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Prominent Serbian Human Rights Activist Dies

Biljana Kovacevic Vuco

Biljana Kovacevic Vuco

Prominent Belgrade human rights activist Biljana Kovacevic Vuco, one of the most respected members of the Serbian antiwar movement of the past 20 years, died in Belgrade today at the age of 58, RFE/RL's Balkan Service reports.

Vuco was one of a small group of intellectuals and public figures who opposed the regime of late Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic and the wars he waged in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Kosovo in the 1990s.

After Milosevic's ouster in 2000, Vuco and fellow human rights activists worked tirelessly to expose the crimes allegedly committed by his regime in an effort to have them prosecuted.

It was largely due to her efforts that Milosevic and his top officials were indicted for war crimes in Serbia and at the UN tribunal in The Hague, where Milosevic died in 2006 while on trial.

Teofil Pancic of RFE/RL's Balkan Service describes Vuco as "courageous and feisty" but without enmity for those who had diverging opinions.

"Biljana Kovacevic was one of the recognizable faces of a better Serbia, both the real and the possible," he said. "She tried to build that Serbia with means that were acceptable and appropriate, and she never tired of that effort.... Despite everything, Biljana won, and her Serbia will prevail."

A lawyer by training, Vuco was one of the founders of Serbia's Helsinki Committee for Human Rights. In 1997, she founded the Committee of Lawyers for Human Rights, which offered help to victims of human rights abuses, and served as its president until her death.

Vuco had suffered from kidney problems.