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Former Yugoslavia: Women’s Court-feminist approach to Justice

Friday 21 February 2014, by siawi3

A Report from Women In Black, Belgrade


Late in 2010, members of seven feminist organizations from the former Yugoslavia launched the initiative for the setting up of a Women’s Court in the area of the former Yugoslavia.

The Organizational Committee of the Women’s Court is made up of the following organizations: the Foundation Cure, Sarajevo, Women’s Forum, Bratunac and the Movement of mothers of the enclaves of Žepa and Srebrenica, Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina); Anima, Kotor (Montenegro); Women Studies Centre and Centre for Women Victims of War, from Zagreb (Croatia), Kosovo Women Network; Council for Gender Equality, Skopje (Macedonia); Women’s Lobby, Ljubljana (Slovenia); Women in Black and Women Studies, Belgrade (Serbia).

Women in Black are responsible for program activities, and we arrange and coordinate all activities with organizations of the Organizational Board.

This report mostly concentrates on activities implemented in Serbia, as well as activities implemented together with partner organizations. Activities implemented in other former Yugoslav republics are represented inasmuch as Women in Black have received information about them from other Women’s Court Organizational Board organizations.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Women’s Court we invite you to visit or (this one is specifically about the Women’s Court).

In the time period covered by this report the following activities were implemented:

I Educational activities - seminars, public debates, public presentations within the process of organizing Women`s Court-feminist approach to justice

1. Seminars-held in Montenegro and Serbia, 32 persons in total took part, mostly women:

- 25th and 26th of October, Kotor/Montenegro: 18 activists took part, coming from the following cities in Montenegro: Kotor, Cetinje, Niksic, Podgorica, Bijelo Polje, Rozaje, Herceg Novi, Ulcinj and Pljevlja. The seminar was held in House of free thought, Kavac. The group consisted of women who have been involved in Women`s Court activities so far, but also of new women who joined them.

- (25th of October): We discussed the actual situation of women`s movement in Montenegro, its perspectives and possibilities of joint actions of women`s groups.

- (26th of October): Stasa Zajovic held lectures and workshops: 1. lecture on Uruguay: political, socio-economic context, societal movements (against impunity, association of families of the missing persons, the policy of reparations in now days Uruguay...), 2. `None of the women should be battle field`-XVI International Conference of International Network of Women in Black, Montevideo, Uruguay, 19th-24th of August, 2013 dedicated to issues relevant to the process of organizing of Women`s Court for ex Yugoslavia: Not in our name-ethical principles of Global Women in Black Network, Combating impunity-the struggle for justice and reparations (Congo, Guatemala, Spain, Argentina, Serbia), Feminist approach to justice-international experience: on Women`s commission for truth and reparations in Columbia, 3. Projection of documentaries-struggle of women`s groups for peace and justice, Joint dreams (Argentina), Find the name for it (Congo), We remember-20 years of crimes against women in Bosnia and Herzegovina-Group for video-activism of Women in Black, Women we do not forget-Spain (Women in Black, Seville) and Garden full of women`s hope-on Women`s commission in Columbia. The movies were followed by a discussion.

- 1st of November, Novi Sad: Seminar organized by Women in Black, Belgrade, held in premises of Civil Centre of Vojvodina. It was attended by 14 persons from Novi Sad and Belgrade.

2. Public presentations-Women`s Court
The public presentations represent the part of research-activist process aimed at collecting information, suggestions regarding the phenomenon and concept of justice and selection of the issues for Women`s Court. Public presentations were held in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia.

- 25th of October, Zenica, Initiative for Women`s Court were presented by: Nela Pamukovic, Renata Cuk, Nada Petrovic and Marijana Senjak in the premises of Infoteka-Women`s Informative and document Centre of Zenica, and during the informal meeting of the feminist network dealing with problem of war rape. This Public presentation was attended by 24 women from Zenica, Sarajevo, Ljubljana, Zagreb, Sibenik, Cologne, Hamburg, London, New Zealand, Tuzla and Belgrade). The meeting was organized after the conference of Medica Zenica for their 20th anniversary, therefore there were participants from all over the world. They wanted to be informed regarding the process of Women`s Court organizing, activities conducted so far, plans in the coming period, etc.

