June 17, 2024 | Monday

“Peace and reconciliation have no alternative”

Following an unfortunate event in Belgrade back in 1999, out of which he was helped from Ms. Natasa Kandic and the Humanitarian Law Fund, Bekim Blakaj came back to Kosovo in 2000. In a conversation with Ms. Natasa Kandic when he returned, he had no idea that her question, “What now?” would be the beginning of a life-long mission of his towards peace and reconciliation. 

Bekim Blakaj is the Executive Director of Humanitarian Law Center in Kosovo, where he started working back in 2000, first as a researcher working on the Kosovo Memory Book. In celebration of Europe Day 2024, the EU Office in Kosovo awarded him the prestigious European of the Year Award “for his significant contribution to promoting European ideas and values in Kosovo”.

“This is an award for the entire organisation, not only for me,” says Blakaj, further explaining how awards like this are important because they are a sign of recognition of his, the Humanitarian Law Centers’ and the victims’ community’s commitment towards dealing with the past and reconciliation. 

The HLC Kosovo works to document facts that will assist the Kosovo society to deal with its violent past. The organization seeks to counter denial and political manipulation of human losses, and ensure the integrity and transparency of war crimes trials.

Among the most important landmarks of the Humanitarian Law Center in its effort to foster a gravitation towards reconciliation, Blakaj lists the RECOM – Reconciliation Network, through which, with the support from the EU,  up to 2,000 members from the region work   towards the common goal of proper documentation of atrocities that took place in the former Yugoslav countries during the ‘90s. As Bekim Blakaj says, “even though there are many challenges to this process, the outcomes from the discussions between RECOM members are a real treasure.” 

Blakaj highlights the Humanitarian Law Center’s and partners’ dedication to document and promote an accurate narrative of the history of the former Yugoslav countries, which they are set to achieve through more educational and artistic projects in the future, focusing mainly on youth and children, with the aim of not allowing  the new generation to grow up with a biased and discriminatory narrative, which according to him, will only lead to other conflicts. 

“This recognition of my and my colleagues’ work to this process through the European of the Year Award motivates me to never stop my mission and commitment. Peace and reconciliation really do not have an alternative”, he says on a motivational ending note of our conversation.