News 16 Aug 13

Croatia Must Drop Genocide Case First, Serbia Says

Serbia said that it is ready to drop its genocide case against Croatia at the International Court of Justice, but only if Zagreb drops its own lawsuit against Belgrade first.

Marija Ristic
BIRN
Belgrade

“It should be noted that we didn’t file charges against Croatia [first], but that Zagreb did it first… Our lawsuit will be withdrawn after Croatia drops its charges,” Serbian foreign minister Ivan Mrkic told local media on Thursday.

Croatia filed genocide charges against Serbia at the International Court of Justice in 1999, also demanding that Belgrade punish all perpetrators of war crimes during the 1990s conflict, return looted cultural property and pay for wartime damages.

In response, Serbia submitted a counter-claim in 2010, maintaining that Croatia was guilty of genocide against Serbs during and after the war.

In June, Croatian President Ivo Josipovic said that the political will existed on both sides to settle the issue out of court.

“There are some new circumstances now.  If two governments can settle this issue by agreement and discussion, how then do the lawsuits make sense?” Josipovic asked.

“There are differences in how history is viewed, but this should not prevent us from looking into the future and building better and more sustainable bridges then the ones that were there before,” he added.

Croatian foreign minister Vesna Pusic also said in April this year that “space is opening up for talks on the withdrawal of law suits with Serbia” after the two countries collaborated to find the bodies of people who had been missing since wartime.

If the countries don’t decide to drop their mutual lawsuits, the International Court of Justice is expected to open oral proceedings at the beginning of next year.  

The court is a UN body whose role is to settle legal disputes between states and to give opinions on legal questions in accordance with international law.

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