- 17th of November, Zagreb: Within Vox Feminae festival, and after the projection of Jasmina Zbanic`s movie-`For those who can speak`, in Europe cinema, a discussion was held with the director of `Justice for those who can speak.` There was also a short presentation of Women`s Court initiative by Rada Boric and Paula Zore.

- 25th of November, Zagreb: The presentation was organized by lesbian group Kontra, in the premises of LGBT Centre, attended by 7 persons. Moderators were Sanda Brumen and Nela Pamukovic. That was the 29th public presentation which was organized by Women`s Court Initiative Board by members from Croatia, in 2011.

3. Public debates Gender and Nation, Montenegro: from 25th of November until 10th of December, six (6) panels were held, in six (6) cities:(Bar, Bijelo Polje, Budva, Pljevlja, Podgorica and Niksic) which were attended by a total of 179 persons, (13 men and 166 women).

- 26th November, Pljevlja, NGO Bona Fide, 48 persons,

- 27th November, Bijelo Polje, NGO Strong Mama, 36 persons,

- 28ht November, Niksic, NGO Women Voters League, 40 persons,

- 29th November, Podgorica, NGO Anima, 17 persons

- 6th December, Bar, NGO Heegar, 18 persons,

- 10th December, Budva, NGO Anima, 20 persons.

4. Documentary and feature movies projections: This educational program consists of documentaries and featuring movies projections regarding women`s experiences, as well as experiences of women`s groups and networks connected to violence against women etc. After projections discussions were organized about movies and the initiative for organizing the Women`s Court-feminist approach to justice.

In this period a movie projection was held in Nis, on 28th September, in the premises of Women`s Space. This movie `Polling spirits` (63`) follows the life story of two women-Nusreta Sivac and Jadranka Cigelj, who survived in the concentration camp Omarska during Serb aggression on Bosnia and Herzegovina.

III Operational consultative meetings

In accordance with feminist codex in organizing the Women`s Court, which implies democratic distribution of knowledge and a process of joint reflection, those encounters are the part of the democratic process. During those meetings we analyze the results of activities implemented so far, define future steps in the process of comprehension and creation of justice from the feminist prospective. In accordance with feminist ethics of organizing the process of Women`s Court, besides joint operational consultative meetings, we initiated numerous forms of work on the level of countries, regular operational meetings, workshops, meetings of the legal team, focus groups discussions, roundtable discussions, etc. In this report of all the activities in Serbia were listed first, as well as those that were reported by partner organizations from all the successor countries of ex Yugoslavia:

1. Organizing Board of Women`s Court-regional working meetings of the members of Women`s Court Initiative Board

In this period were held meetings of Women`s Court Initiative Board:

- 27th and 28th September in Tivat, Montenegro

- 23d and 24th November, Zagreb/Sljeme, Croatia

- 22nd and 23rd December, Bosnia and Herzegovina

On the meetings of Women`s Court Initiative Board the activities from the previous period are analysed, as well as challenges, difficulties and joint activities are agreed for the coming period.

2. Regular working meetings - Women`s Court Initiative Board organizers, creation of support groups within civil society, legal team meetings...

Three meetings of Women`s Court Initiative Board organizers were held in Zagreb (2nd, 9th and 10th December).

22nd October in Priboj, Serbia: Meeting of `Women activism-peace building` arose from the need of activists in the field and issues concerning civil society, Serbian Women in Black Network, introducing with activities of Women`s Court, their inclusion in the process itself and joint agreements were addressed. It was organized by Women in Black from Belgrade and NGO Women`s Voice from Priboj.

3. Regular working meetings connected to Women`s Court
- In this reporting period in the premises of Women in Black we held meetings every Thursday, attended by members of the coordinating team of Women in Black, and occasionally joined by members of Women Studies from Belgrade. During those meetings information is exchanged, reflections, dilemmas, the results of conducted activities are being analyzed, new activities are agreed and defined, etc. Usually five or ten members of the coordinating team take part.

4. Joint reflection of the feminist approach to justice in the process of organizing of Women`s Court-meeting of moderators of educational activities in Serbia.

- 14th of September, Vrnjacka Banja: the meeting with activists of Serbian Women in Black Network, who are involved in the activities of the process of organizing of the Women`s Court. The meeting was attended by 10 activists from: Belgrade, Kraljevo, Novi Becej, Leskovac, Pirot, Dimitrovgrad, Krusevac, Sombor.

