International Court Clears Serbia of Genocide

The International Court of Justice, the United Nations' highest court, has cleared Serbia of direct responsibility for genocide during the Bosnian War.

The panel of 16 judges did, however, rule that Serbia was guilty of violating international law by failing to prevent the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica, where at least 7,000 Bosnian Muslims were killed.

The case, filed by the government of Bosnia in 1993, was the first of its kind in which one country accused another of genocide.

The judges took 10 months to study the case over the 1990's war in which at least 100,000 people, mostly Bosnian Muslims, died. The verdict means that Serbia will not have to pay out millions in compensation to Bosnia.

It took two hours for the court's president, Judge Rosalyn Higgins, to read out the complex final verdict; all the findings are final and there can be no appeal.

Unsurprisingly, response to the verdict fell predominantly along ethnic lines.

Tim Judah, a leading expert on the Balkans, suspects that, along with the Serbs, a lot of foreign diplomats and others who deal with the region will welcome this ruling.

"The ramifications within Bosnian politics would have been huge if it had gone the other way. Bosnian leaders, for example, would have said that the verdict proved that the Serb part of Bosnia, the Republika Srpska, was based on genocide and thus should be abolished."

However, Haris Silajdzic, a Bosnian Muslim leader, told ABC News that despite the verdict he will continue to call for the abolition of the Serb Republic.

He feels that Serbia and Montenegro have escaped responsibility for their complicity in genocide during the Bosnian War.

"Bosnia-Herzegovina must therefore purge itself of the remnants of the genocide that permeates throughout Bosnian society. We will achieve this by altering what has been founded on the genocide's outcome — the interior structure of Bosnia and its constitution," Silajdžic said.

Milorad Dodik, prime minister of the Republic of Srpska, said that individuals must be held responsible for the crimes committed in Srebrenica and not the institutions or the people of Serbia as a whole.

He rejected any responsibility on the part of the Republic of Srpska for any of the massacres, including Srebrenica, and said that they must be labeled as crimes and not genocide.

However, many Muslims responded with anger to the verdict.

"I am shocked by the ruling. I expected more from the ICJ [International Court of Justice]. But the world never cares about the sufferings of the Muslims," Nura Alispahic, who lost a son in Srebrenica killings in 1995, told ABC News.

In Belgrade there was a feeling of relief.

The pro-Western Serbian President Boris Tadic, who himself visited Srebrenica in 2005, welcomed the judgment and urged parliament to pass a declaration "absolutely condemning the crime in Srebrenica."

"Thank God this 14-year-old story is over. We can finally close that chapter and move on, preferably to the EU [European Union]," said Dragana Zivanovic, a Belgrade resident out with her daughter. "I want my daughter to have a normal life without any stains from the past."