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UN Court Clears Serbian Government of Direct Responsibility for Srebrenica Massacre

26 February 2007

The International Court of Justice in The Hague has cleared the Serbian government of direct responsibility for acts of genocide during the three-year war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, but ruled that it failed to prevent it. The ruling is a setback for Bosnia-Herzegovina, which sought billions of dollars in reparations. As Stefan Bos reports from Budapest, analysts say the ruling could create new tensions in the region.

Reading from a lengthy judgment statement, the president of the International Court of Justice, Judge Rosalyn Higgins, acknowledged that Bosnian Serb forces were responsible for what became known as Europe 's worst single atrocity since World War Two.

Up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys were massacred in and around Srebrenica in July 1995 when Bosnian Serb forces overran the Bosnian town.

Yet, while she described these killings as genocide, Judge Higgins said there was no evidence that Serbia was directly involved in it.

"It has not been established that those massacres were committed on the instructions or under the direction of organs of the respondent's state, nor that the respondent exercised effective control over the operations," she said.

But Judge Higgins argued that the Serbian government could have done more to prevent genocide. The court ruling said that Serbia "violated its obligation under the Genocide Convention to prevent genocide in Srebrenica" by not using its influence in the region.

The court also found that Serbia violated the Convention by failing to co-operate with the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Monday's court decision was not expected to ease tensions in the region.

Political analyst Jakob Finci told EuroNews Television that he believes the case itself is going to cause more divisions and problems within Bosnia-Herzegovina.

He said, "I'm afraid it will not have a really positive consequence, not only because of dissatisfaction of one side, but also because of the internal tensions in Bosnia and Herzegovina."

The ruling came as a setback for Bosnia-Herzegovina, which will not be able to ask for billions of dollars in compensation from Serbia, money it desperately needs to rebuild its fractured nation.

The ruling of the panel of judges is binding.

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