The United Nations' highest court on Tuesday ruled that neither Croatia nor Serbia committed genocide against each other's populations during the Balkan wars that followed the collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
Peter Tomka, president of the International Court of Justice, said many crimes had been committed by both countries' forces during the conflict, but that the intent to commit genocide — by "destroying a population in whole or in part" — had not been proven against either country.
"What's really at stake is both states trying to justify their wars," said Eric Gordy, a professor at London's School of Slavonic and East European Studies."The strongest arguments they have to say they are justifying their wars is that they were defending their citizens against genocide," he added.
The U.N. tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which is also in The Hague, has long since ruled that genocide was committed in Bosnia, where more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed when the U.N. 'safe haven' of Srebrenica fell to Bosnian Serb forces in 1995. Despite widespread atrocities against all sides, no court has ruled that ethnic Croats or Serbs were victims of genocide. Recent acquittals of suspects at the Yugoslav tribunal stoked anger in the two countries.