"It is now up to Serbia and Croatia to prosecute crimes"
Serbian Justice Minister Nikola Selakovic has said that the ICJ judgment in the mutual lawsuits "put an end to the legal dispute between Serbia and Croatia."Source: Tanjug
The Hague-based UN court on Tuesday ruled to dismiss Croatia's genocide lawsuit against Serbia, and Serbia's counter-lawsuit, also accusing Croatia of genocide.
Selakovic told the Serbian public broadcaster RTS late on Tuesday that it was now up to the justice systems in both countries, but also elsewhere, to prosecute those responsible for crimes.
He said the case that was before the ICJ had both "a purely legal, and a legal-political and emotional aspect."
"It will never be possible to explain to the Serb people, especially those who were expelled, that this was not a crime, especially not genocide," Selakovic was quoted as saying.
The minister said that the Serbian counter-lawsuit was filed "above all to defend Serbia from Croatia's lawsuit," and recalled that the step was made 11 years after Croatia filed its complaint.
"The Serbian leadership at the time filed the lawsuit in order to defend. We did not file it in order to, by that, prove genocide, but to defend Serbia from the Croatian lawsuit. Did we succeed? Yes we did," he said.
According to Selakovic, "it is normal to be dissatisfied for as long as the perpetrators of crimes against Serbs from Krajina and all others are not prosecuted - but one should be satisfied with what was said during the reading of the verdict."
"This is the first time that an international instance has said that a crime was committed against the Krajina Serbs, as a direct consequence of Operation Storm. The ICJ has made a step forward compared to the ICTY," he said, and mentioned as an example the Hague trial and acquittal of Ante Gotovina.
Selakovic added to the presiding judge, when he read the verdict, said that Croatia's military and political leadership carried out Operation Storm in 1995 with the desire to remove ethnic Serbs from the Krajina region, and that horrific crimes were carried out at the same time.
He added that many Serbs, not only in Serbia and Croatia but elsewhere abroad, have filed charges against Croatian soldiers whom they consider guilty.
"The verdict is huge, it needs to be translated, there is a part where it proves (former Croatian President) Franjo Tudjman's Ustasha ideology, that has been analyzed in detail - it will be the subject of various lawyers who will certainly take advantage of it in those cases," the minister said.
"No reason to be dissatisfied"
Nikola Selakovic, who was in The Hague on Tuesday for the reading of the judgment, commented earlier in the day to say the ICJ determined that mass crimes against Serbs were committed during Operation Storm, which was conducted by the Croatian Armed Forces in the summer of 1995, and aimed at displacement of Serbs from the Krajina region.
“This is the first time that this was determined before an international court,” said Selakovic.
Moreover, the ICJ dismissed Croatia's genocide claim against Serbia, the minister told Tanjug.
Therefore, there is no reason for Serbia to be dissatisfied with the judgment, although the ICJ also dropped Serbia's counter-claim of genocide against Serbs during the 1991-1995 war in Croatia, he said.
"Having established that genocide against the Krajina Serbs was not committed, the Court has for the first time disproved the claim that Croatia kept putting forward - the claim that was made in the ICTY cases as well - that the Serbs in Krajina 'left Croatia upon the call of the Serbian authorities',“ said Selakovic.
The ICJ has disproved this claim, stating that the reason behind the Serbs' leaving Croatia was Operation Storm, organized by the Croatian military and political leaders in order to bring about the displacement of Serbs from Croatia, he said.
"This is what we expected and it makes us satisfied," the Serbian justice minister noted.
Selakovic pointed out that the ICJ commended Serbia's willingness to continue to work on the missing persons issue, and urged both sides to cooperate in redressing the tragic consequences of the war in Croatia.