Nataša Kandić : biography
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, which she formed in 1992. The HLC's research was integral to the war crimes prosecutions of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, particularly the "smoking gun" video linking Serbian military forces to the Srebrenica massacres. Kandić has won numerous international awards for her human rights work, but is also a figure of controversy in her home country, including being the subject of a defamation lawsuit by future 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. Most notably, Kandić provided a video of 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. Kandic criticized the 2007 judgement against the killers from the tape as inadequate, however, 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. The following year, 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.
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