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Sonja Biserko Declared Honorary
Citizen of Sarajevo

Sarajevo, April 6, 2011

At the ceremony marking the Day of Sarajevo Major Alija Behman conferred "Honorary Citizen" Award on Sonja Biserko, chairwoman of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia. The City Council decision of the award, read out last evening in the National Theater, quotes:

"At the time Sarajevo suffered under the siege she was not the one and only but was surely among the most articulated, bravest and staunchest advocates against the slaughter of innocent civilians of our country, and against the aggression on Bosnia-Herzegovina. At that time she was clearly and openly condemning nationalistic hegemony and warning against war crimes.

Today, she keeps insisting on non-impunity for war crimes and on documentation of the truth that should be available to the public internationally and in the region.

Notwithstanding verbal assaults and physical threats to which she has been exposed and still is, she remains committed to her just cause, and openly and with arguments stands for the protection and promotion of human rights.

She seeks the truth as a major precondition for regional stability. She takes that the generations to come need to communicate - which is easy for them as their languages are so alike - reach understanding and develop cooperation through facing up the truth.

The world public has recognized her just cause and her persevering, democratic struggle for the protection of human rights based on the principles of solidarity, humanity and tolerance among peoples and nations, for which she has been conferred many international awards.

Her perseverance and courage are amazing. These are the benchmarks of a humanist and a righteous person.

Indeed, Ms. Sonja Biserko, chairwoman of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, deserves special respect. By bestowing this charter upon her, citizens of Sarajevo are expressing their gratitude."

In her thank-you address Sonja Biserko said:

"For twenty years I've been solely engaged in and focused on the defense of fundamental human rights and political freedoms in the Balkans. And in particular, in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

In the case of Bosnia-Herzegovina I've learned everything about today's distorted world, everything about human nature, everything about human community's ability to cope with the questions that are still open over here.

Sarajevo symbolizes everything I've been raising my voice against. It symbolizes war, aggression, destruction, inhumanity, exclusiveness.

Sarajevo symbolizes everything I've been standing for all these years. It symbolizes the struggle for the truth, tolerance, cohabitation, humanity, unselfishness and, finally, the ability for forgiveness.

Once genuinely safeguarded Bosnia-Herzegovina will equal the safeguard of the entire value system for which citizens of Sarajevo have stood for, the same as many in this region and in the world.

A consolidated, democratic Bosnia-Herzegovina, one homeland for three peoples, will be a sure sign that the world is on its way to recovery. Sarajevo has not won that battle yet. Why has it not? Why is it that Bosnia-Herzegovina has not managed yet to build itself into a state?

For sixteen years now we have been witnessing the policy that negates everything Sarajevo had demonstrated under its four-year siege. The truth about the character of the wars in the territory of ex-Yugoslavia, especially of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, is still denied in the region and in the parts of this very country. Internationally, some still treat it as a civil war in which all the three parties bear the same burden of guilt.

Serbian political and intellectual elites generally perceive that war as a liberation war. Having embraced such interpretation leaders of Republika Srpska have been endeavoring to estrange citizens of Republika Srpska from the very concept of a unified, democratic Bosnia-Herzegovina. Tensions between states and nations, as well as the problems deriving from various, even manipulative interpretations of these tensions, call for hard work that leads to democratic solutions.

Solutions to problems are not sought over here only. They are being sought worldwide. For me, a nation-state concept is artificial and unrealistic. A unified and democratic Bosnia-Herzegovina can only emerge from a general agreement on cohabitation reached by all citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and when I say all I do not refer to nations such Serbs, Bosniaks and Croats. And the Balkan crisis can be settled only once the international community starts treating Bosnia-Herzegovina as a state with all its specificities and by its criteria. And Europe itself will be ready to face the challenges of the new era only once Sarajevo becomes again a symbol of citizenship and civil values.

It is my deep belief that Sarajevo can once again serve as a model of the course to be taken.

Thank you again for this mark of recognition that touched me deeply.

I also wish to thank you on behalf of all my associates, my friends and everyone in Europe and the world that have been supportive of my work and the work of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia.

May I also offer my sincere congratulations to you all and to citizens of Sarajevo on this memorable day.

I feel truly honored to be proclaimed your honorary citizen."



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