BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serb nationalists burned a Croatian flag Saturday to protest a decision by a U.N. war crimes court overturning guilty verdicts against two Croatian generals, and the prime minister called the decision a blow to reconciliation in the postwar Balkans.
Many in Serbia are furious that appeals judges at the Netherlands-based tribunal on Friday freed Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, who had been previously sentenced to lengthy prison terms for killing and expelling Serbs from Croatia during an offensive in 1995.
"This will have serious consequences at reconciliation in the region," Serbia's premier Ivica Dacic said. "How can someone demand that we condemn all crimes if others are allowed not to condemn the crimes against Serbs?"
Croatians, meanwhile, consider the decision proof that they were the victims in the Balkan conflict. The fighting in Croatia was part of the wars that erupted across the Balkans with the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. The most deadly was in Bosnia, where Serbs battled Muslims and Croats in a four-year struggle that claimed some 100,000 lives.
Hundreds of supporters of the extremist Serbian Radical Party rallied in front of the presidency building in the center of Belgrade demanding that the government abandon plans to join the 27-nation European Union and cut ties with the court in The Hague, Netherlands.
The crowd carried banners reading "Stop The Hague" and chanted nationalist slogans in support of the party leader, Vojislav Seselj, whose own trial is ongoing at the tribunal for the role in the atrocities against non-Serbs.
"Serbia has done nothing to help its own heroes who are jailed in The Hague," said Radical Party official Nemanja Sarovic.