By Milos Mitrovic – Belgrade, The Hague
The trial on genocide in Croatia from 1991 to 1995 based on lawsuits of both Croatia and Serbia started at the International Court of Justice on Monday. Croatian representatives claimed before the ICJ, based in The Hague, they would prove that the lawsuit they have submitted has been grounded and that it would be proven that Belgrade was responsible for the alleged genocide against the non-Serbs in Croatia.
In 1999 Croatia filed the suit against the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). Serbia is the legal successor of FRY. Serbia filed the genocide lawsuit against the Croatia in 2010 for crimes against Serb civilians.
The main Croatian representative, Vesna Crnic, said in the court that FRY lead by former president Slobodan Milosevic has organized, galvanized and committed “genocide campaign” in Croatia with intention to destroy non-Serb civilians “partly or totally”. The idea of Greater Serbia was launched in 1986 and since 1990 further Milosevic accompanied with Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj and paramilitary leader Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan has organized a genocidal campaign, Crnic said. The campaign started with “hatred speeches against Croatians” which had prompted the “acts of genocide”, Crnic argued. In order to illustrate their claims, Croatian team displayed the video showing the devastation in the croatian town of Vukovar.
After Milosevic was overthrown in 2000 “many political leaders in Serbia have continued to deny” crimes in Croatia despite the negotiations on “just resolution”, Crnic stressed specifying that Zagreb still searches for 864 missing persons and cultural heritage. “The new governments in Serbia have hesitated to face themselves with the truth”, Crnic said adding that current Serbian president Tomislav Nikolic refuses to admit the genocide was committed in Srebrenica “despite the verdict of this court”.
Andrea Metelko Zgombic, another Croatian representative, emphasized that Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA), the military of the former Yugoslavia, was used by Milosevic to realize “genocide intentions” such as racketeering Croatian government seat in October of 1991. “JNA has tried to assassinate the president of Yugoslavia as well as it’s Prime Minister and president of Croatia”, Metelko Zgombic said.
On Tuesday and Wednesday witnesses will appear before the court. However, their claims may not be published until the end of the first part of the trial on April 1. Croatian representatives will continue the presentation of their arguments on Thursday. On March 10, the serbian team will start to represent both remarks on Croatian claims and the lawsuit Serbia has submitted against Croatia.
Serbian Prime Minister, Ivica Dacic, said that politicians should prevent the trial to complicate the bilateral relations between Croatia and Serbia and to provoke nationalistic sentiments. “If the arguments (from the ICJ) are interpreted by the media, nationalistic sentiments will be additionally ruffled”, Dacic said on Monday.
During her last week’s official visit to Belgrade, the Croatian Foreign Minister reiterated Zagreb’s stance that preconditions for the withdrawal of Croatian suit have not been fulfilled, especially those with regard to missing persons. According to Pusic, the ICJ verdict would probably not put an end to discussions on crimes, “but this should be the issue for historians, rather than politicians”.
“The genocide was not committed over the Croats, neither over the Serbs during the 1990s war. Therefore, lawsuit and counter-lawsuit are legally unfounded”, prominent Croatian lawyer, Anto Nobilo, recently said.