Nataša Kandić in Belgrade, 2010
Kragujevac, Serbia, Yugoslavia
|Occupation||Human rights activist|
|Known for||Documentation of Serbian war crimes|
|Awards||Civil Courage Prize (2000)
Homo Homini Award (2003)
Nataša Kandić (Serbian Cyrillic: Наташа Кандић) (born 1946, Kragujevac, Serbia, Yugoslavia) is a Serbian human rights activist and the founder and ex-executive director of the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC), an organisation campaigning for human rights and reconciliation in the former Yugoslavia, focusing on the Serbian role in conflict. It was formed in 1992. The HLC's research was integral to the war crimes prosecutions of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), particularly the "smoking gun" video linking Serbian military forces to the Srebrenica massacres. She has won numerous international awards for her human rights work (Amnesty International's Objective Observer Award, among others). She is a figure of controversy in Serbia where she is the subject of a defamation lawsuit by Serbian president Tomislav Nikolić.
Humanitarian Law Center
Kandić is a sociologist by training. In 1992, she founded and is executive director of the Humanitarian Law Center in Belgrade, a human rights organisation which has been praised for its systematic and impartial investigations of human rights abuses. Since the start of the Yugoslav wars in the early 1990s, she has documented and protested against war crimes committed between 1991 and 1999, including torture, rape, and murder. According to Businessweek, her work drew "the hatred of fellow Serbs and military leaders throughout the region -- and won the admiration of human-rights defenders worldwide".
Throughout the war in Kosovo, she traveled back and forth across Serbia, providing information to the outside world about human rights violations being committed by police and paramilitary groups. She was one of the few Serbian rights activists to continue investigating the Kosovo crisis after the murder of Slavko Curuvija and to collaborate with ethnic Albanian activists. She and her staff were anonymously threatened for their work, and their office was spray-painted with a swastika and the message "NATO's spies". In December 1999, HLC lawyer Teki Bokshi was arrested in Kosovo by Serbian police, drawing protest from the HLC and a United Nations envoy.
The evidence she gathered was later used in the preparation of indictments by the International Criminal Court for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague. She provided a video of Bosnian Serb paramilitaries executing six Bosnian Muslim prisoners near Trnovo, used as proof of Serbia's role in the Srebrenica massacre, in which 7,500 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed. Kandić had located a copy of the tape, originally made by the paramilitaries themselves, from a man in Šid, who provided it only on the condition that she not air it until he had safely left the country. Excerpts from the tape were later shown on Serbian and Bosnian television. The Guardian described the tape as the "smoking gun"—"the final, incontrovertible proof of Serbia's part in the Srebrenica massacres"—while The New York Times called the airing of the tape on Serbian television a "watershed" moment for the country. Kandić criticized the 2007 judgement as the presiding judge, had described the crime as “killing six men of Muslim origin”, whom "it was not clear came from Srebrenica". Kandić said "This judgment sends a very dangerous message,” further stating, "Both from a moral and factual point of the view, this is not justice".
In 2003, she criticized the deployment of Serbian troops to Afghanistan, stating that the army should first be reformed and war crimes trials concluded.
In 2004, she contributed to the exposure of US journalist Jack Kelley, a USA Today reporter discovered to have fabricated several important stories, when she disputed his account of using her as a source for a July 1999 front-page story on a typed Yugoslav Army order to "clease" a village in Kosovo.
2003 Republic Square incident
In 2003, Kandić attended a protest rally held on the International Day of the Disappeared in Republic Square in Belgrade, against the lack of information about Kosovo Serbs missing since the 1999 conflict. She was confronted and repeatedly insulted by other attendees who called her a "traitor". After Nikola Popović, an elderly Serb refugee from Kosovo, confronted her directly, she slapped him in the face and yelled back at him. The policemen present took her aside and requested her documents, which she protested saying they should instead request them from other persons. The police later charged her for violent behavior in public and disobeying the police orders.
The organisation representing Serb refugees also filed charges. She justified her act by asserting she had to "defend [myself] from Serbian patriotism". In July 2005, the First Municipal Court in Belgrade dismissed the private lawsuit against Kandić. The attendees called the presiding judge a "Serb traitor".
Kandić was originally found guilty on charges of defamation in February 2009 after her 2006 statements that Tomislav Nikolić killed elderly people in Croatia during the war. She was fined 200,000 Serbian dinars (around 2,000 EUR at the time). International human rights organization Front Line condemned the charges as "part of a campaign aimed at stigmatizing human right defenders and human rights organisations operating in Serbia, portraying them as enemies of the country", and Human Rights Watch named the case as an example of criminal libel laws used as "a tool to silence human rights criticisms." The charges were later overturned on appeal by the Belgrade District Court.