- 13th and 14th of December, Belgrade: The meeting of coordinators of educational activities for Women`s Court-feminist approach to justice. The meeting was attended by: 15 activists from: Belgrade, Novi Becej, Krusevac, Kraljevo, Vlasotince, Leskovac, Pirot, Dimitrovgrad and Nis. The meeting consisted of several segments: a short review of the regional process of Women`s Court-feminist approach to justice, the plan of future activities on the regional level (for 2014), international experiences of women-alternative models of justice-Women`s Commission/Columbia, followed by the above mentioned movie projection-`Garden full of women`s hope,` feminist approach to justice, joint reflection of feminist approach to justice and the process of organizing of Women`s Court (analysis of feminist codex, feminist policy and perspectives of work on organizing Women`s Court, the significance of feminist perspective in the process of Women`s Court from the point of view of moderators-organizers, impact and lessons learned of the attendants of working groups, challenges, problems, etc. During the meeting, reports were presented regarding Women`s Court process in Serbia, public presentations, movie projections, feminist ethics of care-meetings with potential witnesses, discussion on challenges in the field, individual testimonies-discussion on experiences in the filed, plan of future activities in organizing the Women`s Court in Serbia and on the regional level in 2014.

IV Creation of support groups-experts for Women`s Court

22nd and 23d of November, Sljeme/Zagreb: the meeting of the Regional Organizing Board with Women`s Court experts. The meeting was attended by 24 activists and experts from 12 cities and 6 countries. Besides the Organizing Board of the Women`s Court, the participants of the meeting of experts were: Sabiha Husic (Medica, Zenica), Teufika Ibrahimefendic (Viva zene, Tuzla), Jasmina Husanovic (University of Tuzla, Tuzla), Dr Janja Bec (sociologist, professor, Belgrade), Nada Raduski (demographer, Belgrade), prof. Dr Rada Ivekovic (philosopher, Paris), prof. Dr Svetlana Slapsak (anthropologist, Ljubljana/Belgrade), Jelena Milic (director in Centre for Euro-Atlantic Studies, Belgrade), Gorana Mlinarevic (expert for feminist and societal-legal researches, Sarajevo), Marijana Senjak (psychotherapist, Zagreb), prof. Dr Fuada Stankovic (economist, Novi Sad), Jagoda Milidrag Smit (union activist, Zagreb) and Nela Porobic (WILPF, Sarajevo).

The meeting lasted for two days and the following program was adopted:

I session - ethnic based violence: panelists: Dr Janja Bec (sociologist, Pancevo), Dr Nada Raduski (sociologist, Belgrade), and prof. Dr Jasmina Husanovic (culturologist, Tuzla), moderator Rada Boric.

II session - military violence: Jelena Milic (director in Centre for Euro-Atlantic Studies, Belgrade) and Stasa Zajovic, Women in Black, Belgrade, moderator Rada Boric.

III session – Continuum of gender based violence: panellists Gorana Mlinarevic (expert for feminist and societal-legal researches, Sarajevo), Marijana Senjak (psychotherapist, Zagreb), Teufika Ibrahimefendic (Viva zene, Tuzla), sociology master Sabiha Husic (psychotherapist, Zenica), moderator Nela Pamukovic.

IV session-economic violence over women: prof. Dr Fuada Stankovic (economist, Novi Sad) and Jagoda Milidrag Smit (Zagreb), moderator Ljupka Kovacevic.

V session-General political context: panellists were prof. Dr Rada Ivekovic (philosopher, Paris), prof Dr Svetlana Slapsak (anthropologist, Ljubljana/Belgrade), Dasa Duhacek as moderator.

IV final session: Agreements, moderated by Rada Boric and Stasa Zajovic.

Besides those joint meetings, numerous operational meetings with certain experts were held in this reporting period, in order to foster mutual support between activists and experts.

