrenica are dissatisfied with the verdict of the ICJ. The Association representatives heard the verdict Monday in front of the ICJ building in Hague, together with the Associations of Endangered Nations and other non-governmental organizations, and the representatives of BiH Diaspora.
This was the least-expected kind of a verdict, which revolted a number of mothers from Srebrenica. They spontaneously started walking towards the gates of the Court, after hearing the verdict and shouted “Genocide!”, “Justice for BiH” and “Murderers”.
Fadila Memisevic, the President of the Bosnian section of the Association of the Endangered Nations, told the FENA agency that the ICJ judges heard these exclamations.“We were far too naïve in the belief that the Court will pass a righteous verdict. This verdict is a continuity of the events that have been going on since 1992, and that includes a constant denial and tabooing of the BiH genocide”, Memisevic said.
She said the verdict is politically influenced, and for that reason the Association of Endangered Nations sent a letter to the ICJ. The letter states that the Court completely ignored the Convention on Preventing and Punishing Genocide, for in it, all the arguments of the BiH suit are written.
The former legal representative of BiH in the case of BiH versus Serbia and Montenegro for genocide Dr. Kasim Trnka, said that it is important that the UN highest legal instance, the ICJ, confirmed that there was a genocide in BiH, in Srebrenica.Commenting the elements of verdict to the FENA agency on Monday, Trnka said that Serbia is found guilty for not providing measures the ICJ had ordered them in April and September 1993, and emphasized that had they done so, the Srebrenica and many other crimes would never had happened.
Trnka said, that Serbia was convicted for not having done anything to prevent the crime, nor had it done anything to punish the perpetrators of genocide, although it could have.
According to him, Serbia has also been found guilty for refusing to cooperate with the ICTY, and that the ICJ stated that the regular forces of the then-Yugoslav Army (military, police and quasi-military formations) were present in BiH, which undoubtedly confirms the aggression to BiH.”The truth is that the Court confirmed that Serbia allegedly did not commit the crime of genocide through its own organs, nor could it have influenced the Bosnian Serb organs to do so”, Trnka said, adding that a very bad message was sent to the International Community in such a way, regarding the prevention of the crime of genocide.
In that context, Trnka is of the opinion that the Court of Justice declared Serbia responsible, but not for all the elements of the crime of genocide.
The Croatian president Stjepan Mesić declared this afternoon that he had not yet seen the Judgment of the International Court of Justice in the Hague in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina vs. FRY, and therefore could not comment on it, but he did affirm that a genocide had been committed in Srebrenica.“That a genocide was committed in Srebrenica is clear to everybody, including the judges of the International Court of Justice in the Hague. If 8,000 people are killed, if men older than 16/17 years are separated and shot within a few days, this can be nothing else but genocide. At least this part of the verdict is acceptable”, he said.
Asked whether the Judgment in the case BiH vs. FRY will have an effect on Croatia, which had sued the former FRY for war crimes, Mesić sadi that Croatia was certainly going to study this Judgment and see how to proceed in this lawsuit. As concerns Croatia, it has several approaches at its disposal. For example, Montenegro has already paid the damage for the plundered livestock in Konavle, whereby it recognized the damage done by its citizens in the uniforms of the former JNA. A similar approach could be agreed upon concerning the plundered equipment of the airport of Dubrovnik. The Dubrovnik airport could be indemnified by letting it have some share in the Tivat airport in Montenegro.The Association of Victims of Genocide in BiH, which is made up of a number of BiH non-governmental organizations expressed their dissatisfaction on Monday with the ICJ verdict in the case of BiH versus Serbia and Montenegro for genocide.
Some of the Association representatives stated at the press-conference, hald an hour after the passing of the verdict, that the BiH legal team put in maximum of efforts to prove the guilt of Serbia and Montenegro for genocide, but that the survivors of the genocide are dissatisfied with the verdict.
The International Community refuses to look the truth in the eyes and is placing itself to the side of the aggressor, were some of the comments made by the Association representatives, who ask what other proofs needed to be handed in order for the Court to admit that Serbia and Montenegro committed a genocide.Murat Tahirovic, the President of the Camp Survivors’ Union said that the verdict denies the international legal system, and points out that he does not know the amount of consequences our country will suffer because of the verdict.
The BiH Organization of the Fallen Fighters expressed disappointment with the verdict, hoping that one day truth will prevail. Izet Ganic, the President of this Organization told the International Community that it has to bear in mind that Serbia is still an instability factor in the region.Amor Masovic, the President of the State Commission of Finding the Missing Persons is of the opinion that BiH has succeeded, although not in the full capacity of the suit to prove that Serbia and Montenegro were involved in the genocide committed in BiH.
