Roberta F. / CC BY SA 3.0

U.N.'s Top Court: Croatia And Serbia Didn't Commit Genocide

The International Court of Justice in the Hague said Tuesday both Serbia and Croatia committed atrocities in the early 1990s but not genocide.

By Elizabeth Hagedorn | February 3, 2015

Nearly 20 years after a peace agreement ended modern Europe's bloodiest ethnic war, the U.N.'s highest court has ruled neither Serbia nor Croatia committed genocide against each other's people. (Video via International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)

For most of the 20th century, Serbia and Croatia were part of Yugoslavia. But in the 1990s, a bitter war over Croatia’s independence split them apart, leaving over 20,000 people dead. (Video via BBC

Tuesday’s ruling was years in the making. Back in 1999, Croatia filed a lawsuit against the Serbian government, accusing it of targeting ethnic Croats during the war.

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Serbia, in turn, filed a counterclaim accusing Croatia of genocide during its 1995 "Operation Storm" military campaign. (Video via International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

But genocide is incredibly difficult to prove, based on the U.N.'s definition, which is the "intent to destroy all or part of a national, ethnical, racial or religious group."

And the intent wasn’t there, according to the ICJ’s judges. Both sides did commit atrocities — including widespread killing, rape and torture — but that didn't amount to genocide.

Serbia has been accused of genocide before for its role in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. In just three days, the Bosnian Serb army, supported by Serbia, rounded up and killed over 8,000 men and boys. (Video via Amnesty International

Ultimately, the ICJ in 2007 found Serbia was guilty of failing to preventing genocide but not actually guilty of committing genocide.

This video includes an image from Getty Images and music from Chris Zabriskie / CC BY 4.0.

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