Kandić is a recipient of more than 20 international, regional and national human rights awards. In 2000 she won the The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, awarded jointly by Amnesty International, Diakonia, Human Rights Watch, HURIDOCS, International Alert, the International Commission of Jurists, the International Federation for Human Rights, the International Service for Human Rights and the World Organization Against Torture, granted annually to an individual or an organization who has displayed exceptional courage in combating human rights violations.
She was listed by Time as one of its 36 European Heroes in 2003, and again featured as a Time European Hero in 2006. In 2004, the People in Need Foundation awarded Kandić and the HLC its Homo Homini Award, presented by Václav 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, Kandić was named to the Order of Danica Hrvatska, awarded by the President of Croatia to individuals who have made a significant contribution to the advancement of moral values.
Her awards include the following:
- Human Rights Watch Award (1993)
- US and EU Democracy and Civil Society Award (1998)
- The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (1999)
- Lawyers' Committee for Human Rights Award (1999)
- National Endowment for Democracy Democracy Award (2000)
- Geuzenpenning Award (2000)
- Roger E. Joseph Prize (2000), given by Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion
- Alexander Langer Prize (2000)
- Civil Courage Prize (2000)
- Honorable Doctorate of the University of Valencia (2001)
- American Bar Association Rule of Law Award (2003)
- European Heroes Award, Time Magazine (2003)
- Homo Homini Award - People in Need Foundation (2003)
- Honorary Citizen of Sarajevo (4 October 2005)
- Order of Danica Hrvatska (2006)
- International Hrant Dink Award (2013)
- "Honorees". Civil Courage Prize. Retrieved 9 May 2014.
- "2004 Homo Homini Award Given to Natasa Kandic and the Humanitarian Law Center". Hlc-rdc.org. 14 April 2004. Retrieved 16 April 2015.
- "About Us". Humanitarian Law Center. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
- Carlotta Gall (23 May 1999). "Crisis in the Balkans: The Advocate: In a Climate of Fear, a Belgrade Serb Who Is Documenting the Horror of Kosovo". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
- "Nataša Kandić - 1999". Martin Ennals Award. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
- Rachel Tiplady (29 May 2005). "Natasa Kandić profile". Businessweek. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
- "Serbia arrests human rights lawyer". BBC News. 5 December 1999. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
- Tim Judah and Daniel Sunter (4 June 2005). "How video that put Serbia in dock was brought to light". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2 August 2012.
- Nicholas Wood (10 April 2007). "Serbian Court Convicts 4 in Srebrenica Massacre". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
- Nicholas Wood (18 December 2003). "Serbs May Help Patrol Afghanistan, but Qualms Abound". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
- Jacques Steinberg (26 January 2006). "Source for USA Today Reporter Disputes Details of Kosovo Article". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
- "Obeležen Međunarodni dan nestalih u Beogradu" (in Serbian). B92. 30 August 2003. Retrieved 26 May 2010.
- "Kandićeva ošamarila izbeglicu iz Peći". Glas javnosti (in Serbian). 31 August 2003. Retrieved 26 May 2010.
- "Attacks on Non-governmental Organizations, Media and Courts in Serbia (019-133-2)". Humanitarian Law Center, Belgrade, Serbia. 20 August 2005. Retrieved 26 May 2010.
- "Nataša Kandić osuđena za klevetu Nikolića" (in Serbian). Radio Television of Serbia. 5 February 2009. Retrieved 26 May 2010.
- "Serbia: Threats against human rights defenders and organisations in Serbia following independence of Kosovo". Front Line. 22 February 2008. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- Kenneth Roth (2010). "The Abusers’ Reaction: Intensifying Attacks on Human Rights Defenders, Organizations, and Institutions". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- "Serbia: Human Rights Defenders at Risk" (PDF). Amnesty International. September 2009. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- Andrew Herscher (2007). "Evidence, Justice, and Truth: An Interview with Nataša Kandić". The Journal of the International Institute. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- "Previous Recipients of the Homo Homini Award". People in Need. Retrieved 17 April 2011.
- "Priopćenja 129/06" (in Croatian). Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Croatia). 11 August 2006. Retrieved 26 May 2010.
- "2011 Rule of Law Award". American Bar Association. 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- "Civil Courage Prize". civilcourageprize.org. 2010. Retrieved 11 May 2011.
- Alles over penningen. Munten en Penningen. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
- "Natasa Kandic and The Humanitarian Law Center, Belgrade to receive the 2000 Roger E. Joseph Prize from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion", HUC-JIR website. Retrieved 27 February 2011.
- "Premio internazionale Alexander Langer" (in Italian). alexanderlanger.org. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
- Humanitarian Law Fund (Serbian) (English) (Albanian)