Masovic pointed out that the Court did not have the evidence of the direct involvement of Serbia and Montenegro in the genocide, but that it does not mean that in due time BiH will not be able to prove their direct involvement.
However, Masovic sees certain contradictions in the very verdict, like the fact that the Court has revoked the ICTY verdicts at some points, while avoiding them at other.The BiH Association of Victims will organize a rally on Tuesday, February 27, under a slogan “Justice for the BiH Genocide Victims”. There they will clearly state the attitudes and demands to the BiH institutions. The rally will take place at 3 p.m. in front of the BiH Institutions. The BiH legal team will be greeted there.
The Social-Democratic Union (SDU) leadership thinks that the delivery of the verdict by the International Court of Justice in the Hague has closed a stage in BiH history marked by suffering, primarily of the Bosniak people, but also catastrophic policies of the state leadership, especially the part that in politics described itself as Bosniak leaders, SDU President Sejfudin Tokic told a press conference in Sarajevo on Monday.
According to him BiH and its citizens are not entering a difficult period, which instead of emotions and daily politics calls for sense and well thought-out policies characterised by patriotism and unity of all peoples in BiH who see BiH as their country.“In this context the SDU Presidency wished to present to the public a declaration on need for unifying the opposition, building an alternative and strengthening forces that represent true social-democracy”, Tokic said.
SDU Vice President Ivo Komsic said that courts exist to establish justice, not for political reasons.
“We cannot comment on the verdict, regardless of its contents. We can be more or less frustrated by its, dissatisfied, aggravated, but we need to develop the policy of this country’s future”, he said.
We are, Komsic said, dissatisfied with the verdict, but we cannot comment on it.
SDU Vice President Miro Lazovic said that if he were to speak as a citizen he would not be able to hide his sadness and dissatisfaction with the verdict because he has survived and witnessed all actions that constitute aggression, genocide and crime.“If I am to speak as a politician then I would have to leave my emotions aside. Different emotions and dissatisfactions that will pour to the streets of BiH should not be allowed to further complicate the already complicated political and economic situation in BiH”, Lazovic said.
He thinks that this situation requires from politicians to show responsibility and maturity, and political parties to propose further steps that will build BiH on the principles of greater understanding, truth, tolerance and justice.
“I have received this verdict emotionally, but I also see it as closing a chapter that has been filled with extreme national charge, impassioned divisions that have led us to the suffering of people in this area. This has to be seen clearly following the verdict and we need to say enough to policies dividing these areas and these peoples”, Lazovic said.Radoslav Stojanovic, the Chief Attorney of Serbia and Montenegro stated Monday that the International Court of Justice’s verdict in the case of BiH versus Serbia and Montenegro for genocide means in no way that the guilt for the genocide is now placed upon the RS.
”I am satisfied with the verdict, for this is what I have been expecting”, Stojanovic said and added that the verdict opens the way to the national reconciliation.
He pointed out that the ICJ verdict is good for both Serbia and BiH.ICJ passed a verdict Monday in the case of BiH versus Serbia and Montenegro, which confirmed that the crime of genocide had taken place in Srebrenica, but that there is no reasonable doubt to claim that Serbia is responsible for it, nor for participation in the genocide. However, the verdict states that Serbia is responsible in the sense of breeching the obligations of prevention and punishing the genocide committers.
Banja Luka lawyer and attorney for several indicted war criminals before the Hague Tribunal Krstan Simic said on Monday that the verdict of the International Court of Justice on the BiH lawsuit against Serbia would cause a storm of reactions by legal and political commentators, as well as “certain reactions by people on the ground who have always viewed all events through there prism and their truth”.Simic said that he expected such a verdict “even though there were hints that the verdict could be a political one, but the presented arguments have shown that the judges of that court have taken into consideration real facts”.
“The fact that the responsibility of Serbia can be viewed through the prism of failure to prevent genocide is reflected in the fact that in 1992 the court adopted a temporary measure requesting Serbia, i.e. Yugoslavia at that time, to take certain measures and the conclusion is that Serbia did not adequately fulfil commitments from that court request”, he said.He described as negative for Serbia the fact that the verdict establishes that Serbia did not take all possible measures to prevent genocide in Srebrenica, as well as certain negative qualifications from the verdict, including the lack of cooperation with the ICTY, the failure to arrest and hand over Mladic, who is identified as the most responsible person for the events and genocide in Srebrenica.
Simic said that the court has established that Serbia did not commit genocide, that it was not complicit to genocide, and that it did not take part through its state organises in carrying out genocide in BiH.He also said that the court rejected BiH’s claims that is should be compensated, and described as an important contribution to international law the court’s conclusion that deportations in all directions that were frequent in BiH do not constitute genocide, nor do the concentration camps or detention centres.
