Bosnia: Serbia claims Bosnia genocide

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THE HAGUE - Serbia has asked the International Court of Justice to order the Bosnian government to prevent genocide against ethnic Serbs in Bosnia, the United Nations court said yesterday.

Serbia said it would present evidence to prove the Bosnian authorities were responsible for acts of genocide. 'The government of the so- called Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina should immediately . . . take all measures within its power to prevent commission of the crime of genocide against the Serb ethnic group,' Serbia said in its application to the court.

Belgrade's request for an urgent ruling is almost identical to charges of genocide that Bosnia levelled at Serbia during hearings before the court in April. Bosnia accused Serbia at those hearings of committing the worst atrocities against civilians since the Second World War. The court subsequently ordered Serbia to take all measures in its power to prevent acts of genocide by Serbs in neighbouring Bosnia.

Bosnia has since returned to the court, this time accusing Serbia of plotting to partition and annex the Bosnian republic by means of genocide and seeking a court order to prevent this. Hearings on that request are due to open on 25 August, and legal sources said it was likely that Serbia's application would also be dealt with at those hearings.

The International Court of Justice, informally known as the World Court, was set up under the UN charter to settle disputes between states in accordance with international law.

Emergency proceedings, such as those invoked by Serbia and Bosnia, usually lead to a ruling within a matter of weeks although a final verdict on all aspects of a case can take several years.