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Croatia Accuses Yugoslavia

July 3, 1999

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) _ Croatia has filed charges against Yugoslavia in the World Court, accusing it of genocide and ethnic cleansing.

Croatia expects the World Court, based in The Hague, Netherlands, to rule that Yugoslavia’s involvement in Croatia’s 1991 war was a breach of the Genocide Convention, the official news agency HINA reported Friday.

Croatia also is seeking $27 billion in damages.

In 1991, Croatia proclaimed independence from Yugoslavia, triggering a rebellion by its minority Serbs. In the ensuing six-month war, thousands were killed, cities were reduced to rubble and hundreds of thousands of people were displaced.

The Serb-led Yugoslav authorities aided the Serbs in Croatia.

By ``directly controlling its secret agents, troops and various paramilitary units in Croatia ... Yugoslavia is responsible for ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Croats in 1991,″ the lawsuit said.

Croatia estimates that 20,000 people died, 55,000 were wounded and 3,000 disappeared.

It remains unclear, however, if the Genocide Convention is applicable, because it deals with atrocities in international conflicts. Croatia did not become an independent state until early 1992.

After independence, an uneasy truce was established, with a third of the country remaining under the rebel Serbs’ control. Three years later, beefed up and restructured with Western assistance, Croatia’s army took control of the areas and more than 200,000 Serbs fled.

Croatia also charged Yugoslavia with ``ordering and encouraging evacuation″ of Serbs from Croatia in 1995, therefore creating the ``second cycle of ethnic cleansing.″

Yugoslavia and many international officials blamed Croatia for the Serb exodus. The international war crimes tribunal in The Hague has been investigating crimes committed against Serbs during Croat blitz offensives.

Bosnia has a similar case against Yugoslavia pending before the World Court, the highest U.N. judicial body.

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