Croatia accuses Serbia of genocide at UN's highest court
Judges from left: Mohamed Bennouna, Ronny Abraham, vice president Bernardo Sepulveda-Amor, president Peter Tomka, Hisashi Owada, Kenneth Keith and Leonid Skotnikov prior to the start of public hearings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands, Monday, March 3, 2014. (AP Photo/Jiri Buller)
Mike Corder, The Associated Press
Published Monday, March 3, 2014 9:25AM EST
THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- Croatia on Monday accused its Balkan neighbour Serbia of genocide in the early 1990s as the former Yugoslavia shattered in spasms of ethnic violence, in a case at the United Nations' highest court that highlights lingering animosities in the region.
Croatia is asking the International Court of Justice to declare that Serbia breached the 1948 Genocide Convention when forces from the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia attempted to drive Croats out of large swaths of the country after Zagreb declared independence in 1991. It also wants the court to order Serbia to pay compensation.
Serbia previously has faced allegations of genocide at the world court.
In a landmark 2007 judgment, the court cleared Belgrade of committing genocide in the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men in the Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica, but said Serbia breached the genocide convention by failing to prevent the slaughter, Europe's worst mass slaying since the Second World War.
Croatia opened its case by showing judges a video of the devastated remnants of the Croat city of Vukovar, which was besieged and pounded with heavy artillery by Serb forces in 1991, killing hundreds.
It remains to be seen if Zagreb can convince judges that the crimes amount to genocide. The UN's Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, a separate court based in The Hague, convicted Serbs of crimes in Vukovar, but has never characterized atrocities on Croat territory as genocide.
"We will show you that the crimes that took place in the campaign against Croats amount to genocide," Croatia's agent to the court, Vesna Crnic-Grotic, told the judges.
Serbian representative Sasa Obradovic acknowledged that "horrific crimes were committed in Croatia," but told reporters that they do not constitute genocide.
In Belgrade, Serbia's Prime Minister Ivica Dacic expressed hope that the case would ease past tensions, but also warned it could revive nationalist sentiments.
Associated Press writer Jovana Gec in Belgrade, Serbia, contributed to this story.