Croatia and Serbia fail with genocide claims

The International Court of Justice in The Hague has cleared Serbia and Croatia of committing genocide. It dismissed the claims the two countries had brought against one another arising from the Balkan wars. The ruling hinders mutual recriminations and paves the way for reconciliation, some commentators applaud. Others fear it will only reopen old wounds.

Open/close all quotes
Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Ruling paves way for reconciliation

The International Court of Justice has made a clever decision, the left-liberal daily Süddeutsche Zeitung believes: "For Serbs and Croats this ruling removes an obstacle to reconciliation. Now neither side can have the other put in the corner with accusations of genocide - the worst of all crimes. Moreover neither party can play down its own war crimes by saying they had to defend themselves against genocide. Although there is grumbling about the ruling in Croatia, both governments can rejoice that this 16-year-old legal dispute in The Hague is now over. But that doesn't mean that the past should be forgotten. Croats and Serbs should confront not just their victims but also their criminals in negotiations, history lessons and before national criminal courts. Only if this happens will true reconciliation be possible."

Pravda (SK) /

The Hague reopens old wounds

The judgement in The Hague will certainly not help the reconciliation process between Croats and Serbs, the left-leaning daily Pravda laments: "The 20th century gave the world a new word: genocide. This crime against humanity is clearly defined by international law as the 'premeditated and systematic destruction in whole or in part of a national, ethnic or racial group'. The problem: it's hard to define just what is meant by 'in part'. ... In Vukovar and Srebrenica, Croats and Serbs committed the most atrocious crimes in Europe since the end of World War II. But according to the court in The Hague it was not genocide. There can be no doubt, however, that it was ethnic cleansing. ... The Salomonic judgement that exonerates both sides most certainly does not help the reconciliation of these two ethnic groups. Instead it reopens old wounds."

Der Standard (AT) /

Serbia and Croatia lack courage for conciliation

The ruling of the International Court of Justice can't conceal the fact that both countries have yet to come to terms with the war, the left-liberal daily Der Standard comments: "In Croatia as in Serbia the courage is lacking to do this. They would rather fire up nationalist sentiment than recognise the facts. This historical failure to achieve reconciliation has consequences for everyday politics. Because we can hardly expect that the political volition will be mustered to finally stop treating commemoration of the victims like a kind of war of compensation. The 2012 acquittal of the Croat ex-general Ante Gotovina already led to a worsening of relations with Serbia. Serb President Tomislav Nikolic is unlikely to encourage a genuinely meant political reappraisal of the crimes of the 1990s. And Croatia too is going on the defensive."

Jutarnji list (HR) /

Peace won't come from The Hague

The dissatisfaction to be heard in Croatia is inappropriate and non-constructive, the liberal daily Jutarnji List criticises: "Law is not justice, everyone's now saying in Croatia. ... However it's not the ruling that's to blame for the sense of justice not having been done, but the unrealistic expectations. ... Neither the court in The Hague nor any other international tribunal can ever bring peace to Croatia and Serbia. It can only come from within, initiated by the political leaders in Belgrade and Zagreb. A smart and responsible policy would be to finally shelve this genocide business, which was doomed to failure from the start, and to focus on concrete issues and on healing the war wounds that are still festering instead."