Divjak in 2006
|Relatives||2 sons, 1 godson|
|Nickname(s)||Čika Jovo (English: Uncle Jovo)|
|Allegiance|| Yugoslavia (1956–92)|
Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992–95)
|Service/||Yugoslav Ground Forces (1956–92)|
Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992–95)
|Years of service||1956–1995|
Jovan Divjak (Serbian Cyrillic: Јован Дивјак; born 11 March 1937) is a former Bosnian army general who served as the Deputy Commander of the Bosnian army's main staff until 1994, during the Bosnian War.
Early life and education
Divjak was born in Belgrade to parents originally from the Bosanska Krajina region of Bosnia. His father was stationed in the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) in Serbia. He and his family currently reside in Sarajevo, where he moved in 1966. From 1956 to 1959, he attended the Military Academy in Belgrade. In 1964 and 1965, he attended the École d'État Major in Paris. Although Divjak is an ethnic Serb born in Serbia, he identifies as a Bosnian.
From 1969 to 1971, he was in the Cadet Academy in Belgrade, and from 1979 to 1981, he served in the War and Defense Planning School there. After several posts in the JNA, he was appointed Territorial Defense Chief in command of the Mostar sector from 1984 to 1989 and the Sarajevo sector from 1989 to 1991.
Between 1991 and 1993 Jovan Divjak was court-martialed by the JNA for issuing 120 pieces of light armor and 20,000 bullets to the Kiseljak Territorial Defence and was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment. He avoided the sentence by leaving the JNA and joining the Territorial Defense of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the first days of war, he was arrested under the charge of collaborating with the Serb forces and was imprisoned for 27 days. In prison, Divjak was on a hunger strike for four days.
Divjak later became the Deputy Commander of the Territorial Defense forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina and a month later he oversaw the defence of Sarajevo from a major JNA attack. Between 1993 and 1997, Divjak served as the Deputy Commander of the Headquarters of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina, charged with co-operating with civilian institutions and organisations (administration, economy, health, and education).
Divjak, as an ethnic Serb, was made a general in order to present a multiethnic character of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He himself commented on the issue by saying that he felt like a "flower arrangement" and said that "of course, someone has to be a flower arrangement too". He expressed that it was shameful if his service to the army were only temporary. Indeed, he and Stjepan Šiber (as a Croat) were the only non-Bosniaks in the Chief of Staff. Both of them were offered retirement in March 1996 by the Bosniak president of Bosnia, Alija Izetbegović. At the beginning of the war, out of 18 percent of Croats and 12 percent of Serbs, only one percent of both remained in the ranks of the Bosnian army. Divjak complained about that to Rasim Delić, then a Chief of Staff, as well as Izetbegović, but it was explained that it was because "Bosniak soldiers didn't trust the Serb commanders." Divjak was later excluded by Delić from the decision making process in the Army. The Bosniaks in the Army allegedly had no confidence in Serb commanders according to Oslobođenje.
Divjak is the executive director of OGBH ("Obrazovanje Gradi BiH": "Education builds Bosnia and Herzegovina"), which he co-founded in 1994. The association's goals are to help children whose families are victims of the war, by providing grants of money, but also to help education in Bosnia, even in the poorest parts of the country, by providing financial and material support.
Divjak has won many international and national awards, including the French Legion of Honour, Order of Lafayette, Sixth of April Award of Sarajevo, the International League of Humanists Plaque, and the Plaque of the Sarajevo Canton.
Since 2004, he has been a member of the Steering Board of the NGO Reference Group, Sarajevo. Since 1998, he has been a member of the Association of Independent Intellectuals "Krug 99", Sarajevo. Before 1998, he was an active member of other associations, including sports associations, and the faculty of physical education in Sarajevo, and he has been a member of various NGOs in Bosnia.
Divjak enjoys popularity among the general public of Sarajevo, and has been dubbed Jovo Divjak, General Jovo and Uncle Jovo. He is the author of two books:
- In French "Sarajevo, mon amour". Entretiens avec Florence La Bruyere; published by Buchet-Chastel in 2004 with a foreword by Bernard-Henri Lévy.
- In Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, "Ratovi u Hrvatskoj i Bosni i Hercegovini 1991-1995", "Dani" and Jesenski and Tura in 1999.
In 2006, he was awarded the title of Universal Peace Ambassador by the Worldwide Council of the Universal Ambassador Peace Circle in Geneva.
On 3 March 2011, Divjak was arrested in Vienna in response to a Serbian arrest warrant accusing him of war crimes relating to an attack on a Yugoslav army column in Sarajevo early in the 1992-95 war. However, Austria did not extradite him to Belgrade. On 8 March 2011, he was bailed from custody in Vienna and on 29 July 2011, he was released after Serbia's extradition request was denied by an Austrian court due to lack of evidence and the inability to guarantee a fair trial in Serbia.
Divjak was married to his wife Vera from 1960 until her death in 2017. The two had two sons, one of whom served in the Bosnian army. He also has a godson who is a Bosniak whose brothers were killed in the Bosnian War.
- "Jovan Divjak: Ja sam Bosonac" [Jovan Divjak: I am a Bosnian]. Sense Tribunal (in Serbo-Croatian). Sense Agency. 2007. Archived from the original on 2012-03-16. Retrieved 16 March 2012.
- Video on YouTube
- Christopher Merrill (1 October 2001). Only the Nails Remain: Scenes from the Balkan Wars. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 357. ISBN 978-0-7425-1686-1.
- Karabeg, Omer (8 March 2010). "What Really Happened During The Dobrovoljacka Attack?". rferl.org. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
- Ex-Yupress & 2 August 1996.
- "Third Annual HIA International Conference" (PDF). humanityinaction.org. Humanity in Action. p. 16.
- "Čika Jovo Divjak: Spomenik ženi Sarajeva je moja životna misija" [Jovo Divjak: Monument to the Women of Sarajevo is My Life Mission]. radiosarajevo.ba. 11 March 2016.
- Kaftan, Eylem (11 June 2013). "Sarajevo My Love". Al-Jazeera World. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
- "Austria won't send Bosnia general to Serbia". Reuters. 7 March 2011. Retrieved 7 March 2011.
- "Bosnian wartime general freed by Austrian court". reuters. 29 July 2011. Archived from the original on 25 September 2011. Retrieved 29 July 2011.
- "Excerpts from an interview with General Jovan Divjak, the top Serb officer in the Bosnian Army: (Un)suitable son of the people". Ex-Yupress. 2 August 1996. Archived from the original on 18 May 2011. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
- Thomas, Nigel (2006). The Yugoslav Wars (2): Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia 1992-2001. Osprey Publishing Ltd. Retrieved 15 April 2013.