According to media reports The Supreme court of Serbia will, tomorrow Friday 23 March, rehabilitate Serbian war criminal Dragoljub Draza Mihailovic, leader of Serbian Chetnik forces in World War II. This move will cancel the 1946 conviction and consequent death sentence after which he was executed by the Yugoslav Communist authorities. The application for rehabilitation was lodged by the war criminal’s grandson Vojislav Mihailovic, Serbian Liberal Party and some organisations and individuals. Their arguments rest on their theories that the court was biased, that Mihailovic was not given the right to defend himself and that he was served with criminal charges only a week before the start of his trial.
Croatia’s government has not reacted to this apparently imminent rehabilitation – odd, bizarre, shameful, unacceptable, disappointing!
However, upon being questioned about it on Croatian radio last Monday president Ivo Josipovic said:
“Draza Mihailovic is a war criminal from WWII. We know what evils Chetniks perpetrated. I cannot remember any battle in which they seriously fought against occupation forces (Nazi Germany), but I can remember the battles in which they fought together with the Ustashi against the Partisans. I can also remember that they retreated with other defeated forces towards Austria.”
Again, the Croatian government and the president are walking on eggshells when it comes to commenting on events in Serbia. One would have expected a great deal more in the line of condemnation and protest from them against the attempts to rehabilitate the Chetnik leader – Chetnik murderous movement that had set in its goal an ethnically clean Greater Serbia for King and Country!
Croatian government and president, former Communists, have always been only too ready and too loud in protecting, often unreasonably, the image of their Yugoslav Communists when it comes to, for instance, pursuits against WWII Communist crimes. God forbid if anyone in Croatia even thought of rehabilitating a former Ustashi!
Croatian Podravka organization for Homeland War Veterans, Invalids and Widows have expressed bitterness and are stupefied by the fact that war criminal, general Draza Mihailovic is to be rehabilitated.
“If that happens this will be nothing else but the return of Serbia into the early 1990’s days which brought the aggression against Croatia. Serbs are constantly complaining and protest only when at some concert a youth wearing a T-shirt with letter ‘U’ printed on it, criticize the Croatian government and others for not resisting harder ‘ustashi’ marks, although there is no Ustashi movement in Croatia. Among everything else the most concerning is the fact that Belgrade newspapers feature some known Serbian historians who stress out that Mihailovic’s rehabilitation has an enormous meaning for Serbian people and that it shows that Serbia has chosen the right path”, said Mladen Pavkovic, the president of the organization.
“We seek from the Croatian government, especially from the Ministry of War Veterans, to firmly and with all democratic means resist this mad deed, and we hope that the leaders of the Serbian Democratic Party (in Croatia), Milorad Pupovac and Vojislav Stanimirovic, and they should have been the first, will raise their voice against the return of Chetnik movement in Serbia. Pupovac is the one who first raises his voice if anyone paints graffiti on a Serb monument in Croatia, and he and his followers are keeping quiet as if this has nothing to do with them. In this way they silently support the rehabilitation of the war criminal Mihailovic and are causing enormous damage not only to Croatians but also to the Serbians who have accepted Croatia as their own country,” Pavkovic continued.
According to demographic estimates made by Vladimir Zerjavic, economist and United Nations expert, the Chetniks had murdered about 20,000 Croatians in former Yugoslavia. Most of these murders occurred in areas occupied by Italian Fascists. Italian Fascists were the best allies to Serbian Chetniks and indeed, the history records that Chetniks fled from Yugoslavia after WWII in masses, fearing revenge killings from victorious Communists.
Very briefly down memory lane:
The Windsor Daily Star, 6 April 1946, p.5: Speaking in the British Parliament on February 22, 1944, the then Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, said: “General Mihailovic, I much regret to say, drifted gradually into position where his commanders made accommodations with Italian and German troops…”
In September 1941 Mihailovic sent his Program of the Chetnik Movement to London, to the exiled government of Kingodm of Yugoslavia. The goal was to create an ethnically clean Serbian state. Of course, Draza Mihailovic and Chetniks in Serbia were Royalist forces, Mihailovic was the Army Minister of King Peter Karadjodjevic’s government in exile.
I cannot shake off the firm belief that it’s no accident but a political treachery that this rehabilitation of Chetnik war crimes comes at the time when Serbian Prince Karadjordjevic has well settled back in Serbia, having returned from decades in exile. Indeed, it’s blatantly clear that the WWII Chetnik movement program, accepted by the Serbian royal government in exile, in London, in 1941, that had set itself the ideal of creating an ethnically clean Serbia (just like the Nazis did for Germany) is not dead and buried but very much alive and kicking on “all fours”, claiming a theory as fact that the history was unfair – i.e. that 1946 court in Belgrade did not give the war criminal enough time to prepare his defence.
So, if this trick works for the Serbs then the flood gates to revisit judicial history must be opened for everyone in the world. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)