Bosnia Upholds Serb Chetniks’ Hate Speech Convictions

20. December 2022.15:26
The Bosnian court upheld the five-month prison sentences handed down to three members of a Serb nationalist Chetnik organisation who were convicted of inciting hatred at a rally in the town of Visegrad in 2019.

This post is also available in: Bosnian

Dušan Sladojević i Risto LečićTwo of the defendants, Dusan Sladojevic and Risto Lecic. Photo: BIRN BiH

The third-instance chamber of Bosnian state court on Tuesday confirmed the verdict sentencing Dusan Sladojevic, Slavko Aleksic and Risto Lecic to five months in prison each for inciting national, racial and religious hatred, discord and intolerance in Visegrad in March 2019.

“The court of Bosnia and Herzegovina delivered a verdict in the case of Dusan Sladojevic and others, rejecting the appeals filed by the prosecution of Bosnia and Herzegovina and defence and confirming the second instance decision,” the state court said in a statement.

The court found that they incited hatred at a Ravna Gora Movement rally in Visegrad where songs that threatened violence were sung.

Members of the Ravna Gora Movement – widely known as the Chetniks – rallied in Visegrad on March 10, 2019 wearing black uniforms and singing ethnically provocative songs. The participants then drove in a noisy car convoy to the nearby village of Dobrunska Rijeka, also known as Drazevina.

The indictment claimed that the three men participated in incidents that provoked “distress and fear” among the local population, particularly among non-Serbs who fled the area during the 1990s war and have since returned.

The defendants were initially acquitted in December last year, but the verdict was overturned on appeal and the court found them guilty in June this year after a retrial. The three Chetniks then appealed again.

When reading the second-instance verdict in June, judge Azra Miletic said that, given their age, the three defendants were aware of the grave crimes committed against the Bosniak population in Visegrad during wartime.

“It is true that the right to freedom of expression is guaranteed, but that is not an absolute right,” Miletic said.

The verdict said that Sladojevic, the president of the Ravna Gora Movement, addressed the gathering in Visegrad, where a song called ‘Get Ready, Chetniks’, which includes threats of violence, was played.

It also said that Aleksic convened the Chetniks at the rally, while Lecic sang a song glorifying the Chetnik movement and expressing threats of violence.

This verdict is final and cannot be appealed.

Aida Trepanić

This post is also available in: Bosnian