News 04 Mar 15

Kosovo Honour for Serbian Campaigner Sparks Row

A Kosovo mayor’s plan to honour Serbian human rights campaigner Natasa Kandic for her work exposing war crimes has run into opposition from representatives of war victims.

Petrit Collaku
Natasa Kandic. Photo: BETA.

The proposal by the mayor of Gjakova/Djakovica, Mimoza Kusari-Lila, to declare rights campaigner Kandic an ‘honorary citizen’ of the Kosovo town has been criticised by victims’ groups.

Kusari-Lila said that Kandic, the founder of the Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Centre, deserved to be honoured for her role in exposing Serbian war crimes in Gjakova/Djakovica, where some of the worst atrocities took place during the late 1990s conflict in Kosovo.

“Let us remind everyone, she is under constant pressure from her own country for the work she does. She contributed a lot for all victims of war,” Kusari-Lila told BIRN on Wednesday.

“Also, it was Kandic who visited prisoners from this town in Nis prison [in Serbia] after the war in Kosovo,” she added.

But Kosovo’s Coordinating Council of Family Associations on the Missing has complained that the proposal is anti-Albanian and offensive, and has called on the Gjakova/Djakovica municipal council to reject it.

“No honour for any Serbian citizen until [Belgrade] asks for forgiveness,” it said in a recent press statement.

However Kusari-Lila argued that Kandic should be judged on her work aimed at bringing war criminals to justice, not on her ethnicity.

“This is not to the detriment of families [of victims] but it’s for their benefit,” she said.

A previous attempt to declare Kandic an honorary citizen of the Kosovo town of Ferizaj failed in 2010.

Agim Aliu, who was the president of the municipal assembly at the time, told BIRN that the local council had welcomed the proposal but it ran into opposition from Kosovo Liberation Army veterans’ organisations in town, who asked the municipality to postpone the decision.

Aliu said that the organisations had suspicions that Kandic contributed to a Council of Europe report that accused KLA fighters of harvesting organs from captured Serbs during the conflict.

“There was no reason to postpone it because she was a Serb, we praise her work. We just wanted to confirm the allegations. Nothing happened after that and that’s why we did not declare her our citizen,” he said.

Kusari-Lila said that the issue of whether to honour Kandic in Gjakova/Djakovica would now be discussed by a municipality commission made up of all political parties before a decision is made.

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