Three men, Dusan Sladojevic, Slavko Aleksic and Risto Lecic, stood trial on Friday.
Members of the Ravna Gora Movement, a Serb nationalist Chetnik organisation, rallied in Visegrad on 10 March 2019. They wore black uniforms, and sang “ethnically provocative songs.” The group then drove to the nearby village of Dobrunska Rijeka, also known as Drazevina.
According to the indictment, the three defendants took part in incidents that raised “distress and fear” among the local population. Their alleged actions particularly affected non-Serbs, who escaped mass bloodshed during the ethnic hatred of the 1990s war and have returned since.
Even so, the court cleared Sladojevic, president of Ravna Gora Movement of Republika Srpska, of purportedly addressing participants while they held a line-up in Visegrad, and of giving a military salute to Aleksic while a provocative song was being played.
Similarly, Aleksic was acquitted of addressing participants in Dobrunska Rijeka using terminology that “provoked fear” among the local population.
For his part, Lecic was acquitted of playing and singing an ode to the Chetnik movement, including lyrics that threatened “hell and blood.”
In explaining the verdict, Prosecutor of the Special Department for War Crimes Stanko Blagić said that he did not dispute that the gathering caused distress, and brought back bad memories for those witnesses who testified at trial.
Instead, Blagić said the defendants’ guilt could not be proven on the basis of witnesses who learned details of the incidents after the fact, via media sources.
Authorities were reportedly notified about the Chetnik event in advance, and the court found that it was properly supervised by the police. The controversial song in question was found to have only been sung by a small group of people at the beginning of the rally.
“There is no evidence that the defendants addressed a larger group, but members of the [Chetnik] movement only,” judge Blagic said.
Furthermore, there was no evidence that the defendants publicly promoted the event, nor did they invite people to attend via social networks. The court also found that the prosecution did not offer sufficient evidence to show the defendants acted with premeditation to stir up hatred and intolerance.
The Chetnik rally is held in Dobrunska Rijeka every year to commemorate the day on which Dragoljub ‘Draza’ Mihailovic, the leader of the violent Chetnik movement, was detained by Yugoslav Communist authorities in 1946.
The verdict may yet be appealed.