News 23 Mar 15

Serbian Chetnik’s Proposed Rehabilitation Sparks Dispute

New rehabilitation hearings for Chetnik leader Dragoljub Mihailovic, convicted of high treason and Nazi collaboration in 1946, have revived bitter disagreements between his supporters and opponents.

Ivana Nikolic
BIRN
Belgrade

 

Graffiti commemorating Dragoljub Mihailovic in Belgrade.

Photo by Beta.

The opening of court hearings to consider the suggested rehabilitation of Mihailovic has stirred up divisions between those who believe he was a Serbian hero and opponents who accuse him of controlling forces that committed atrocities and worked with Nazi Germany during World War II.

His supporters argue that rehabilitation is overdue but his opponents claim this would damage the country’s image in the region.

Vahida Ramujkic, from the movement Ne Reahbilitaciji (No To Rehabilitation), said that rehabilitation would harm Serbia’s relations with its neighbours, Bosnia in particular.

“If Serbia rehabilitates the Chetniks’ leader, what would the Bosniaks say?” Ramujkic asked, accusing Mihailovic’s forces of ethnically cleansing Bosniak villages during World War II.

Ramujkic also argued that rehabilitation would legitimise both neo-fascism and Chetnik ideology.

Mihailovic’s many supporters, on the other hand, believe their former leader will finally be rehabilitated.

“The Nazis issued an arrest warrant for him in 1941, promising as much as 100,000 Reichmarks in gold [as a reward]. Why would they do that if Draza [Mihailovic] was their collaborator?” asked Boban Miljkovic from the Ravna Gora Chetnik Movement.

“After all these years since 1946 [when Mihailovic was convicted] it is time that the General finally has his civil rights and dignity back,” he said.

Mihailovic was the first Yugoslav leader of a popular uprising against the German invasion in 1941 and was quickly promoted to the rank of general and minister of war by the royal government in exile in London.

By late 1942, however, Mihailovic was convinced that Communism posed a greater long-term threat to Yugoslavia than the Axis occupation, and he sought to conserve his forces for a showdown with Josip Broz Tito’s Partisans.

After Tito’s Communists seized power in Yugoslavia, they hunted down Mihailovic and put him on trial in Belgrade in 1946. He was accused of collaborating with the Axis powers and of negotiating a ceasefire between his forces and those of Germany. He was found guilty and executed.

The Chetniks were banned during the Communist era, but gained more popularity in Serbia in the 1990s.

After Serbia adopted its Law on Rehabilitation in 2006, Mihailovic’s grandson Vojislav filed a rehabilitation request.

Hearings began in Belgrade on February 27 this year and will continue on April 3.

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