NOVEMBER 16 2012 20:34h

"ICTY verdict undermines Serbia's genocide suit against Croatia"

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NEW YORK/ZAGREB, Nov 16 (Hina) - A reputable expert in international law at Yale University, Professor Mirjan Damaska, on Friday told Hina that the verdict acquitting Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac was "happy news" which will have "negative implications" on Serbia's countersuit in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Croatia for genocide.

"The acquittal of the generals by the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has filled me with joy not just for the generals, but also because of the historical, political and legal implications that the confirmation of a joint criminal enterprise might have had for Croatia", Professor Damaska said for Hina.

He said he had feared that the court might confirm the ruling in that regard, as this would have referred not just to the generals, but also to the creation of the Croatian state, President Franjo Tudjman and other aspects.

He admitted that he believed that only part of the original verdict would be quashed, especially since the Appeals Chamber had requested the prosecution to take a position on the possibility of alternative modes of liability, which showed that the trial chamber verdict was on 'shaky' ground. He added that the verdict surprised him but that it was happy news.

Even if the original sentence had been confirmed, this still would not have gone in favour of Serbia's suit against Croatia for genocide because it would have made a ruling of ethnic cleansing and you cannot have genocide and ethnic cleansing at the same time, Damaska said. Serbia's suit is mostly based on the trial chamber ruling against Gotovina and Markac which has now been shot down.

Today's verdict was fantastic because now it's almost certain that the Serb countersuit against Croatia will not succeed, said Damaska.

The head of the criminal law department of the Zagreb Faculty of Law, Professor Davor Derencinovic also confirmed that the acquittal at the ICTY could also have a positive impact on Croatia's case against Serbia at the ICJ.