News 24 Feb 14

Serbia, Croatia Fail to Drop Genocide Lawsuits

Serbian and Croatian officials insisted they wanted to leave the past behind but could not drop their lawsuits against each other, which begin next week at the International Court of Justice.

Marija Ristic
BIRN
Belgrade
Aleksandar Vucic and Vesna Pusic at a press conference after their meeting. Photo: Beta

Serbian deputy prime minister Aleksandar Vucic and his Croatian counterpart Vesna Pusic met in Belgrade on Monday and agreed to work together in the future despite the mutual genocide lawsuits that will have their first hearing on March 3 at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

“There were wishes and efforts from both sides to resolve the issues outside of court, but unfortunately that didn’t work out,” Pusic said after the meeting.

“We still have the issue of missing persons on the table,” she explained, referring to Zagreb’s demand for information about 1,689 people missing since the war in Croatia as a precondition for dropping its genocide suit against Belgrade.

Vucic said however that Serbia had no more information to give and so could not avert legal action.

“Croatia thought that the conditions were not met, Serbia thought it did its best. We are not running from the fact that we need to find all those who committed war crimes,” he said.

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.

The two countries will start defending their cases next Monday. Croatia is to present evidence and hear witness testimony first, followed by Serbia. The sessions are expected to last a month, while the verdict is expected by the end of the year.

Both deputy prime ministers said on Monday however that the genocide lawsuits were an issue from the past and should not burden the neighbours’ future relationship.

As a gesture of goodwill, Belgrade officials gave their Zagreb counterparts aerial footage of Croatia from 1991 which was confiscated by the Yugoslav People’s Army at the beginning of the conflict. Pusic said that it would help to resolve some 8,000 applications to register properties that have been built since the war.

Pusic also said that other issues dating from the collapse of Yugoslavia that remain unresolved between Zagreb and Belgrade, such as refugees’ property rights and the demarcation of the border, would be dealth with bilaterally and would not create an obstacle in Serbia’s EU membership talks.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Subscribe to Our Newsletter