News 26 Jan 15

Bosnia Soldiers Escape Censure for ‘Chetnik Ceremony’

The Defence Ministry said that no rules were broken when Bosnian Army troops lined up alongside people dressed in Serb nationalist Chetnik uniforms at a religious ceremony in Banja Luka.

Denis Dzidic
BIRN
Sarajevo
The photograph that sparked the probe. Photo: Facebook.

The ministry said on Monday that its investigation into the incident had concluded that no violation had taken place at the ceremony earlier this month because “there was no connection between the Bosnian Army members and the persons in the uniforms in question”.

The probe was launched after a photograph of the Bosnian troops lined up alongside people dressed as Chetniks was published on Facebook with a mocking caption.

The investigation concluded that the photograph was taken in Banja Luka on January 19, at an annual celebration of the Epiphany Orthodox holiday which was organised by the Serb Orthodox Church and the city authorities.

“Members of the Bosnia and Herzegovina armed forces of Orthodox religion who were stationed at the Kozara barracks were allowed to attend this religious ceremony by documents of the Defence Ministry and the armed forces. However, even though their presence was planned, there was no connection with or intention to have common participation between the armed forces members and the persons in the uniforms in question,” the ministry said in a statement.

However Defence Minister Zekerijah Osmic issued guidelines that all units must take care not to damage the army’s reputation.

“This is especially important in cases when members of the armed forces take part in various manifestations and religious ceremonies which are not organised by the armed forces or Defence Ministry, and they should take all precautions to defend the reputation of Bosnian defence institutions,” said the ministry statement.

The Ravna Gora Movement of Chetniks are nationalist Serb fighters who were bitter enemies of Josip Broz Tito’s communist Partisans during WWII. Under communist rule in Yugoslavia, the Chetniks were banned. Serbia is the only country in the region which has recognised the rights of the Chetniks to be treated as regular troops in WWII.

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