Following Bosnia-Herzegovina’s vow to appeal a 2007 International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] ruling clearing Serbia of genocide during Bosnia’s civil war, many fear political crisis [The Guardian report] may be brewing in the Balkans. Serbia’s foreign minister, Ivica Dačić, said the move was “very dangerous” and could destabilize regional and bilateral ties between Serbia and Bosnia, two countries which are already ethnically divided. Several Bosnian Serb officials have expressed their dissatisfaction with the potential appeal, calling upon citizens to “challenge the legitimacy of the appeal.” On Tuesday, the Bosnian presidency’s Serb chairman stated the potential appeal would violate the country’s constitution and “threaten peace and stability in Bosnia,” creating a further ethnic divide in the Balkans. The appeal, announced by Bakir Izetbegović, the Bosniak member of the country’s tripartite presidency, is set to occur next week, only a few days before the 10-year appeal limit expires. The original case before the ICJ alleged Serbia was responsible for the genocide of 8,000 Muslim males by Bosnian Serbs in Srebrenica. That court found that there was not enough evidence that Serbia had spearheaded the genocide, though they did acknowledge that Serbia had politically and militarily backed the Bosnian Serbs. Bosnia’s legal team now has “new arguments” [JURIST Student Commentary] that could potentially prove more widespread genocide than was previously thought. Bosnian Serb officials contend that Izetbegović cannot appeal the decision without a consensus within the tripartite presidency, though Izetbegović claimed it could and would be done.
The appeal would follow a trend of continued legal action against those accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity that left more than 100,000 people dead and millions displaced during the Balkan conflict of the 1990s. In October a Croatian prosecutor charged eight ex-Yugoslav military officers [JURIST report], including commander Borislav Djukic, with war crimes perpetrated during the Croatian War of Independence. In July Brazilian authorities arrested a man charged with committing war crimes in 1992 [JURIST report] against the civilian population of former Yugoslavia. The search for wanted criminal Nikola Ceranic began in late June after Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities forwarded an extradition request to the Brazilian Justice Ministry and Supreme Court. In April a French court ruled to extradite Radomir Susnjar [JURIST report], who is suspected of war crimes committed during Balkan conflict of the 1990s, to Sarajevo where he will face charges concerning his involvement.