The UN court on February 26 acquitted Serbia of responsibility for genocide in Bosnia. But it ruled that the Serbian state was guilty of failing to use its influence with Bosnian Serbs to stop the slaughter of 8,000 men and boys in Srebrenica, and it ordered Serbia to hand over the accused architect of the 1995 massacre, Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic.
The ruling is binding and final, allowing no appeal.
Serbian President Boris Tadic accepted the decision and urged the country's parliament to condemn officially the killings in Srebrenica.
"The extremely serious part of the ruling is that Serbia has been found to have violated international law by failing to prevent the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica," Tadic said. "It's important that the Serbian parliament passes a declaration condemning the crime in Srebrenica as soon as possible."
Opinion In Bosnia Divided
The tripartite presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina is not united in its attitude toward the verdict.
The chairman of the Presidency, Nebojsa Radmanovic, a Serb, said the ruling is disappointing for many in Bosnia but not for Serbs, who did not support the case being taken to The Hague.
"The court ruling would probably disappoint many, particularly those who had caused tensions in expectation of the ICJ's decision," Radmanovic said. "But the ICJ's judgment should be respected, and I'm calling for further efforts to strengthen cooperation within the country and in the region."
But Haris Silajdzic, the Bosniak member of Bosnia's tripartite Presidency, said Bosnians were expecting more from The Hague than it delivered.
"Well we [had] expected [a verdict on the] full responsibility of Serbia and Montenegro, but still Serbia and Montenegro are guilty because they have violated the convention on genocide, prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide," he said.
Zelko Komsic, the Croat member of the Bosnian Presidency, agrees with Silajdic and says the atrocities were undervalued.
Avril McDonald, a legal expert with the Asser Institute based in The Hague. In an interview with RFE/RL, she said it is normal that the verdict cannot please all the parties.
"I can completely understand that for the people of Bosnia this is a disappointment, a tremendous disappointment but it should be taken in context," McDonald said. "I mean failing to prevent this kind of genocide is an extremely serious act under international law. Failing to prevent genocide should not be minimized. It shouldn't be seen as some minor offense."
The case, Bosnia-Herzegovina v. Serbia and Montenegro, was originally filed in 1993. Bosnia sued Serbia for genocide and, if Sarajevo had won, Bosnia could also have sued for huge war reparations.
Bosnia argued that Belgrade incited ethnic hatred and armed Bosnian Serbs. Serbia insisted the conflict was an internal war between Bosnia's ethnic groups.
(RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service contributed to this report.)
Ratko Mladic (left) confers with Radovan Karadzic during a meeting in Pale in 1993 (epa)
READTen years have passed since former Bosnian Serb leader RADOVAN KARADZIC and his former military commander General RATKO MLADIC were indicted by the Hague-based war crimes tribunal for genocide and other war crimes. The two fugitives remain at large, despite the obligation of NATO-led peacekeepers and the various governments in the region to arrest the indictees and send them to The Hague. Many people wonder why the most powerful military alliance in history and a host of governments seeking Euro-Atlantic integration remain unable to catch the two... (more)
LISTENTo listen to wartime audio of Ratko Mladic, click here.
Coffins of Srebrenica victims being prepared for burial in October (AFP)
SREBRENICA: The July 1995 massacre of some 7,000 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian Serb fighters near the UN-designated safe haven of Srebrenica is the worst atrocity of its kind in Europe since the end of World War II. Since the incident, the name Srebrenica has become practically synonomous with ethnic cleansing....(more)