CROATIA V. SERBIA: INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE RULING

AliyaBy Aliya Yagudina, Intern in SNDatUN Office

On November 5, 2015, H.E. Ronny Abraham, President of the International Court of Justice, presented his report to the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. As he stated, over the period of one judicial year, from 1 August 2014 to 31 July 2015, the Court has held hearings in three out of 14 pending contentious cases. The mentioned cases concern disputes between Costa Rica v. Nicaragua on Certain Activities Carried out by Nicaragua in the Border Area and the Construction of a Road in Costa Rica along the San Juan River (Nicaragua v. Costa Rica), the Obligation to Negotiate Access to the Pacific Ocean (Bolivia v. Chile)[1], and Alleged Violation of Sovereign Rights and Maritime Spaces in the Caribbean Sea (Nicaragua v. Colombia). Currently, the cases are in the process of deliberation.

Abraham ICJIn his speech, H.E. Abraham primarily focused his attention on presenting a report on the Court’s Judgment on the merits in the case concerning Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Croatia v. Serbia). According to Mr. Abraham, the Court has announced the main findings in the dispute between Croatia v. Serbia started on 2 July 1999, and ultimately brought the case to a close on 3 February 2015. In its application, Croatia claimed that the Serb forces and Yugoslav National Army (JNA)[2] committed an act of genocide against the ethnical Croat group between 1991-1995. The Petitioner accused Serbia of breaching Article IX of the Genocide Convention. For its part, Serbia argued the inadmissibility of the case due to the fact that it referred to the events before Croatia and Serbia’s independence on 8 October 1991 and 27 April 1992 accordingly. In addition, Serbia filed a counter-claim alleging Croatia’s perpetration of genocide against Croatian Serbs during the Operation “Storm” in the summer of 1995.

ICJ logo

Logo of the International          Court of Justice 

The Court examined the questions of admissibility of the Parties’ respective claims, the applicability of law in the case (Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide), and consideration of “fully conclusive” evidence provided by both sides, including documents from the ICTY and written statements of witnesses. Based on the solid analysis of the evidence, the Court affirmed that the genocide committed by the Serb and JNA forces took place in the regions of Eastern and Western Slavonia, Banovina/Banija, Kordun, Lika and Dalmatia. However, the Croatian claim was rejected in the absence of direct evidence of physical destruction (actus reus) or “genocidal intent” of the crimes, which the Court considered as the “forced displacement” of Croats from the above-mentioned regions. As for the Serbian Logo argument, similarly, the Court alleged to lack sufficient proof of the Genocide Convention violations by Croatia, and rejected Serbia’s counter-claim in its entirety.

He concluded his speech by briefly reviewing the new cases placed on the List before the ICJ (Somalia v. Kenya, Congo v. Uganda).

In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that the International Court of Justice makes a great contribution to the development of rules and norms of international law. As the principle judicial organ of the United Nations, the Court has been playing a vital role in international conflict resolutions, the peaceful settlement of legal disputes between the States, and, particularly, maintaining peace and security in the world.

APPLICATION OF THE CONVENTION ON THE PREVENTION AND PUNISHMENT OF THE CRIME OF GENOCIDE (CROATIA v. SERBIA):  www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/118/18422.pdf

OBLIGATION TO NEGOTIATE ACCESS TO THE PACIFIC OCEAN (BOLIVIA v. CHILE):
www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/153/18622.pdf

[1] On 24 September 2015, the Court delivered its second Judgment on the merits of the case in order to establish the admissibility of the Court’s jurisdiction to the case brought before it by Bolivia.

[2] Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 1943-1992
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 1992-2003
State Union of Serbia and Montenegro 2003-2006

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