“The court has also established that the encirclement and shelling of Sarajevo does not constitute genocide, nor do certain military actions that have caused enormous damage”, Simic said and stressed that for the first time in international customary law and contact the judges have concluded that genocide can exist in a limited area, and that in the case of BiH they have limited their decision solely to the events of July 11 1995 at Srebrenica.
He told journalists that the verdict has through precisely stated positions defined answers to all questions raised by the BiH lawsuit.
Some NGOs in Serbia mainland strongly criticised the verdict, however.
Biljana Kovacevic Vuco, president of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, said the verdict represented “victory for the politics of Slobodan Milosevic, the victory of Ratko Mladic, of Vojislav Kostunica and Serbia’s [ultra-nationalist] Radicals.’
The verdict will not help Serbia confront its past, Aleksandar Popov, of the NGO Igman Initative said.
“The Srebrenica verdict is only symbolic and does not give the complete picture of Serbia’s role in the wars of the last decade,” Popov said.
The head of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, Andrej Nosov, said he hoped the verdict would mean Serbia could no longer deny it had nothing to do with events in Srebrenica.
“The verdict opens a moral question about what Serbia could have done to prevent genocide in Bosnia,” Nosov said.
“Regardless of the verdict, Serbia has an obligation to tell the whole truth about the victims and give them justice and reparations,” he added.
The president of Vojvodina’s Social Democratic League, Nenad Canak, condemned the ICJ verdict. “Let Bosnia’s blood and ashes rest on the hands of all those who made such a judgment,” he said.MAPS:
1. Ethnic Composition of Bosnia-Herzegovina before the war, 1991: (Green = Bosniaks, Red = Bosnian Serbs, Blue = Bosnian Croats)
2. Ethnic Composition of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2006, 11 years after ethnic cleansing ended: (Green = Bosniaks, Blue = Bosnian Serbs, Red = Bosnian Croats)
David Harland, former head of UN Civil Affairs in BH, admitted today he was responsible for the creation of the myth that UNPROFOR was unable to determine who had fired the mortar shells that caused the Markale 2 massacre on 28 August 1995. Forty-three people were killed and seventy-five injured at the entrance to the Town Market in Sarajevo.
Markale 2 is one of the 15 “illustrative examples” of the shelling campaign against Sarajevo listed in the indictment against the then commander of the VRS Sarajevo-Romanija Corps, General Dragomir Milosevic.
The myth that has survived for more than ten years, Harland said in response to Milosevic’s defense counsel Branislav Tapuskovic, was created because of a “neutral statement” made by General Rupert Smith, the UNPROFOR commander.
On the day when the second attack on Markale happened, General Smith stated “it is unclear who fired the shells, although at that time he already had the technical report of UNPROFOR intelligence section, determining beyond reasonable doubt that they were fired from VRS positions at Lukavica”.
Harland’s responsibility lies in the fact that he himself advised General Smith to make “a neutral statement in order not to alarm the Bosnian Serbs who would be alerted to the impending NATO air strikes against their positions had he pointed a finger at them”. That would have jeopardized the safety of UN troops in the territory under VRS control or on positions where they might have been vulnerable to retaliatory attacks by Serb forces.
In his cross-examination Harland denied claims made by Tapuskovic, Belgrade attorney, that between two and three thousand Serbs had “been killed, had their throats slit and been thrown into Kazani” during the war in Sarajevo .
Not denying the crimes committed against Serbs, and Bosniaks too, by Caco and his men, Harland categorically stated that “the huge majority of the Serbs killed in the town, inside the conflict lines, were killed by artillery and sniper fire originating from the positions of the VRS Sarajevo-Romanija Corps”.
This line of cross-examination prompted Presiding Judge Robinson to ask the defense counsel “what is the point of this defense, even if the figures you’re presenting are correct”. In other words: “what impact will it have on the responsibility of General Milosevic for the crimes he is charged with”. Tapuskovic’s reply was that Caco’s crimes had engendered great fear among the Serbs that the same thing could happen to them if they were to be under Bosniak power. They therefore “held the positions around Sarajevo firmly”.
While Tapuskovic claims that the Sarajevo Serbs “feared Caco more than bombs”, Harland believes that “the great majority of Serbs wanted to leave Sarajevo but couldn’t do so”. The reason why they wanted to leave town was “the siege and a great risk they ran of getting killed by shells or sniper fire from Serb positions”.
Louis Fortain took the stand after David Harland. Fortain, a lieutenant-colonel in the Canadian Army, was UNPROFOR’s liaison officer with the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps. He was stationed in the Lukavica barracks.