Serbia files genocide suit against Croatia

AP News
Posted: Jan 04, 2010 1:39 PM

Serbia filed a lawsuit against Croatia at the International Court of Justice on Monday, accusing it of genocide during the 1991-1995 Balkan war, which killed or displaced thousands of people.

Serbia was responding to a similar lawsuit that Croatia filed to the same Netherlands-based court in 1999, claiming that Serb attacks during the conflict also amounted to genocide. In 2008, the International Court of Justice granted Croatia the right to sue Serbia by deciding the court has the authority to rule in the case.

The legal dispute threatens to undermine relations between Serbia and Croatia, which are important regarding the stability of the postwar Balkans.The lawsuits also have fueled tension between the two former foes as both are seeking European Union membership.

Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said Monday that his country had done all it could to avoid filing suit Monday, but that Croatia had refused to withdraw its own.

"We had no choice," Jeremic said. "We are aware that we are now entering a new phase in relations with Croatia, but we still want to cooperate with that country in the process of European integration, just as we want peace and stability in the western Balkans."

Serbia and Croatia have sought to improve ties since the Balkan war ended and both sought EU membership. But long-standing disagreements over what happened during the war have renewed the tensions.

Croatia wants the International Court of Justice to order Serbia to pay compensation for the war, to help trace Croatians left missing by the war, and to return cultural items plundered during the conflict.

Serbia said it will seek to prove that Croatia committed genocide when it expelled its Serb population in a 1995 offensive. The Serbian lawsuit also touches on the atrocities by Croatia's Nazi puppet state against Serbs during World War II.

Reacting to Serbia's countersuit, Croatia said it will prove that Serbia, led at the time by the late strongman Slobodan Milosevic, was guilty of atrocities against Croatia.

The war erupted when Croatia's Serbs, backed by Serbia, rebelled against Croatia's decision to split from the Serb-led Yugoslavia. Serbs took control of one-third of Croatia, declaring a mini-state which Croatia recaptured in 1995.


Associated Press Writer Snjezana Vukic in Zagreb, Croatia, contributed to this report.