Monday, February 26, 2007

Genocide ruling frustrates Bosnia

Bosnian Muslim leaders have voiced disappointment after the top UN court cleared Serbia of direct responsibility for genocide during the Bosnian war.
The International Court of Justice in The Hague said the massacre of 8,000 men in Srebrenica was genocide, but Belgrade was not directly responsible.

But it said Serbia broke international law by failing to stop the killings.

Serbia's president acknowledged the ruling, and urged parliament to condemn the Srebrenica massacre.

The case was the first of a state being charged with genocide. Individuals have been convicted of genocide in Bosnia.

At least 100,000 people died in the 1992-1995 war, triggered by the break-up of the former Yugoslavia. Bosnia's Muslims and Croats wanted to cut ties with Belgrade, a move opposed by Bosnian Serbs.

No reparations

The case, Bosnia and Herzegovina versus Serbia and Montenegro, began a year ago.

It is very important that the parliament adopts a declaration which will clearly condemn the crime committed in Srebrenica
Serbian President Boris Tadic
Bosnia argued that Belgrade incited ethnic hatred, armed Bosnian Serbs and was an active participant in the killings.
Belgrade said the conflict was an internal war between Bosnia's ethnic groups and denied any state role in genocide.

In the ruling, the president of the court, Judge Rosalyn Higgins, said: "The court finds that the acts of genocide at Srebrenica cannot be attributed to the respondent's (Serbia) state organs."

However the court added that the leaders of Serbia failed to comply with its international obligation to prevent the killings and punish hose responsible.

The court also rejected Bosnia's claim for reparations.

"Financial compensation is not the appropriate form of reparation," the ruling said.

The war crimes tribunal in The Hague has already found individuals guilty of genocide in Bosnia and established the Srebrenica massacre as genocide.

Stalled talks

The BBC's Nicholas Walton in Sarajevo says many Bosnian Muslims were hoping for a clear ruling that Serbia as a state was responsible for pursuing a genocide in Bosnia during the 1990s.

I don't understand why the country should be held accountable
Peter, Toronto
The Bosnian Muslim member of the country's tripartite presidency, Haris Silajdzic, told the BBC there was "disappointment" at the outcome.

However he welcomed the fact that the court had "ruled that Serbia and Montenegro had violated the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide by not preventing or punishing the perpetrators of the genocide".

In the Serb Republic, Krstan Simic, a senior member of the governing ruling Union of Independent Social-Democrats, said he was pleased that the judges had taken "real facts " into account.

In Serbia itself, President Boris Tadic urged parliament to pass a declaration "condemning the crime in Srebrenica without any doubt".

The German presidency of the European Union urged Serbia "to use today's judgment as a further opportunity to distance itself from the crimes committed by the Milosevic regime".

The ruling comes with Serbia still facing challenges linked to the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.

Admission talks with the EU have been stalled over Belgrade's failure to hand over war crimes suspects for trial.

It is easy to sympathize with the Bosnian Muslims seeing the death toll of the ordeal and the hardships endured. How can the Government not be held responsible for events of Genocide within their borders? Genocide is one the worst types of violence and exhibits the worst qualities of mankind. As leading officials of a nation, it is not only your job, but also one’s duty to protect the lives of those who you reside over. Ethnic and religious differences leading to violence have long plagued the world’s history and have been at the heart of much of the conflict of the past, present, and will be in the future. It is our job to prevent such atrocities and punish those who condone them. I take the decision of the United Nations Court, not condoning the action, but not taking the proper measures to punish those who allowed it to happen. The human right violations in Bosnian from 1993 through to 1995 caused international action, with the United Nations spearheading the operation. This is the type of resolve always needs to be taken to put a stop to the violence and needless deprivation of life throughout the world.

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