Kandić: I have a good reason to meet with Nikolic again

Belgrade – Setting up a regional commission for the establishment of facts of war crimes and other serious human rights violations (RECOM) is a strong reason for a second meeting, with Tomislav Nikolic, Natasa Kandic, President of the Humanitarian Law Center, told Serbian daily newspaper Danas, when asked whether she would request a meeting with the President of Serbia, in her capacity as an advocate for the Initiative for RECOM.

She added that Nikolic had lost in court in a case against her, pointing out that the Belgrade District Court quashed a judgment of the Municipal Court in Zemun, which had earlier found her responsible for libel. The case has since fallen under the statute of limitation.

Representatives of the Coalition for RECOM have so far met with almost all the presidents of the countries of the former Yugoslavia, but failed to meet the former Serbian President, Boris Tadic, to call for the establishment of RECOM. Has the Coalition requested a meeting with President Tomislav Nikolic?

Meeting the President of Serbia is our priority. For those of us who lead the RECOM process, Tomislav Nikolic is the President of Serbia and his support is very important. There can be no inter-state RECOM commission without his support. I have had the chance to meet Tomislav Nikolic only once, in court, when he filed a lawsuit against me for defamation and libel. I had given a public statement and said that we had data that suggested a connection between his presence in Antin in 1991, and the disappearance and murder of Croat civilians from that village. The Antin case is a good example of why we need RECOM. Nikolic has always claimed that during his stay in Antin, not a single Croat was killed. Now, this should be confirmed by an independent institution, recognized by all the countries in the region. My opinion is that Tomislav Nikolic could gain strong regional and international support if, in the context RECOM, he mentions Antin and says that it is very important to him personally to convince the citizens of Croatia that he did nothing wrong when was in Antin as a volunteer. There are hundreds of such events like the one in Antin, which need urgent clarification on a regional level. Depending on where you are, in which country in the former Yugoslavia, you hear different stories, always about ‘others’ – that they committed or otherwise had something to do with the crimes. Only a small number of cases reach the courts, but the stories circle around and are transmitted through the media, books, and the movies.

In what other ways will you try to institutionalize the initiative for RECOM if President Nikolic refuses to meet you?

RECOM cannot fail. According to the statute proposed by the Coalition for RECOM, the main task of RECOM to compile a list of those killed and missing from the wars in the former Yugoslavia – the list will personalize the casualties. Four non-governmental human rights organizations have been working on this task for several years. Mirsad Tokaca started a list of casualties in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2004, when there had been no talk of RECOM. As of this summer, in cooperation with the Humanitarian Law Center, he will be presenting the Bosnian Book of the Dead to the press. In this way, the book, which records 95,000 names of victims of war, becomes a public document, which can help achieve the mandate of RECOM. The Humanitarian Law Center Kosovo, has released the first volume of the Kosovo Memory Book, which records the sufferings of 2,250 people in 1998. We are continuing work on documenting the victims of 1999 and 2000. With documents from Croatia, using a variety of sources, we are creating a list of casualties from during and after the military operations ‘Flash’ and ‘Storm’, while intensively working to document the sufferings of the citizens of Serbia and Montenegro during the war in Croatia in 1991. The conclusion, therefore, is that RECOM will not start from scratch. At least 80 percent of its duties relating to the list of casualties will have been achieved before RECOM is established. If the (former Yugoslavian) states fail to put a stamp on this joint memorial to the victims, it will place a heavy and historic responsibility on the shoulders of the current heads of state and their governments.

Will you ask the presidents of the countries of the region to put pressure on Serbia to participate in the establishment of RECOM?

Sufficient pressure on those less willing will be generated when the two presidents – we are counting on the presidents of Croatia and Montenegro – delegate their personal representatives to the regional expert group, which will review the RECOM Statute proposed by the Coalition for RECOM. In my opinion, this will prompt the presidents of other countries to get involved.

You have announced that the Coalition for RECOM will be organizing a series of co-ordinated events on September 22. What will be happening?

On the occasion of the World Peace Day, on September 22, the Coalition for RECOM wil be orgainising ‘RECOM for the Future’ events in all the capitals of countries in the region. We will be writing to the heads of state in the region, reminding them of their obligation to make firm their their support to the Initiative for RECOM. On that day we will write and send 100 postcards to each president and vice president, and members of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In three months we will do it again. Citizens will remind the President of Kosovo, the President of Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and members of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina of the new step they have to take – RECOM for the Future.