Court ruled for Serbia in genocide case without seeing full war archive





THE HAGUE —- In the spring of 2003, during the trial of Slobodan Milosevic, hundreds of documents arrived at the war crimes tribunal in The Hague marked “Defense. State Secret. Strictly Confidential.”

The cache contained minutes of wartime meetings of Yugoslavia’s political and military leaders, and promised the best inside view of Serbia’s role in the Bosnian war of 1992-1995.

But there was a catch. Serbia, the heir to Yugoslavia, obtained the tribunal’s permission to keep parts of the archives out of the public eye. Citing national security, its lawyers blacked out many sensitive —- those who have seen them say incriminating —- pages. Judges and lawyers at the war crimes tribunal could see the censored material, but it was barred from the tribunal’s public records.

Now, lawyers and others who were involved in Serbia’s bid for secrecy say that, at the time, Belgrade made its true objective clear: to keep the full military archives from the International Court of Justice, where Bosnia was suing Serbia for genocide. And they say Belgrade’s goal was achieved in February, when the international court, which is also in The Hague, declared Serbia not guilty of genocide, and absolved it from paying potentially enormous damages.


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