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Independet Auditor's report for 2009... >>
Based on the research conducted HLC-Kosovo considers the security situation in North Mitrovica/Mitrovicë volatile.... >>
In the period following the toppling of Slobodan Milošević, the transitional government supported domestic war crimes trials, but it soon became clear that serious impediments existed. Police was not willing to share its data on war crimes perpetrators with prosecutors, primarily because most of them belonged to the police.... >>
Every government assumes political responsibility for the deeds and misdeeds of its
predecessor, and every nation for the deeds and misdeeds of the past.
Hannah Arendt, ''Eichmann in Jerusalem''
About Us
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The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) was founded in 1992 by Nataša Kandić as a human rights non-governmental organisation in order to document the egregious human rights violations that were then being perpetrated on a massive scale across the former Yugoslavia, in armed conflicts in Croatia, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and later in Kosovo. In these conflicts, at least 130,000 people lost their lives, millions were forced to flee their homes, thousands were forcibly disappeared, even today, as many as 17,000 are still listed missing by the ICRC.

In the post-conflict period, HLC has dedicated itself to campaigning for the rights of victims of war crimes, and society, to know the truth about what happened to them and their loved ones; to see justice done; to reparation both material and symbolic; and the right to non-repetition; that is, the separation of known perpetrators from state institutions, and positions of authority.

To help victims claim their rights, HLC raises the awareness of state institutions in Serbia to fulfil their affirmative obligations: to investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators of war crimes and human rights abuses; to disclose to the victims, their families, and to society, all that can be reliably known about those events; to offer victims adequate reparation, and to reform law enforcement bodies, state security, and the military.

Given the indubitable cross-border character of the armed conflicts in the 1990s in the former Yugoslavia, HLC’s tireless efforts to realise the rights of victims has a strong regional dimension, which is reflected in its mission: to assist post-conflict societies in the former Yugoslavia re-establish the rule of law and come to terms with the legacy of large-scale past human rights abuses, in order to prevent their recurrence, to ensure accountability, and to serve justice.

More than 40 dedicated professionals – lawyers, political scientists and historians – work for HLC in its offices located in Belgrade, Serbia, and Pristina, Kosovo. From these offices HLC implements a victim-oriented Transitional Justice programme which comprises the following units: a) Documentation and Memory, b) Justice and Institutional Reform, and c) Public Information and Outreach.

Recent Achievements

2009: On 2 March 2009, HLC filed a criminal complaint against 17 former members of the 37th Special Police Units (PJP) of the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Serbia (MUP Serbia) on the basis of information and evidence acquired by HLC that members of the unit participated in numerous massive war crimes in Kosovo. Within days, police officers Nenad Stojković, (MUP Serbia Lieutenant-Colonel), Zoran Marković, Dragan Milenković, and Zoran Nikolić of the 37th Battalion of Special Police Units (SPJ/PJP) of the Ministry of the Interior (MUP) of the Republic of Serbia had been arrested.

2008: On 28 and 29 October 2008 in Pristina, Kosovo, at the Fourth Regional Forum of the regional consultation on mechanisms of truth-seeking and truth-telling, more than 100 organizations and individuals, including victims and victim associations from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia, as well as associations of citizens, human rights NGOs, media associations, and other civil society groups from across the region formed a Regional Coalition to advocate the official establishment of a Regional Commission to investigate and disclose the facts about war crimes and grave breaches of human rights in the former Yugoslavia.

2008: On 8 May 2008, HLC filed the first criminal charges against Božidar Delić, a retired Major General of the Yugoslav Army, current deputy speaker of the Serbian National Assembly and senior official of the Serbian Radical Party, as well as another ten members of the Yugoslav Army for the crime in the village of Trnje/Termje, the municipality of Suva Reka/Suharekë, on 25 March 1999. On that day, the members of the 549th motorised brigade, under Božidar Delić’s command, killed 42 Albanian civilians, including children, women and elderly people. HLC will follow-up on the actions of the war crimes prosecutor in relation to this criminal report.

2008: In April 2008, the Belgrade War Crime Chamber began the trial of 14 indictees for their alleged role in the killing of 70 Croatian civilians in 1991 in Lovas, Croatia. The Lovas Case is the first trial in which Yugoslav National Army officers have been indicted. The trial is the successful realization of an HLC campaign, begun in 2005, when the Center submitted evidence it had gathered on war crimes in Lovas to the War Crimes Prosecutor, requesting that the prosecutor open an investigation.

