news 23 Nov 12

Serbia Launches Fightback Over Hague Verdicts

Following the surprise acquittal in The Hague of two Croatian Army generals, Serbia has launched a diplomatic battle against the decision before the UN and the International Court of Justice.

Beta, Vecernje Novosti, BIRN

Serbia has launched an international drive against the acquittal of Croatian army generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac by the UN war crimes tribunal, ICTY.

Ministers have been tasked with expressing strong disagreement with the ruling in their international dealings - and with indicating the political influence to which Belgrade says the Court was exposed, Balkan Insight has learned from the government.

Serbian officials condemned the acquittals on November 16, accusing the Hague Tribunal of undermining its own credibility.

In first-instance verdicts in 2011, the Court sentenced the two Croats to 24 and 18 years respectively for their roles in Operation "Oluja" ["Storm"], a 1995 Croatian Army operation launched to recover territory seized by Serbian rebels at the start of the war in Croatia.

Over 200,000 Serbs fled the southwest Krajina region immediately after Operation Storm. Dozens of Serb civilians were killed after the fighting stopped.

But the ICTY appeal court ruled that there was no evidence of a conspiracy on the part of the generals to rid the Krajina region of its Serbian civilian population.

Meanwhile, Vuk Jeremic, the Serbian president of the UN General Assembly, took the battle to a higher level, scheduling a UN debate on the whole issue of UN tribunals in April.

He said that as the UN was the founder of ad-hoc courts such as the ICTY, a debate was now needed to discuss their performance.

"In my opinion the decision of the Appeals Chamber... has dealt a blow to the reputation of the United Nations, but I allow for the possibility that... I may be somewhat subjective on this issue," he said.

Serbia is meanwhile preparing for a hearing before the International Court of Justice, ICJ, to prove its claim that the Croats committed genocide against the Serbs in Operation Storm.

Croatia and Serbia have filed genocide lawsuits against each other before the Hague-based court, which has scheduled a hearing for February 2014.

Oliver Antic, an advisor to Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic, confirmed on Thursday that a team of experts had been assembled for that purpose.

Antic, a professor at the Belgrade Law School, told Tanjug news agency on Thursday that top state officials would work with experts to prepare the continuation of the ICJ suit against Croatia and a debate on the Hague verdict before the UN.

On Thursday, Croatian President Ivo Josipovic said that the mutual genocide lawsuits between Serbia and Croatia would be "unnecessary if the two sides agreed on contentious issues".

He assessed that the acquittal of the two ex-generals had reduced the chances of success for Serbia’s counter-suit for genocide, while it would not effect the Croatian suit.

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