27 May 2019

Serb Chetnik gathering in Bosnia's Visegrad raises alarm

KONFRONTASI-A gathering of supporters of the far-right Chetnik paramilitary movement in Bosnia's eastern city of Visegrad, the site of past atrocities by the force, has raised alarm among residents, as well as local and international officials.

Some 200 followers of the ultra-nationalist movement on Sunday assembled in the city to commemorate the arrest of founder Draza Mihailovic by Yugoslavia's forces in 1944.

Mihailovic was a Yugoslav Serb general who formed Chetnik detachments during World War II, many of which collaborated with Nazi forces.

After the war, he was convicted of high treason and war crimes and executed in 1946 in Belgrade. In 2015, however, he was rehabilitated by a Belgrade court, which ruled that the former trial was politically and ideologically motivated.

The Visegrad gathering, which saw uniform-wearing participants singing songs that included lines such as, "There will be hell, the Drina will be bloody, here come the Chetniks from the Serb mountains" provoked wariness and fear among Bosniak residents who survived some of the worst atrocities committed by Chetniks.

During the war in Bosnia in the early 1990s, Chetnik forces killed around 3,000 Bosniak civilians in Visegrad as they claimed the area for a Greater Serbia. The line about Drina river refers to the massacres committed against Bosniaks in World War II as well as during the early 1990s, after which their bodies were thrown into the river.

"It's horrible," Bakira Hasecic, a rape survivor from Visegrad and head of the Woman - Victim of War association told local media. "[The group of Chetniks] cross the border [from Serbia] wearing the same or similar uniforms they wore when they committed atrocities against us."

Dragan Mektic, Bosnia's minister of security, condemned the gathering and called for the passing of laws "that will precisely prescribe how and under which conditions different associations can be registered [as NGOs]".

Dunja Mijatovic, the commissioner for human rights for the Council of Europe, was among international officials who denounced the event in Visegrad, and urged Bosnia's authorities to take action.

But Dusan Sladojevic, one of the organisers of the gathering, rejected the criticism as a consequence of "unfortunate Communist brainwashing".

Speaking to told local media, he said participants were seeking to commemorate the "commander of the Yugoslavian army, a man who dedicated his life to freeing the Serbian people, as well as the development of democracy and defending the homeland from fascist aggressors".

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