Ms Natasa Kandic, Humanitarian Law Center’s Executive Director, has been invited to speak at the inaugural session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on June 22 in Geneva, Switzerland. Ms Kandic has been selected by representatives of 60 non-governmental organisations based in Geneva, in co-operation with a number of regional non-governmental organisations, who also endorsed the invitation. Ms Kandic will be one of only five NGO speakers worldwide to address the historical first session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
The United Nations Human Rights Council was founded after a recent adoption of the United Nations’ General Assembly resolution to establish the new UN’s principal human rights body, as a result of a reform of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR). Many different opinions were taken into consideration in order to achieve this landmark agreement. Now, all those dedicated to the realisation of human rights throughout the world should join in the common cause to hold every government, big and small, to the highest standards of human rights practices.
The People in Need Foundation (PINF), a nonprofit, non-governmental organization whose mission statement is “to inspire a largeness of spirit in Czech society by helping others in need, and to promote democratic freedoms for all”, awarded its 2004 Homo Homini Award to Natasa Kandic, Executive Director of the Humanitarian Law Center on 14 April 2004 at the openning of a festival for documentary films on human rights. The People in Need Foundation introduced its “Homo Homini” award in 1995, which the foundation presents yearly to an individual who has made a significant personal contribution to the protection of human rights and the promotion of democracy through non-violent means and has displayed exceptional courage in defense of these values.
The Board of Directors of People in Need decided to present the Homo Homini award to Ms. Kandic and her organization, the Humanitarian Law Center, for her ongoing defence of human rights and her personal courage in bringing to light crimes against humanity committed in the former Yugoslavia. “By this decision,” they stated, “People in Need awards a constant resistence to nationalism, a determination to properly investigate war-crimes and to seek the conviction of those responsible.”
PINF conducts national relief campaingns on Czech Televtion, and complements and supports its relief work with vigorous advocacy for human rights and democratic freedoms, in close partnership with cultural and civic organizations. As part of this effort, in 1999 PINF established the annual ‘One World’ international human rights film festival, the first in Central Europe.
At the openning of the film festival, Ms. Kandic received her award from the main sponsor of the festival, former Czech president Vaclav Havel. Upon recieving her award, Ms. Kandic reiterated the main point of the film “Kidnapping”, directed by Ivan Markov (produced by B92) which openned the festival, namely that normal people are afraid to speak out about crimes that they have witnessed, and stated that “. . .it is so important to speak the truth. Everyone who has empathy with other people must tell the truth.”
A prominent advocate for human rights and democratic reform in Serbia, Natasha Kandic, will receive the annual Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative Award from the American Bar Association during the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco.
Kandic is founder and executive director of the Humanitarian Law Center for Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo (HLC), a nongovernmental organization aimed at promoting human rights for minorities as a fundamental prerequisite for democratization in Serbia and Montenegro.
HLC, a vocal reporter of human rights abuses under Slobodan Milosevic’s regime, came into being in 1992 when it presented a report on police repression against Muslims in the Sandzak region to the Serbian parliament and demanded the establishment of a commission to investigate the unlawful conduct of the Serbian police.
HLC also won a crucial legal victory against the Republic of Serbia on behalf of Serb refugees arrested by Serbian police and incorporated into the Bosnian Serb and Croatian Serb armies. In response to an HLC petition, the first municipal court in Belgrade ruled that Serbia was violating the refugees’ basic rights.
HLC has also been a vocal supporter of the establishment of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and has emerged as a leading authority on the development of political and human rights in Kosovo.
Kandic had a long history of reporting human rights violations before founding and directing HLC. She orchestrated countless actions against the human rights violations of Milosevic’s regime. From late 1991 to early 1993, for example, she organized the Candles for Peace campaign, a nightly vigil outside the Serbian presidency building at which the names of those killed during the war were read aloud and candles were lit in their memory.
During that time, Kandic also initiated the Anti-conscription Petition, which fought against the conscription of Serbian citizens for war in Croatia and called for a referendum on the issue. Some 78,000 people signed the petition.
She also wrote pro-peace columns in Belgrade’s first independent daily, Borba, and in May 1992 organized the Black Ribbon March, the most massive protest in Serbia against the suffering of civilians in Sarajevo. Some 150,000 people took part in the march.
Kandic has received numerous other honors, including the Human Rights Watch Award, the EU-U.S. Democracy and Civil Society Award, the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights Award and the National Endowment for Democracy Award.
The CEELI Award recognizes leaders and their countries for their willingness to take bold steps toward the introduction of democratic and economic reforms. Past CEELI Award recipients have included presidents Guntis Ulmanis of Latvia, Petar Stoyanov of Bulgaria, Emil Constantinescu of Romania, Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic and Stjepan Mesić of Croatia.
