ICJ has jurisdiction to hear Genocide claims against Serbia

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 19 November 2008, 15:52 GMT]
Croatia won the right Tuesday to sue Serbia for genocide after the United Nations' highest court, the International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, based in Hague Netherlands, ruled it has the legal power to decide the case, AP reported. Describing the ruling as "symbolical and just," Croatian President, Stipe Mesic, said the decision came on the 17th anniversary of the fall of the city of Vukovar, where at least 1,500 Croats were killed and thousands expelled by rebel Serbs.

In a similar case brought by Bosnia, the court exonerated Serbia in February 2007 of direct responsibility for genocide in Bosnia in the early 1990s, but ruled that it failed to prevent the 1995 slaughter of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica.

Serbian representative, Tibor Varady, criticized the ruling, saying it would only serve to prolong tensions between the Balkan neighbors. "I think it would be much better to insist consistently on individual criminal responsibility," he said, AP reported.

Croatia alleged that Serb attacks which killed and displaced thousands of Croats during Croatia's 1991-95 independence war was a form of genocide.

Zagreb demanded that the court order Belgrade to pay compensation. Croatia also asked the court to order Serbia to help trace people missing from the war and return cultural items plundered during the fighting, according to the AP report.

Serbia countered that the court had no jurisdiction. Serbia argued it was not a U.N. member state when Croatia filed the case in 1999 because of the disintegration of Yugoslavia during the wars.

However, the 17-judge tribunal, also known as the World Court, rejected Serbia's arguments, saying that it took over the responsibilities of the former Yugoslavia after that state crumbled in the early 1990s ˜ including its responsibility to adhere to the convention outlawing genocide, AP report added.

The ruling comes at a time when there is worldwide condemnation of Government of Sri Lanka for committing atrocities against Tamils, which many believe as falling within the crime of genocide.

U.S. based Tamil activists have been working towards convincing the U.S. Justice Department to begin Grand Jury investigations, and to file criminal charges against High-level Sri Lanka officials for crime of genocide under the amended Section 1091 of title 18, United States Code, the Genocide Accountability Act (GAA) of 2007.

The activists said that a model indictment document will likely be released during the first week of December, and the release will also be a precursor to filing Civil charges against the same individuals under the ATCA (Alien Torts Claims Act).

The proscription of GAA now covers situations in which the perpetrator is a permanent resident alien in the United States, is a stateless person, or is found, or brought into, the United States, even if the act occurs outside the United States.


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