Between abstract event and individualised crime: Genocidal intent in the case of Croatia

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The International Court of Justice's (ICJ) decision in the case of Croatia v. Serbia raises fundamental questions about the nature of genocidal intent. While the Court was careful not to make a clear departure from established case law on the matter, its emphasis on elements such as ‘pattern’ and ‘scale’ – at the expense of the role of individual intent – indicates that the majority on the bench adopted an interpretation which brings the legal concept of genocide closer to an abstract event of mass atrocity than to an act capable of commission even by select individuals. That, however, is an understanding which is not only alien to the traditional interpretation adopted by international criminal tribunals, but also unjustifiable under the established law of state responsibility. This article considers various aspects in the judgment which invite critique in that regard, but also analyses the way in which the ICJ has dealt with the coexistence of intent and certain motives – a crucial aspect of the case which has already been object of some controversy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)923-935
JournalLeiden Journal of International Law
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2015


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