Kandic’s award will be presented at the CEELI luncheon on August 9 at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco. The award luncheon also honors the legal professionals who have supported CEELI in providing pro bono legal assistance to 23 countries during the past 11 years.
CEELI is a public service project of the American Bar Association that advances the rule of law by supporting the legal reform process in Central and Eastern Europe countries and the New Independent States of the former Soviet Union. Through its
programs, CEELI makes American and European legal expertise and technical assistance available to emerging democracies as they modify and restructure their laws and legal systems.
CEELI has offices in 23 countries across Central Europe and Eurasia. Since being founded in 1991, more than 5,000 judges, lawyers, law professors and legal specialists have contributed pro bono assistance to CEELI programs promoting the rule of law in the region.
The American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership association in the world. With more than 410,000 members, the ABA provides law school accreditation, continuing legal education, information about the law, programs to assist lawyers and judges in their work, and initiatives to improve the legal system for the public.
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The University of Valencia, Spain, has conferred an honorary doctorate on Natasa Kandic, Executive Director of the Humanitarian Law Center, in recognition of her longstanding work in the field of human rights and her humanitarian activities.
The University also awarded an honorary doctorate to Dr Manuel Castells Olivan, Professor of Sociology at the University of California at Berkeley. The degrees will be presented to Ms Kandic and Dr Castells Olivan on 31 May at a ceremony marking the 500th anniversary of the University, in the presence of prominent figures in the political and cultural life of Valencia province.
Natasa Kandic, Executive Director of the Humanitarian Law Center, is the recipient of this year’s Pen of Truth award of the HAS magazine and Damad Cultural Center in Novi Pazar.
Previous laureates of the award, given for results achieved in affirming truth and democracy in society, are authors Milika Pavlovic and Husein Basic, and Sefko Alomerovic, the Chairman of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in the Sandjak.
The plaque and cash prize will be presented to Ms Kandic at a ceremony in Novi Pazar later this month.
Natasa Kandic, founder and executive director of the Belgrade Humanitarian Law Center, received the Civic Courage Award established this year by the US Northcote Parkinson Fund. The award, which is given to persons “who resisted evil in spite of great risk,” was presented to Ms Kandic on 26 September at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London. The award includes a cash prize of 50,000 US dollars.
A special Northcote Parkinson cash prize will be presented to Sergei Khodorovich, formerly of the Russian Social Fund, an organization established by the famous Russian writer and dissident, Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
The award was given posthumously to German Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a victim of Nazism, Judge Giovanni Falcone for his unflinching struggle against the Sicilian mafia, attorney Rosemary Nelson, who was assassinated while defending political prisoners in Northern Ireland, Neelan Tiruchelvam, a Sri Lankan peace activist who was killed by extremists last year, and Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who saved many Jews from Nazi persecution.
Natasa Kandic, founder and Executive Director of the Humanitarian Law Center, and Viosa Dobruna, founder of the Center for Protection of Women and Children in Kosovo and Co-Minister for Democratization with the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, are recipients of this year’s human rights award of the Italian Alexander Langer Stiftung-Onlus Foundation. The award will be presented to them on 2 July at a ceremony during the Euro-Mediterranean Festival in Bolzano, Italy. The award was established in 1997 in memory of Alexander Langer, a member of the European Parliament who died in 1995. In his election campaigns, Langer always devoted special attention to the citizens of Bolzano, a small city poplated by members of different ethnic communities.
The previous recipients of the Alexander Langer Award are Khalida Messacudi, member of the Algerian Parliament and a prominent champion of women’s civil rights (1997); Jolande Mukagasana of the Tutsi people whose entire family was massacred and whose book is a moving testimony about the Rwanda genocide in which 800,000 lost their lives, and Jacqueline Mukansoneri, a Hutu, who saved the life of Yolande at the risk of her own (1998); and last year the Chinese dissident couple, Ding Ziling and Jiang Peikun, both former philosophy professors at Beijing University, who have dedicated their lives to collecting documentation on all students killed by Chinese troops during the massive anti-government demonstrations in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989 and publicizing their names. The couple’s 17-year-old son, Jiang Jelian, was among those killed during the demonstrations.
The Foundation gives the award to people who are committed to the defense of universal human rights, establishment of civil society, good relations among nations and environment protection. The award carries a prize of 2,000 German marks. Natasa Kandic will donate her share of the prize to the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in the Sandzak.
Natasa Kandic, Executive Director of the Humanitarian Law Center, and Veton Suroi, Editor-in-Chief of the Albanian-language daily Koha Ditore of Pristina, have been awarded this year’s human rights award of the Netherlands Geuzenverzet Foundation.
The prestigious award is given to individuals and institutions who strive for the establishment and preservation of democracy and against dictatorship, discrimination and racism.
Established in 1987, the award is presented to the laureates on 13 March in memory of 18 members of the Geuzen Dutch resistance group who were shot by German occupation forces at The Hague on 13 March 1941.