2007: HLC successfully campaigns for the opening of an investigation into the murder of 700 Bosniaks in Zvornik in 1992 – a crime which is absent from the indictment in the Zvornik case currently before the Belgrade War Crimes Chamber. An investigation started in April 2007.

2007: HLC publishes the entirety of the transcript of the trial of Slobodan Milosevic in B/C/S languages and shares it with Prosecutors Offices, Courts, Judges, and Attorneys at Law in the Western Balkans – thereby assisting in facilitating war crimes trials in the region.

2006: HLC and regional partners launch a regional civil society consultation on mechanisms of truth-seeing and truth-telling about war crimes. The overall goal is to foster support among a regional civil society coalition that will sensitize the public and national governments in the Western Balkans to establish an official Regional Commission for establishing and disclosing the facts about war crimes and grave breaches of human rights committed in the former Yugoslavia.

2006: HLC succeeds in having the Head of the Police War Crimes Investigation Unit, one of its investigators, and another member of the Unit removed from office due to their compromised status; all three occupied positions with the Ministry of Interior during the time of the armed conflict in Kosovo when they knew or should have known about the crimes that were being committed and failed to prevent or report them.

2005: HLC releases a video tape which shows members of “Scorpions”, a unit of the Serbian Interior Ministry, killing six Muslims from Srebrenica in cold blood, thus shocking the Serbian public and revealing Serbia’s involvement in the war crimes committed in Srebrenica.

2004: HLC launches its Victim-Witness Support Programme, encouraging distrusting and hesitant witnesses to come forward and testify in war crimes proceedings before Serbian courts.

Regional cooperation

The Humanitarian Law Center is a proponent of the regional approach to transitional justice processes in the Western Balkans. Given the cross-border character of the armed conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, any truth-seeking and truth-telling initiative only makes sense on a regional level. Documenting war crimes in any of the affected countries inevitably requires obtaining information and documents from one or more of the other countries, and perpetrators, victims and witnesses are often on different sides of present-day borders. Thus, establishing the facts about war crimes and challenging exclusive narratives about the past is conditioned by regional efforts involving each of the post-conflict societies.

The Humanitarian Law Center and its regional partners began a process of civil society consultation on mechanisms of truth-seeking and truth-telling. At the First Regional Forum on transitional justice held in Sarajevo in May 2006, the Humanitarian Law Center and its partners launched an initiative for the establishment of a Regional Commission mandated to establish and disclose the facts about war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia (hereinafter RECOM). Between May 2006 and October 2008, numerous regional consultations across the Western Balkans with youth, artists, media, human rights NGOs, victims, associations of victims and associations of veterans, as well as two more Regional Forums in Zagreb and Belgrade were held. At the Fourth Regional Forum, held on 28 and 29 October 2008 in Pristina, Kosovo, more than 100 organizations and individuals, including victims and victim associations from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia, as well as associations of citizens, human rights NGOs, media associations, and other civil society groups from across the region formed a Regional Coalition for RECOM.

The initiative for RECOM, which began as an initiative of a handful of human rights NGOs, is now driven forward by this Regional Coalition under the direction of its Coordination Council. The role of the Regional Coalition is to organize consultations within civil society about the mandate and character of RECOM; create a compelling and credible RECOM model, collect one million signatures in support of the establishment of RECOM, and submit the request for the establishment of RECOM to the national governments in the region.

The Founder

Ms. Natasa Kandic, the founder and executive director of HLC, is a recipient of over 20 international, regional and national human rights awards. In 2000 she was a recipient of the Martin Ennals Award, a prestigious recognition for human rights defenders. Natasa Kandic was also listed by Time magazine as one of 36 European heroes in 2003. In 2004 the People in Need Foundation awarded Kandic and HLC their Homo Homini Award, presented by Vaclav Havel. In 2005 she was proclaimed an honorary citizen of Sarajevo, and Slobodna Bosna magazine named her Person of the Year in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In September 2006, Natasa Kandic became a member of the Order of the Croatian Morning Star of Katarina Zrinska, awarded by the President of Croatia to individuals who have made a significant contribution to the advancement of moral values. In November 2006, Time magazine celebrated Natasa Kandic as one of its heroes of the past 60 years. In March 2007, Natasa Kandic became a member of the International Advisory Board of The international Journal of Transitional Justice (Oxford University Journals), and in August 2008, she was invited to join the Advisory Council of the University of Michigan’s Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies.