The work of Humanitarian Law Center encompasses documentation, justice and memory.
Humanitarian Law Center supports post-Yugoslav societies in promotion of the rule of law and acceptance of the legacy of mass human rights violations, and therefore in establishing the criminal responsibility of the perpetrators, serving justice, and preventing recurrence. Realisation of these goals in the region implies going through a comprehensive and multifaceted transitional justice process. First and foremost, victims of war crimes need to fulfil their right to justice, truth, and reparation. Second, this process encompasses bringing those responsible for the crimes to court and unravelling of the institutional and state structures that were instrumental in the systematic human rights violation of the 1990s wars. Finally, awareness of the crimes that took place and giving recognition to the victims in broader society is crucial so that such crimes do not happen again.
Humanitarian Law Center is organised in three pillars and implements transitional justice program through them:
Humanitarian Law Center has worked on documentation of war crimes and human rights violations since 1992. Over the years, the HLC has collected more than three million files related to the armed conflicts in the territory of the former Yugoslavia. The HLC Archive stores primary materials pertaining to mass human rights violations gathered since 1992 and more than 90% of the copies of the public archive of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Among other items, the Archive contains documents from the war crimes trials held at domestic courts in Serbia and the region, media archive from the 1990s and ICTY materials, such as audio and video recordings and evidence presented at trials. The Archive is in to the continuous digitisation process.
The judicial pillar of Humanitarian Law Center encompasses legal representation of victims of war crimes before Serbian courts, monitoring of all war crimes trials held in Serbia, representation of victims in compensation proceedings and filing legal complaints against perpetrators of war crimes to the War Crimes Prosecutor’s Office. It also includes publication of dossiers that highlight the complicity of high-ranking members of the army and police forces in war crimes and represent a call for vetting. Finally, the judicial pillar involves policy research and advocacy for judicial and institutional reforms to enable fulfilment of the right to justice for victims.
Humanitarian Law Center commemorates victims through various initiatives, including public debates, documentary films and digital memory activism on social media and through other digital memory practices. In addition to commemorating victims of war crimes and mass human rights violations during the 1990s wars, memorialisation program challenges and confronts the dominant revisionist narratives about the wars, provides informal education, disseminates the judicially determined facts about the wars in an engaging way, using different media formats. The program conducts policy-oriented research and analysis as well as commentary of official memory politics in the region.
Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) was established in 1992 by human rights activist Nataša Kandić as a human rights non-governmental organisation that would document the human rights violations perpetrated on a massive scale across the former Yugoslavia, during the armed conflicts in Croatia, in Bosnia, and later in Kosovo. Since 1992 HLC has worked tirelessly to document war crimes and human rights abuses and support victims and their families in achieving justice.
The HLC documentation was crucial for landmark cases at the ICTY such as Foča, a pivotal case in prosecution of wartime sexual violence. When the Kosovo war started, HLC established offices there and stayed in during the NATO bombing, even when the ICRC, OSCE and international media left, reporting from Kosovo. After the wars ended, HLC turned to transitional justice. It developed a model for representing victims in domestic war crime trials, enabling the families of victims from Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo to come to trials in Serbia. Moreover, HLC has represented more than 1000 victims of human rights violations and war crimes in civil proceedings for compensation at courts in Serbia.
HLC initiated the Kosovo Memory Book, a still ongoing project that documents every individual case of war-related death and disappearance in Kosovo between 1998 and 2000. Finally, HLC nurtures a regional approach to justice through RECOM – a civil society initiative to create an official regional truth commission to establish the facts about war crimes and human rights violations committed on the territory of the former Yugoslavia in the period between 1991 and 2001.
HLC has developed numerous partnerships and it is a member of Coalition for RECOM, International Coalition of Sites of Conscience and Victim Support Europe
Documentary of the first 15 years of the HLC’s work.
Ms. Nataša Kandić, Founder
Ms. Nataša Kandić, the Founder of the HLC, has won over 20 international, regional and national awards for human rights. In 2000, she was presented with the Martin Ennals award, a prestigious award for human rights defenders. Nataša Kandić is one of the names on the list of 36 European heroes in 2003 chosen by the American magazine Time. In 2004, the People in Need Foundation awarded the Homo Homini award to Nataša Kandić and the HLC, and this award was presented to Nataša Kandić by Vaclav Havel. In 2005, she was pronounced an Honorary Citizen of Sarajevo, and Slobodna Bosna magazine elected her Person of the Year in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In September 2006, Time magazine pronounced Nataša Kandić one of the heroes of the past 60 years. In March 2007, Nataša became a member of the International Journal of Transitional Justice (Oxford University Journals), and in August 2008, she was invited to join the Advisory Council of the Weiser Centre for Emerging Democracies, University of Michigan. The Kosovo Institute of Peace presented Nataša with ‘The Peace Award’ in November 2012, “for her extraordinary work and contribution for reconciliation among the nations in the Balkans”. In 2013, Nataša was named the ‘Civil Rights Defender of the Year’, she was the winner of the ‘Days of Sarajevo 2013’ award, given by the Youth Initiative for Human Rights in Serbia, and also received the ‘Hrant Dink’ award from the Turkish ‘Hrant Dink Foundation’.
Ivana Žanić, Executive Director
Ivana Žanić is the HLC's Executive Director from April 2019. In the period from 2010 to 2012, she was employed as a trainee at a law office where she worked on the most complex cases in the field of criminal law. In addition to law practice, Ivana volunteered for several non-governmental organizations. She joined the HLC in 2012, working as a researcher on the “Kosovo Memory Book” project, and a coordinator of the “Dossiers: Search for War Crimes Perpetrators” project. From April to November 2018, Ivana was coordinated the work of the HLC legal team.
Ivana graduated in Law at the Faculty of Law, University of Belgrade, and holds a Master’s degree at the Faculty of Political Sciences, University of Belgrade, where she mastered with the subject “Command Responsibility in the Jurisdiction of International Tribunals”. She passed her Bar Exam in 2015.
Jelena Đureinović is the Memory Activism Program Coordinator at the HLC. She holds a PhD in Modern and Contemporary History from Justus Liebig University in Giessen, Germany, where she also taught. She was a visiting researcher at the National University of Ireland in Galway, the Centre for Southeast European Studies at the University of Graz and Slovenian Academy of Sciences. Her main interests include memory studies, nationalism studies, history of Yugoslavia and the post-Yugoslav space. Her book The Politics of Memory of the Second World War in Contemporary Serbia: Collaboration, Resistance and Retribution was published with Routledge in 2019. She holds an MA degree in Nationalism Studies from Central European University in Budapest. She has completed several courses on oral history, international humanitarian law and dealing with the past.
Časlav Ninković is Office Coordinator, and associate on projects within the HLC Education Programme. Prior to his engagement with the HLC, he collaborated with several non-governmental organizations in the field of political education of young people and trade union organizations, and taught high school students in Sociology and Civic Education. Časlav graduated in Sociology at the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade. His professional interests include the fields of the political education of youth, political theory, contemporary political practice and the historical development and disintegration of Yugoslavia.
Jovana Kolarić is Researcher on the project "Dossiers - Search for war crimes perpetrators". She first volunteered, and later was engaged in the projects "Register of Croatian citizens of Serbian ethnicity, killed in the armed conflict in Croatia" and "Human losses in Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia". She graduated in Sociology at the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Novi Sad, and completed several informal trainings in the field of transitional justice and conflict theory.
Predrag Miletić is Coordinator of the HLC Information Systems, an integral part of which is the War Crimes and Past Human Rights Violations Data Base. On the project "South Sudan: Human Rights Documentation Initiative", he is Consultant-Analyst. He is also collaborator on the project "Regional Network of Civil Society Organizations for Reconciliation in the Former Yugoslavia: Support for the Establishment of RECOM / The Kosovo Memory Book". Predrag graduated in Law at the Faculty of Law, University of Belgrade, and completed several informal educational courses on oral history, international humanitarian law, documenting and managing databases.
Jelena Jovanović is Researcher and Analyst on the project for documenting human losses in the wars in the former Yugoslavia. She joined the HLC in 2010 as archivist on the projects of digitisation of archival material and the transfer of the archives of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. She graduated and mastered at the History Department of the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade, and completed a one-year master’s programme at the Central European University in Budapest.
Milan Gačanović is engaged in information and statistical support at the HLC and other tasks related to the analysis and processing of data in the HLC Data Base. Milan is a sociologist and holds a degree at the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Belgrade. Milan has been part of the HLC since the founding of the organisation back in 1992.
Vladimir Milanović coordinates the project "Transfer of the Hague Archives" and coordinates the Archive and Library of HLC. Previously, he worked in the Archives of Yugoslavia, and joined the HLC on the project "Creating ICTY Trials Transcripts in B/C/S languages". Vladimir graduated in History at the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade, passed the professional exam in archival science and obtained the National Library license for creating bibliographic records in the COBISS.SR system. He completed the Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research of the University of Harvard.
Mia Deretić is the Head of HLC accounting. She has previously carried out accounting work in several foreign and international companies, and for seven years owned a private accountancy agency. At the French company Pernod Ricard Serbia, she performed the role of controller in the financial service. Mia is member of the Serbian Association of Accountants and Auditors, and she attended a number of training courses on accounting and financial management.
Biljana Vasković is Financial Manager at the HLC, in charge of the financial management of the regional project The Initiative for the Establishment of RECOM, as well as of financial operations and reporting to donors. As a volunteer, she took part in the campaign "RECOM –Sign Up!" in 2011. Prior to her engagement with the HLC, she conducted financial evaluations and technical and financial monitoring of approved projects in the youth sector of the Ministry of Youth and Sports. Biljana graduated in International Relations at the Faculty of Political Sciences of the University of Belgrade.
Meris Mušanović is Legal Analyst at the HLC, engaged in the programme "Reparations". Prior to engaging with the HLC, Meris worked at a law office in Sarajevo. He graduated from the Faculty of Law at the University of Sarajevo and received master's degrees in Democracy and Human Rights at the University of Bologna on the topic: “Dealing with the Past: Challenges of Co-existence and Prosecution of War Crimes in Serbia”, and in International Public and European Law at the American University in Bosnia and Herzegovina, on the topic: "The role of victims before the Hague Tribunal - search for justice". Meris has completed several informal trainings in the field of transitional justice and human rights.