V Focus-discussion groups: Montenegro

The aim of those focus groups is collecting `CV`s` of women who have lost their jobs, including in the process of Women`s Court as potential witnesses on Women`s Court and providing psychosocial support. Groups were formed in cooperation with the Union of Free Trade Unions of Montenegro in three (3) cities and with the presence of 19 women:

- Cetinje, 3rd October: Municipal Assembly, 5 women attended,

- Herceg Novi, 8th October: in the premises of Union of Free Trade Unions of Meljine hospital, 7 women attended

- Bar, 8th October: in the premises of Union of Free Trade Unions 7 women attended

VI Feminist-ethics of care-support for potential witnesses (Serbia and Montenegro

1. Regional meeting with potential witnesses

- Tivat, Montenegro, 26th-29th September: the three-day workshop was attended by 29 women: twenty (20) potential witnesses from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia and Serbia, as well as nine (9) members of the Regional Organizing Board of the Women`s Court. The workshop was conducted by Marijana Senjak (Zagreb), psychotherapist with years of experience in working with PTSP in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia and Ljupka Kovacevic (Kotor), psychotherapist with working experience in Montenegro. This was the first regional workshop with potential witnesses and the next one is scheduled for January 2014.

2. Meetings with potential witnesses-in Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia and Macedonia

- Vrnjacka Banja, 12th and 13th September: The meeting with potential witnesses for the Women`s Court, attended by 17 women (14 women who have applied during the process of organizing of Women`s Court). Certain issues were discussed at the meeting: Feminist ethics of care-support for the potential witnesses, Solidarity in practice-support for the victims of war, military violence during and after the war, Women in Black activities in refugee camps and support for the displaced, women as subjects of justice and joint agreement on preparations of witnesses in Serbia.

- Pirot, 28th October: The meeting was held in the premises of Women of the South, attended by thirteen (13) activists from Pirot, Dimitrovgrad and Belgrade. Coordinators of discussion were Ivana Vitas and Marija Perkovic.

- Belgrade, 6th and 7th December: The meeting was held in the premises of Women in Black, attended by 31 activists, those from Women in Black Network: Belgrade, Zrenjanin, Leskovac, Priboj, Novi Becej, Mladenovac, Kraljevo, Krusevac, Dimitrovgrad, Bela Reka, as well as three activists from the Association of Women from Zvornik and ten activists from Djulici. At this meeting on 7th of December, it was decided that the second regional meeting of potential witnesses woud be be attended by six (6) women from Serbia, who have survived military, ethnic and economic violence, during and in the post-war period.

- Kotor, 7th December: 15 women attended this meeting as well as one man. The information was exchanged and decisions of the expert meetings, (Zagreb, November) as well as other plans on the regional level. It was decided that 4 women as potential witnesses who have survived various types of violence (economic, ethnic and military) would attend the second regional meeting in Lipik/Croatia.

- Skopje, 21st and 22nd December: At the meeting with potential witnesses for Women`s Court in Macedonia, 20 women attended coming from 8 cities (Stip, Kavadarci, Struga, Ohrid, Tetovo, Kumanovo, Veles and Skopje), besides the exchanges regarding the process of organizing Women`s Court conducted so far in Macedonia and the whole region, women have witnessed violence and injustice and have decided on potential witnesses for the second encounter of potential witnesses for the whole region (Lipik, January 2014). This meeting was coordinated by: Ljupka Kovacevic (Anima, Kotor), and Savka Todorovska (Council for Gender Equality, Skopje).

2. Individual conversations with potential witnesses-Serbia

At the meeting of potential witnesses held on 12th and 13th of September, as well as at the next meeting of the coordinating team of Women in Black Network for Women`s Court, held on 14th September, 2013, it was agreed that a Guide for interviews with potential witnesses for Women`s Court should be made. Namely, during the process of organizing the Women`s Court, it became clear that numerous women are not ready yet to testify within educational activities (Public presentations, movie projections, etc). With the purpose of overcoming trauma caused by numerous injustices the women have suffered, and due to the fact that they find it impossible to speak up publicly, it was concluded that in the forthcoming period it is necessary to encourage personal contacts with potential witnesses. During September and October 2013, the Guide for interviews with potential witnesses for Women`s Court was prepared. In order to prepare it we used our experiences from field work, as well as the experiences of Women’s Commission for truth, initiated by Ruta pacifika/Peace path from Columbia.

During November and December 2013, a pilot study was conducted, and also five (5) individual testimonies in Belgrade (1), southeast Serbia (3) and Bela Reka (southwest Serbia). Women`s testimonies show that they have at the same time suffered various types of violence, but first of all military, economic, sexual and ethnic violence. Since the modest sample was really important, it was agreed that work on individual testimonies should be continued.

