Genocide ruling angers Bosnian Muslims
|Monday, March 5,2007 00:00|
Serbia not directly responsible for slaughter but failed to prevent it, world court says.
A landmark world court ruling, that Serbia failed to prevent the 1995 slaughter of thousands of Bosnian Muslims but is not guilty of genocide, seems unlikely to "close the page of history" and lead to badly needed reconciliation in the Balkans.
But Serbian authorities said the judgment went some way to removing what many Serbs believe is an unfair stigma.Serbian President Boris Tadic said Serbia, the successor state of Slobodan Milosevic’s disintegrated Yugoslavia, was rightfully vindicated of direct responsibility. But "the part of the judgment that said that Serbia did not do all in its power to prevent genocide against Bosnians in Srebrenica is very hard."
Javier Solana, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said he is happy the court did not impose "collective punishment."
"The verdict . . . I think is something to be welcomed," Mr. Solana told reporters in Brussels. "One thing that we appreciate very much is no collective punishment. We think it will contribute to close the page of history -- that was dramatic, very painful, very damaging for many, many people."The verdict was met with bitterness among relatives of more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim males massacred by the former Bosnian Serb Army commanded by General Ratko Mladic and among the political leadership in Sarajevo.
"Shame on the people who reached such a verdict. How can they say not guilty of genocide when there are photos, video footage?" The Associated Press quoted Zinaida Mujic, of the Mothers of Srebrenica Association.
"They are again torturing our people, these mothers. My two sons were killed, massacred."
In the 171-page ruling, the court was unambiguous in its declaration that genocide had occurred at the United Nations-protected Srebrenica enclave and that during the 1992-95 conflict, "Bosnian Muslims were systematically victims of massive mistreatment, beatings, rape and torture causing serious bodily and mental harm." But it rejected Bosnia’s assertion that Serbia was responsible and that its intent was to wipe out Bosnian Muslims.
Rather, the judges said, Belgrade stood by and allowed it to happen and they demanded that Serbian authorities hand over Gen. Mladic.He and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic have been evading arrest since being indicted on genocide charges by the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal.
Frank Chalk, co-director of the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies at Concordia University, said in an interview that this was the weakest part of the judgment in that it provides for no sanctions against Belgrade.
Serbia has said it has been unable to arrest Gen. Mladic, seen as a hero by many Serbs, but UN prosecutors say he has evaded capture with the help of Serb security forces.
But Mr. Tadic said co-operating with the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal is crucial to Serbia future. "Unless Serbia finally wraps up that co-operation . . .
In a relief to Serbia, the court also refused Bosnia’s request for financial compensation, saying it "is not the appropriate form of reparation for the breach of the obligation to prevent genocide."
New York-based Human Rights Watch said that state genocide is extremely difficult to prove but that does not preclude future cases.
"The abuses at Srebrenica were committed by Bosnian Serbs, not Yugoslav government forces," Ben Ward, an associate director in the Europe division of the organization, told The Guardian.
But he welcomed yesterday’s decision as setting a historic precedent.