Letter of support – Dr. James Lyon

Sarajevo, 8 January 2008

To Whom It May Concern,

am writing in support of the Humanitarian Law Center’s proposal for funding from the United States Institute of Peace, to conduct mapping of public memorials in the successor states of the former Yugoslavia.
First let me speak to the merits of the Humanitarian Law Center, an organization whose work I have followed closely for over a decade. While working in Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Bosnia over the last 17 years, I have had ample opportunity to work with the HLC and with its director, Natasa Kandic.

Both Ms. Kandic and the organization have undertaken substantial and groundbreaking efforts in the cause of transitional justice, and in efforts to reconcile the peoples of the former Yugoslavia. HLC’s efforts at obtaining justice for victims of war crimes and helping establish rule of law are unsurpassed. In conducting this work, members of HLC often exposed themselves to significant personal risk. In spite of these risks, HLC continued forward. It is safe to say that without the efforts of HLC, Serbia would be far behind in its cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and that Serbia’s own domestic war crimes courts would quite probably be completely dysfunctional. HLC has also worked closely in other former Yugoslav republics, in particular those hardest hit by the wars of the 1990s, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Kosovo. Although this often made HLC unpopular with nationalist forces inside Serbia, it contributed greatly towards initial efforts at reconciliation among the peoples of the former Yugoslavia. Let me now turn to discussing the new HLC application. The new HLC proposal to map public memorials is potentially groundbreaking. This proposal seizes on an issue that reflects the symbolism inherent in many people’s
imagined memories of the wars, and the manner in which various ethnic groups interpret perceived wrongs and grievances. Often, these memorials themselves become flashpoints for new grievances, especially when the memorials are built to reinforce ethno-political mythologies.

I can only applaud this idea wholeheartedly and say that it is yet another “bull’s-eye” by Natasa Kandic. This project, if implemented, will have positive fallout throughout the area covered, and will do a great deal towards contributing to regional reconciliation and peace. Perhaps most importantly, it will have the effect of undoing many dangerous nationalist myths that continue to appeal to people’s baser instincts.I support this project and the organization without any reservation whatsoever, and recommend strongly that USIP consider it positively.

Best Dr. James Lyon