3. Individual therapeutic work with potential witnesses-Croatia

Center for Women Studies, Center for Women Victims of War and Civil Action from Porec, with the support of therapist Marijana Senjak, organize individual consultations, both with women who have participated as witnesses in the process of Women`s Court, as well as with new potential witnesses.

VIII Artistic and activist engagement

Developing and strengthening of feminist responsibility, as well as non-violent resistance to all kinds of discrimination and exploitation. We cite street actions connected to issues tackled during process of organizing of Women`s Court.

1. Street actions: Actions organized in Serbia are already listed in this report of ours, so we are listing only those organized by activists in Montenegro: We say no to it, 9th of November: International Day of combating fascism and anti-Semitism. Nine persons were involved in this performance in Kotor.

2. Visiting places were crimes were committed in our name: This activity of Women in Black is already listed in this report.

3. Engaged art and facing the past

Dah Theater in cooperation with Women in Black have organized Regional meeting of women from Serbia and region. The meeting attended Women in Black activists from Serbia and Montenegro, potential witnesses for Women`s Court from Serbia, members of the association of victims/survived and missing persons from Bosnia and Herzegovina (Zvornik, Djulici, Tuzla), refugees, displaced, and missing persons from Kosovo, members of art collectives from Kosovo, Serbia, Poland, Sweden. During three days we spent time together walking around Belgrade and sharing reflection, laugh, tears and planning together for fifty women.

Beside the above mentioned movies of Albanian directors from Kosovo, participants of this meeting had a chance to see more documentaries:

Movie from Argentina `Joint dreams` (21`). This documentary was made on the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of the famous women organization for peace and justice in Argentina-Mothers from May Square. The movie shows the reasons for establishing this kind of organizations: searching for missing sons and daughters during military dictatorship in Argentina (1976-1983), combating impunity as well as huge strides the mothers have made in education, social justice and historical memory.

`The women we do not forget` (4`): the movie shows scene action (Women in Black, Seville/Spain), an activist who discloses crimes over women terror victims during dictatorship of Franco in Spain, it is a recognition to rebel women and continuity of women`s fight for historical memory.

`They have left an imprint on all of us-We will never forget the Srebrenica Genocide` (11`): film on scene action in Belgrade on 10th of July, 2013 which have organized Women in Black cooperating with Dah Theater, Art Clinic and Skart group.

The first night of the theater piece `The presence of absence` held on 5th December, has already been described in this report.

IX Video-activism-beside the already listed video materials (October-December 2013) in the course of September, the following were also made:

`They have left an imprint on all of us-We will never forget the Srebrenica Genocide` (11.11`). Movie on scene action in Belgrade on 10th of July, 2013, organized by Women in Black in cooperation with Dah Theater, Art Clinics, and Skart group. It is prepared in English language.

Commemoration of the 21st anniversary of the closing down of the Omarska concentration camp (5,44`): the movie shows a discussion in front of ex-concentration camp Trnopolje, on 5th of August, as well as award ceremony when Women in Black were awarded for combating the denial of genocide.

X Publishing activity

The aim is deepening knowledge needed for the process of organizing of Women`s Court-feminist approach to justice: transcripts, manuals, brochures, etc.

In this reporting period, out of publishing units, Women in Black have prepared for publishing listed materials, as photocopies and in restricted number due to lack of means:

- Support for war victims-support for refugees and displaced (Women in Black and solidarity actions with victims in Serbia). The brochure has five chapters: work in refugee camps in Serbia, Krajina, Kosovo, military violence in war and post-war period (Serbian Radio Television and Topcider) and politically assembled trials-for the victims of regime of Slobodan Milosevic. It consists of 43 pages.

- Transcript of the meeting Support to potential witnesses for Women`s Court in Tivat, 29 pages
- Transcript of the meeting with experts for Women`s Court in Zagreb, 35 pages
- Brochure Ethnic violence against women-process of organizing of the Women`s Court (for the experts meeting), 85 pages,
- Brochure Military violence against women-process of organizing the Women`s Court (for the experts’ meeting), 118 pages

In this period the following leaflets were also made: On process of organizing Women`s Court in Serbia (February-September) 2013, Legal regulations on war rape and support to victims of war-support to refugees and displaced persons (Women in Black and actions of solidarity with victims in Serbia).