The staff and Board of Directors of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Mirko Klarin, founder and editor-in-chief of SENSE News Agency and the SENSE Transitional Justice Center—and lifelong advocate for peace in southeast Europe.
“The passing of Mirko Klarin is a loss not only for NED’s partners in southeast Europe, but for defenders of truth and justice worldwide,” said Tanja Dramac Jiries, deputy director for Europe at NED. “The entire Europe progam team at NED is grateful for Mirko’s unparalleled commitment to reconciliation that has encouraged the region to move forward to find lasting peace and democracy.”
Klarin helped establish the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia that provided voice to victims who suffered the horrors of war and irrevocably changed the landscape of international law. Since 1966, Klarin worked as a journalist for leading newspapers in the region and in 1998 he founded the SENSE News Agency in The Hague to report on the work of the ICTY and chronicle the trials of war crimes.
Over the past 20 years, SENSE has published thousands of reports and analyses of the ICTY proceedings, and produced TV programs and documentary films to raise awareness. The importance of Klarin’s work is widely recognized, not only by victims’ organizations, media outlets, legal professionals, and leading human rights NGOs and civic activists in the Western Balkans, but also by the ICTY’s judges, prosecutors, lawyers, academics and officials, as well as international criminal justice professionals and experts around the world.
When the ICTY’s mandate came to an end, Klarin transformed SENSE from a news agency into a legacy transitional justice center. The center today preserves the agency’s priceless audiovisual and documentary archives, which include more than 20,000 hours of recordings and tens of thousands of documents and other evidence related to the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia. Since 2016, with NED support, Klarin and Sense Transitional Justice Center worked to advance transitional justice and historical understanding among the youngest in the region. In cooperation with the Association of History Teachers in Croatia and European Association of History Educators, Klarin worked closely with history teachers across southeast Europe in an effort to counter the region’s rising historical revisionism.
An important part of his work is the creation of a network of local documentation centers in communities most affected by war crimes. His goal was to demonstrate to these communities how the crimes they experienced have been recognized, investigated, and prosecuted by the ICTY. To date, Klarin and SENSE have created several such centers, including physical ones in Pula, Srebrenica and Prishtina, and virtual ones on crimes committed against cultural, historical, and religious heritage during the armed conflicts in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo.
NED extends its deepest sympathy to the Klarin family and to all our partners in southeast Europe, who have lost a true friend and champion.