News 17 Sep 12

Court Determines Ex-Chetnik Leader's Death

The Higher Court in Belgrade has determined the circumstances of the death of Dragoljub Draza Mihailovic, the former WW2 Chetnik leader, which is a legal condition for his rehabilitation process to continue.

Marija Ristic
BIRN
Belgrade

According to the lawyer acting on behalf of Mihailovic’s family, Zoran Zivanovic, the court will make its decision regarding Mihailovic’s death official before October 8.

The establishing the circumstances of the ex-Chetnik leader’s death was a legal precondition for the rehabilitation process to continue.

“With this decision the court has established July 17, 1946, as the date of death,” said Zivanovic.

Zivanovic said that the court made a decision on the basis of the transcripts from the 1946 trial and the newspapers articles published at the time as well as using the conclusions of the state commission for finding secret graves after the Second World War.

Mihailovic, who was also known as General Draza, the wartime leader of the royalist Chetnik movement, was sentenced to death in 1946 by a Yugoslav Court for high treason and collaboration with Nazi Germany.

The proceedings to determine the exact circumstances of Mihailovic’s death were initiated by the Society of Political Prisoners and Victims of the Communist Regime and the Serbian Liberal Party, since until now there was no documentary or any other evidence.

Mihailovic’s family has been searching for years for documentary proof of his death, but the only written evidence so far is an article from the Borba newspaper from July 18, 1946, which records that Mihailovic was killed the day before.

The state commission for finding secret graves dating from the Second World War has stated that Mihailovic was killed on July 17, 1946 in Belgrade, close to today’s popular summer resort of Ada Ciganlija.

However, his grave was never found. It is believed that his bones were transferred at a later date to the Great War Island, a small island in the river Danube, close to Belgrade.

Mihailovic’s grandson, Vojsilav Mihailovic, who filed the request for his grandfather’s rehabilitation, which would result in the 1946 verdict being quashed, says that his grandfather was never a Nazi collaborator and that his trial was a product of the communist regime.

The announcement of Mihailovic’s possible rehabilitation has provoked a negative reaction not just in Serbia, but also in Bosnia and Croatia. 

The consensus appears to be that it would not be good for the region if the Serbian state rehabilitates a Second World War criminal.

The rehabilitation hearing will continue on October 8.

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