Humanitarian Law Center

The Humanitarian Law Center of Serbia (HLC) was established in 1992 to document human rights violations during the armed conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Since then, they have encouraged thousands of victims from former Yugoslav countries to seek justice and reparations from Serbian institutions, and to make their voices heard by the public. The Sigrid Rausing Trust has supported HLC since 2008.

Over the years, HLC has represented more than 3,500 victims and survivors in more than 200 criminal and civil cases in Serbia. They have exposed the role of high-ranking military and police officers in the commission of major war crimes. Four of the 31 criminal complaints to they submitted to the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor in Serbia have led to indictments.

In the course of this work, the HLC developed a model for victim and witness participation in domestic war crimes trials, which made it possible for the families of victims from Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo to attend trials in Serbia. Their model strategy for war crimes prosecution in Serbia provided a basis for the strategy adopted by state institutions.

“We have done this against a backdrop of renewed nationalism and populism,” says Ivana Zanic, the executive director of HLC. To counter this, the HLC uses fact-based memory activism. Through their Kosovo Memory Book, for example, they are documenting every casualty in Kosovo between 1998 and 2000, building the first complete dataset of deaths and disappearances in a major armed conflict.