SARAJEVO/BANJA LUKA, Bosnia (Reuters) - The International Court of Justice has rejected a request from Bosnian Muslims for it to revise a decade-old ruling that cleared Serbia of direct blame for genocide during Bosnia’s 1990s war, officials said on Thursday.
The ICJ registrar revealed the court’s decision in a letter sent to Bosnia’s tripartite Serb, Croat and Bosniak presidency members after they each declared whether or not they backed the request, which was filed last month.
“The court considers...that no decision has been taken by the competent authorities on behalf of Bosnia as a state to request the revision...Therefore no action can be taken with regard to the document,” the registrar said in the letter, seen by Reuters.
Bakir Izetbegovic, the Muslim Bosniak presidency member who had called for the ruling to be revised while his Serb and Croat colleagues did not, said the court’s decision was political.
“The court shut the door on those who are seeking justice,” Izetbegovic told reporters, saying a bid to revise the ruling was justified and expected by the victims and survivors of the 1992-95 ethnic war.
The court’s decision was hailed by the Bosnian Serbs, who had warned the request imperiled the 1995 Dayton peace deal.
“This is for me a totally expected decision, which seriously supports Dayton Bosnia...because it shows that nobody anymore may make decisions (alone) on behalf of Bosnia’s institutions,” Mladen Ivanic, the Serb member of the presidency, told a news conference.
The Dayton accords ended the war by splitting the former Yugoslav republic into two ethnically-based autonomous regions - Serb and Bosniak-Croat - linked via a weak central government.
The ICJ’s 2007 judgment exonerated Serbia of direct responsibility for killings, rapes and “ethnic cleansing” by Bosnian Serb forces it armed during the war, though it said Serbia had failed to prevent genocidal acts.
Its ruling concluded that genocide had occurred only at Srebrenica, where about 8,000 Muslims were slaughtered by nationalist Serb forces, and not in other parts of Bosnia.
Bosniaks had hoped that a revision could shed more light on crimes committed during the war, in which more than 100,000 people were killed. Bosnian Serbs saw the legal move as directed against them and post-war reconciliation.
“We hoped for justice but it’s absent,” said Hatidza Mehmedovic, who lost her husband and two sons at Srebrenica.
Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic welcomed the ICJ’s decision, saying any other ruling would have severely damaged post-war Bosnia and worsened relations with Belgrade.
Additional reporting by Maja Zuvela; editing by Mark Heinrich