Tatjana Papić

August 27, 2013

tacaLecturer in Public International Law and International Human Rights Law at the Union University Law School in Belgrade.

I attended the Human Rights School for Future Trainers while I was still a student of the Law School of the University of Belgrade, in the distant 1997. Organising and attending the human rights schools in Serbia at that time was a subversive activity, as human rights were solely viewed as a Western fiction, serving as an instrument of the international community to enslave our country. As such, this School pleased every revolutionary spirit. I was enthralled by the Centre, the School and by all of our lecturers.

The Human Rights School had a profound impact on my professional future. Following the School, I began to work in the Centre on the writing of reports on the state of human rights in Serbia. Not long after, I graduated and won a scholarship for postgraduate studies in the USA at the beginning of 1999. I continued to work with human rights there as well. I worked as an intern in the New York office of Human Rights Watch. I returned to the Belgrade Centre in August 2000. Serbia looked worse than when I had left it, but everything quickly changed. We worked a lot, with zeal and fervour. In that post-revolutionary enthusiasm, it occasionally occurred to me how it all began for me in the Human Rights School in 1997. I stayed at the Centre until 2005 when I began to work at the Law School of Union University. I am there to this day, working on courses on public international law, international human rights law and the European Court of Human Rights.

Every year on Human Rights Day, December 10, I photograph my son in front of a big picture book on the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, given to me by Vojin when we completed the 2000 Human Rights Report. I then call the Centre in honour of the holiday. It reminds me of how much life and its backdrop change, of how big the difference is between life under totalitarianism and under democracy, in spite of our democracy’s deficiencies.

I often hear some former oppressor citing human rights. Then I sigh, smile and say to myself