The first trial of a state charged with genocide has opened in The Hague, where Bosnia-Hercegovina will accuse Serbia and Montenegro of war crimes.
The BBC has an interesting analysis of the issue here: Analysis: Serbia in the dock
If the International Court of Justice (ICJ) rules in favour of the Bosnian’s it will kick off a cascade of claims and counter claims.
Croatia is also suing Serbia, but Serbia has very strong counter cases against Bosnia and Croatia.
Furthermore, the Serbs have a powerful defence that was used against them when they sued NATO
…when the hearings open on Monday, Belgrade may launch yet another procedural challenge.
This is likely to be based on a judgement the ICJ handed down two years ago in a separate genocide case that Yugoslavia had brought against eight Nato countries in relation to the Kosovo conflict.
The case was dismissed – partly on the grounds that at the time of the events in question Yugoslavia was not fully recognised as a member of the UN.
But perhaps Yugoslavia’s successor, Serbia and Montenegro, can now use the same argument to dismiss this case?
Professor Vojin Dimitrijevic, director of the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, says “this will certainly be the first procedural argument of the Serb and Montenegrin side”.
The other two defences likely to be used are that the event sin Bosnia did not amount to genocide and that Serbia was not directly involved in the those events.
The second defense is a very weak. It is widely known that Croatia and Serbia supported their ethnic bretheren during the war. Interestingly, by the time the alleged genocide was taking place (The fall of Srebrenica in July 1995) Serbia had completely abandoned the Bosnian and Croatian Serbs. It was the fact of this that allowed the Croatians to attack and expel the Croatian Serbs from the Krajina in the last big offensive of the war, Operation Storm.
This suggests that during the time of the worst atrocities, it may haave been the democratic Croatian government that was more actively involved with genocide than Serbia under dictator Slobodan Milosovic.