The International Court of Justice in The Hague on Monday cleared the state of Serbia of direct responsibility for genocide but ruled that the government in Belgrade had violated international law by failing to prevent the massacre at Srebrenica during the Bosnian war.
The court recognised for the first time that the mass murder of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995 was genocide. However it ruled that there was not sufficient proof that genocide was committed elsewhere in Bosnia.
The case is the first of a state being charged with genocide. Individuals have been convicted of genocide in Bosnia by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia which is also located in The Hague.
The UN court said that Serbia does not have to pay Bosnia damages for contravening the UN convention on genocide but must cooperate with the Yugoslavia Tribunal.
The reading of the complex judgement took more than two hours. Outside the Peace Palace several survivors of the Bosnian conflict took part in a demonstration, carrying a banner reading ‘Serbia is guilty’.
Phon van den Biesen, a spokesman for a group representing the interests of Srebrenica survivors, told ANP that the outcome was ‘a clever diplomatic ruling’.
The 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men were killed by Serb forces in the ‘safe haven’ of Srebrenica in July 1995 while under the protection of Dutch troops. The scandal eventually led to the fall of the Dutch government.
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