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28.02.07 - ICJ/GENOCIDE - SREBRENICA MASSACRE RECOGNIZED AS GENOCIDE

The Hague (The Netherlands), February 28, 2007 (FH) – The International Court of Justice (ICJ), the primary international court, confirmed on Monday 26 February that the massacre of 8,000 Muslims committed in Srebrenica (Bosnia-Herzegovina) in July 1995 was a genocide. After that of Armenians between 1915 and 1917, of Jews during the Second World War, and of Tutsis in 1994 in Rwanda, it is the fourth genocide officially recognized by the United Nations. The Bosnian Serb separatists army overran this enclave, theoretically protected by the United Nations. Women, elderly people and children were first separated from men and then deported to other regions of Bosnia. About 8,000 men, all Muslims, were executed in three days. The Judges of the ICJ, the court in charge of dealing with inter-state disputes, confirmed that a genocide had occurred in Srebrenica, as established by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the sentence rendered against the Bosnian Serb Radislav Krstic in April 2004. Nevertheless, the Judges exonerated Serbia of its responsibility, due to a lack of evidence. According to them, the responsibility of these acts can not be attributed to the Serbian state but was the responsibility of Bosnian Serbs and their army. “If Serbia indeed financed, supported and paid the Bosnian Serb officers, Serbia did not order the genocide in Srebrenica” they said. This support, in place since 1993, did not imply that Serbia ordered the genocide, said the Court, basing its reflection on the reports by Dutch authorities in charge of the security of this region at the time, by the United Nations and by the CIA. The President of the Court, Mrs. Rosalyn Higgins, recalled the definition of genocide, an expression created after the Second World War by the Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin who was exiled in the United States. This expression is derived from the Greek “genos” (race) and the Latin suffix cide (Latin “caedere”, to kill). Pursuant to the Convention of 1948, the perpetrators of the genocide must have had “the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”. The Court did not elaborate on the point, the most difficult one to prove, but rested on the conclusions established by the ICTY in the Krstic judgement; conclusions considered weak by numerous lawyers. The ICJ Judgement focuses on the single instance of genocide and does not reconsider the crimes against humanity committed on the whole territory of Bosnia for which several Serb leaders have already been convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which has jurisdiction to prosecute individuals. If the responsibility of Serbia in the genocide is dismissed, Belgrade is however convicted of having twice breached the Genocide Convention. The Convention of 1948 indeed provides the obligation for States to “prevent” crime, to punish responsible persons or to transfer them before an international court, depending on the case. “The genocide would have indeed been prevented” if Serbia “had adopted a behaviour comporting with its international duties” wrote the Judges. A fifth genocide committed between 1975 and 1979 could be attributed to the Cambodian Khmer Rouge leaders. A special Tribunal was created with the aid of the United Nations but the question remains disputed. According to the ICJ Judges, the targeted group must be clearly identifiable and must possess national, ethnic, racial or religious characteristics as provided for by the Convention. SM/PB/CV © Hirondelle News Agency

2 min 9Approximate reading time

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