news 26 May 17

Serbian Court Rehabilitates Chetnik Wartime Commander

A Serbian court in Valjevo has rehabilitated the former Chetnik commander Nikola Kalabic, who was declared a war criminal by the Yugoslav Communist authorities and died in mysterious circumstances shortly after World War II ended.

BIRN team
Nikola Kalabic. Photo Wikimedia Commons/Vandal B.

The High Court in Valjevo, Serbia, on Friday rehabilitated a former Chetnik commander Nikola Kalabic, annulling the Communist-era verdict from 1946 which declared him a “national enemy”.

The Higher Prosecutor's Office in Valjevo told Beta news agency that it would “certainly appeal" the court ruling.

The request for Kalabic’s rehabilitation was submitted by his granddaughter, Vesna Kalabic, in 2012.

She said that he was not a war criminal and had been a victim of Yugoslavia's changed ideological circumstances.

He had “died because of political, national and primarily for ideological reasons,” Kalabic said.

The so-called Chetniks represented the Serbian royalist interest in World War II, which lost out to the Communist Partisans, led by Josip Tito, who took over Yugoslavia in 1944/5.

Serbian media reported that Kalabic’s granddaughter gave the court testimony from a retired priest, Mijailo Danilovic, from the town of Gornji Milanovac, who claimed that the new communist secret service, OZNA, killed Kalabic on January 19, 1946, in a cave in a canyon along the river Gradac, near Valjevo.

The court’s decision annuls those of the State Commission for the Investigation of Crimes during World War II and the National Commission for the Investigation of the Crimes of Occupiers and Collaborators.

It also annuls the decision of the municipal court in Mionica from September 11, 1946, which confiscated Kalabic’s property.

Three years earlier, on November 26, Kalabic concluded a formal collaboration agreement with the Nazis, together with other Chetnik leaders.

The State Commission for the Investigation of Crimes during World War II provided a letter dating from April 1943, in which Kalabic allegedly discusses killing nine civilians.

On another occasion, Kalabic reported to the Chetnik leader, Draza Mihailovic, that his forces had killed several people, mostly Romani, in the village of Kopljare in central Serbia.

During the five-year court process in Valjevo, the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office opposed his rehabilitation, citing legal provisions under which people who were declared war criminals by the State Commission for the Investigation of Crimes during World War II could not be declared innocent.

Kalabic was the commander of a Chetnik unit called the Mountain Guard Corps.

Some historical sources claim that he was one of the Chetnik leaders who on November 26, 1943, concluded a formal collaboration agreement with the representative of the German Military Commander in south-east Europe, Lieutenant-General Hans Felber.

A court judgment in the town of Mionica in September 1946, declared Kalabic a “national enemy” and his property was confiscated.

As his remains were never found, nor the place where he was buried, he was officially a missing person for 65 years. In 2011, Kalabic was declared dead by the Basic Court in Valjevo.

NOTE: This article was amended on May 29 to include details from the Yugoslav National Commission's investigation on Kalabic's alleged crimes committed during World War II.

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