News 21 Mar 12

NGOs Against Chetniks' Hero Rehabilitation

Serbian NGOs are protesting against the possible rehabilitation of Draza Mihailovic, a former Chetnik general, on the grounds that he is a convicted war criminal.

Marija Ristic

”His attempted rehabilitation demeans the struggle of both the Serbians and all the other peoples of the former Yugoslavia against fascism. In recent years, the authorities have tried to rewrite history and marginalize the partisan movement in the Second World War,“ says the statement, signed by 14 Serbian civil organizations.

According to the NGOs, a series of recent laws enacted by the Serbian Parliament, including the Law on the Equalisation of Chetniks and Partisans and the Law on Rehabilitation, have so far only resulted in the rehabilitation of people who collaborated with Nazi Germany, such as Prince Paul.

The Yugoslav partisans formed Tito’s communist army, while the Chetniks consisted of monarchists, led by the Serbian general Draza Mihailovic.

The civil rights groups stated that Mihailovic was responsible for war crimes against both Muslims and Serbs, and that he had undoubtedly fought on the side of Nazi Germany during the crucial WW2 battles of Neretva and Sutjeska.

The announcement of Mihailovic’s possible rehabilitation has also provoked a negative reaction from the Croatian public.

Ivo Josipovic, the President of Croatia, stated that the rehabilitation of the former Chetnik leader would not be a good move, because he was a war criminal from the Second World War.

However, Professor Slobodan Markovic, a Belgrade historian, claims that Mihailovic’s Chetniks were the legal successor to the King’s Army of Yugoslavia and that they were the acknowledged allies of both Britain and the USSR in 1941.  More controversially, he says that they never collaborated with the Nazi forces.

Mihailovic, who was also known as General Draza, was sentenced to death in 1946 by a Yugoslav Court for high treason.  It is not known where he was shot and buried.

The Chetnik movement was banned during the Communist era, but after the 90s it gained popularity with the wider public in Serbia.

Every year on May 8, Chetnik supporters celebrate the memory of their leader Mihailovic by gathering on Ravna Gora, a mountain in central Serbia.

It has been announced that the Belgrade Court will rehabilitate Mihailovic on Friday.

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