For Immediate Release, September 26, 2000
Prize of $50,000 to Honor Civil Courage Awarded to Natasa Kandic of Serbia for Extraordinary Bravery Exposing War Crimes in Kosovo, Bosnia and Croatia
London - Natasa Kandic of Serbia received The Civil Courage Prize, awarded "for resisting evil at great personal risk," at a reception at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London this evening.
The Prize, awarded today for the first time, is worth $50,000, which the recipient says she plans to spend helping the many prisoners of war she has been speaking out for since founding her Humanitarian Law Center in Belgrade in 1991. The Center has earned a reputation for accurate and unflinching reporting of war crimes in the former Yugoslavia. As its director, Ms. Kandic has pursued the facts surrounding both civil and criminal complaints about human rights abuses against oppressed minorities throughout the war zone. Her life has been repeatedly threatened by the Milosovic regime. With remarkable courage she visited both Serb and Kosovar Albanian colleagues persecuted in Kosovo in 1999.
At no small risk to her life during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, Ms. Kandic, a sociologist by training, traveled to Kosovo to express concern for the Albanian population and report on human rights abuses there. After the conflict, she stayed in Kosovo to help protect the Serb, Roma and Muslim minorities against violent attacks by Albanian extremists. Now, at a time of increased repression of the youth resistance movement in Serbia, she is leading the campaign to uphold the rights of political dissenters.
In 1995 Ms. Kandic investigated the crimes committed by Croatian army and police against the Krajina Serbs. She helped protect Serbs from prosecution by the Croatian government, but also documented crimes committed by the Yugoslav Army, Croatian forces, and Serbian paramilitaries. In Bosnia, she helped protect the rights of Muslims persecuted by Serbian and Croatian forces. Throughout this period she has been the subject of continued threats, harassment and physical assault. Yet she persists in seeking to establish the truth about abuses regardless of who committed them, and so has earned respect from all sides of the conflict.
The Civil Courage Prize was presented to Ms. Kandic by the Chairman of the Northcote Parkinson Fund, the Hon. John Train, who conceived the prize. He said, "This award will help Natasa Kandic to continue her admirable work. Perhaps in a small way it will also send encouragement to some other heroes of conscience who are carrying on under dangerous conditions. If everyone lets the devil take the hindmost, the devil soon works his way to the head of the line. Civil courage is a virtue that prevents that from happening." Justice Richard J. Goldstone of the Constitutional Court of South Africa has written that the Civil Courage Prize "...is an innovative concept and I have no doubt it will serve to illustrate the power for good which people of courage can exercise." Sir Michael Howard, eminent historian and President of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, whose remarks introduced Ms. Kandic at the awards ceremony, stated, "It is a magnificent conception with which I am proud to be associated."
A special cash prize is being awarded to Sergei Khodorovich, former representative of the Russian Social Fund, created by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn to aid the families of dissidents imprisoned under the Soviet regime. Helping the families of prisoners of conscience to stay alive was declared an act of treason by the Soviets. Having seized and broken his predecessor, the KGB arrested Mr. Khodorovich in 1983. He refused to "confess" that the Fund was engaged in anti-state machinations and was sentenced to hard labor in Siberia. After being amnestied by Gorbachev he was exiled, and now lives in France.
Mr. Train, Chairman of the Northcote Parkinson Fund, said that it was Alexander Solzhenitsyn's heroic life that primarily led him to establish the Civil Courage Prize: "There is no expression in English for the particular kind of heroism that Solzhenitzyn's life exemplified, inflexibly resisting the evil Soviet system through trials, imprisonment, abuse, exile in Siberia and elsewhere and other forms of extreme duress; while suffering from cancer, incidentally. Perhaps, no expression exists because it is undervalued, sadly." Mr. Train said that he decided to call this rare and inspiring virtue "Civil Courage," to distinguish it from military courage.
All queries regarding this prize may be directed to Brenda Stewart or Carole Kay at KSA in London [email: firstname.lastname@example.org] or by telephone at 44 20 7613 5577, and to John Temple Swing, Executive Director of the Northcote Parkinson Fund in New York City [email: email@example.com] or by telephone at 1 212 369 9067. Ms. Kandic should be available for interviews following September 26.
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