The Endowment presented its annual Democracy Award to Veton Surroi, the editor and publisher of Koha Ditore, the most widely read Albanian language daily in Kosovo, and Natasa Kandic, head of the Belgrade-based human rights organization, the Humanitarian Law Center, which has been documenting human rights violations in Yugoslavia since 1992.
Veton Surroi was a member of the Albanian delegation to the Kosovo peace talks in Ramboulliet, France, and remained in Kosovo during the war, despite being targeted by Milosevic. Surroi hid underground during the eleven weeks of the siege, emerging only to change hiding places four times.
When most other NGO leaders in Serbia had been silenced by intimidation from the Milosevic regime, Natasa Kandic bravely continued her work and spoke out against the Serbian attacks in Kosovo. During the war in Kosovo, she, at great personal risk, shuttled back and forth between Kosovo and Belgrade, first to save her own terrorized Albanian staff members, and then to collect information on human rights abuses to disseminate to the outside world, including the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague.
Carl Gershman, NED President, provided additional remarks at the ceremony.