The Basic Courts in Trebinje and Bijeljina told BIRN that they have turned down requests to ban associations whose names contain the words ‘Chetnik Movement’ or ‘Ravna Gora Movement’.
The plea was “rejected as unfounded”, said Jelica Ijacic, the secretary at Trebinje Basic Court.
The Sarajevo Canton justice ministry sent requests last year to courts in the towns of Banja Luka, Doboj, Bijeljina, Sokolac and Trebinje to ban the Chetnik associations on the grounds that they provoke ethnic, racial or religious hatred and discord and intolerance.
The plea for a ban was submitted following a controversial commemoration in Visegrad in March 2019 of Dragoljub ‘Draza’ Mihailovic, the WWII leader of the Serb nationalist Chetnik movement.
The courts in Doboj and Sokolac have also rejected the request, BIRN was told in January, while the Banja Luka court has not yet made a decision.
After the Mihailovic commemoration, the Bosnian state prosecution opened a case to examine whether the incident had provoked hatred and intolerance. The probe is still ongoing.
This year’s Chetnik event to celebrate Mihailovic, which had been scheduled for Friday this week, has been postponed because the authorities in Bosnia’s Serb-dominated Republika Srpska entity imposed measures to ban public gatherings as part of attempts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The president of the Republika Srpska Ravna Gora Movement, Dusan Sladojevic, insisted that the organisation did not promote hatred or intolerance.
“We have the honourable idea of correcting inaccurate history and seeing how to proceed through the catharsis of truth,” Sladojevic told BIRN.
He also insisted that “uncle Draza’s army was never criminal”.
Chetnik leader Mihailovic was sentenced to death in 1946 for high treason and collaboration with Nazi Germany, but rehabilitated in 2015 by a Belgrade court. During WWII, his forces committed large-scale war crimes, including crimes against Bosniaks in Visegrad.
There was controversy on Orthodox Christmas Eve in January when the Ravna Gora Association in Visegrad organised a convoy of cars that drove noisily through the town, blaring Serbian songs, sparking fear among Bosniaks who fled during the war but have since returned.
The state prosecution opened a case to probe the incident and similar Serb celebrations in Srebrenica and Bratunac the same evening.