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Serbia wants genocide claim rejected
Serbia-Montenegro has asked the International Court of Justice to reject Bosnia's claim that Belgrade committed genocide during the Bosnian war.
Last Modified: 09 May 2006 16:55 GMT
The ruling is vital in determining Belgrade's role in genocide
Serbia-Montenegro has asked the International Court of Justice to reject Bosnia's claim that Belgrade committed genocide during the Bosnian war.

Radoslav Stojanovic, Serbia's representative, said: "If Serbia-Montenegro were to be found guilty of genocide, the consequences would be disastrous... I ask the court to rule in favour of reconciliation not the continuation of conflict."

He was recalling the fact that Bosnia's Serb entity did not support the International Court of Jusitce (ICJ) case against Belgrade.

Stojanovic, speaking in The Hague on the final day of the oral proceedings in the case on Tuesday, said Belgrade was asking the court to rule that it does not have jurisdiction to hear the case or, if it finds it does have jurisdiction, that the crimes committed in Bosnia cannot be attributed to Serbia-Montenegro.

With the death of Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugoslav president, in March, and the subsequent end of his war crimes trial, a ruling by the ICJ has become the only chance for Sarajevo to obtain a comprehensive legal ruling on Belgrade's overall involvement in the Bosnian war.

Verdict

The ICJ, the United Nations' highest court mandated to rule in disputes between states, has heard nine weeks of legal arguments from both parties and will now retire to consider the case.

Milosevic, the former Serb leader,
faced charges of genocide 

It usually takes months, and sometimes more than a year, before the court hands down a verdict, which is final and without appeal.

Bosnia's ICJ claim was first filed in 1993 and accuses Belgrade  of masterminding the widespread ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims and Croats during the 1992-95 war, which claimed up to 200,000 lives and left millions homeless.

Sarajevo says the acts amount to genocide.

Serbia has argued that the ICJ has no jurisdiction in the case because the country was not a member of the UN at the time of the Bosnian war.

Also it says that, although crimes were committed in Bosnia, they did not amount to genocide.

Bosnian trial

Also on Tuesday, Bosnia's first genocide trial opened in Sarajevo with 11 Serbs facing charges of killing more than 1,000 Muslims during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

Thousands of Srebrenica victims
have been found in mass graves

Ten war-time special police officers and one former soldier appeared before the Bosnian court established last year in a bid to ease the burden on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), also in The Hague, by taking over some of its cases.

The group was captured in 2005 and face genocide charges for their part in the week-long killing spree by Serb forces at Srebrenica - considered the single worst atrocity in Europe since the second world war.
 
This is the first case before the Court of Bosnia-Hercegovina, which has international judges and prosecutors, in which the  suspects are accused of genocide and the first for crimes committed in Srebrenica.

Charges

The charges against the 11 specifically relate to the deaths of more than 1,000 Muslims at the warehouse of an agriculture cooperative near Srebrenica, in eastern Bosnia.

The defendants include Milos Stupar, 42, the wartime commander of a Bosnian Serb special police squad.

Stupar and three others had been members of the Bosnian Serb police force when they were arrested.

Serb forces killed about 8,000 Muslim men and boys in only a few days after they captured the UN-protected Muslim enclave of Srebrenica on July 11, 1995.

Thousands of victims have been found in mass graves around Srebrenica after Bosnia's 1992-1995 war.
 
The ICTY deemed the Srebrenica massacre a genocide.

The two main culprits wanted by the UN tribunal - Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander Ratko Mladic - remain at large more than a decade after the slaughter.

Source:
AFP
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