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From Sarajevo to Lund - Marie Tuma

17 December 2010

Marie Tuma, director of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute

Marie Tuma is the new director of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute. “This was my dream job. I had to look twice at the job advert before I dared to believe that the post really was vacant!” Marie Tuma refers to the post of director of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute (RWI). She has held the post since the start of November.

When LUM meets Marie Tuma, she has been at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute for three weeks. Most things are still new to her. The walls of her office are bare and newly repainted, books lie in piles on the windowsill because the bookcases she has ordered have not yet arrived, the computer’s connection to the printer is playing up and she is not sure who to ask for help. Of course she has met the Institute’s 40 employees, but she has not managed to learn all their names yet.

Besides her own staff, there are a lot of people outside the RWI’s brick building on Stora Gråbrödersgatan that she wants to get to know. For example, there are people at the Faculty of Law with whom RWI cooperates closely, and people at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice and other organisations. The RWI (see fact box) has one foot in academia and the other in international human rights work.

Life in Lund is quite different from life in Sarajevo, Bosnia, where Marie Tuma has spent the past four years working as an international judge. She has met both war criminals and victims of war, and has lived in a society that is still deeply scarred by the war.

“For example, simply being able to go out in the countryside anywhere is new for me. In Bosnia, people’s first thought is ‘can I walk here, or are there landmines?’” she says.

“Yes, we went walking in the mountains around Sarajevo, but never without a local guide who knew which paths were safe. Even in Sarajevo there were mines left. We could walk safely on asphalt, but not on land that wasn’t asphalted.”

Living in the wake of a war and meeting people who had experienced horrific events was depressing and upsetting. But it was also rewarding, in Marie Tuma’s view. She gained a different perspective on life during her time in Sarajevo. Now she knows that life should be seen as a daily gift and not to worry about small things.

“One day when there were a lot of people on the train home to Malmö I heard other passengers complaining about how crowded it was. I was glad I could stand there without any other problems, such as having to listen for bombs and being ready to throw myself to the floor!”

Marie Tuma is pleased to have had her experience in Sarajevo, which was very rewarding both personally and professionally. The rest of her family have also been affected. One of her daughters was the only foreign pupil in a Muslim secondary school, where several of her classmates had lost their parents in the war. She has now decided to become a doctor and has begun studying medicine in Stockholm.

For Marie Tuma, working with human rights has been her dream since her secondary school days. However, she began with a traditional law degree and work as a prosecutor in Borås. Then she took a Master’s course at RWI and lectured in Vietnam, Laos and China on behalf of the Institute.

In 2001 she became a prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague. Its duties were gradually transferred to the new Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, where Marie Tuma became one of the judges.

“When I arrived, I was one of 17 international judges and there were the same number of native judges. We brought a lot of unfinished matters with us from The Hague, and more were added – mass graves from the war in Bosnia are still being found. However, the number of international judges has decreased as the native lawyers have been able to take over the work”, she says.

For several years, the court in Sarajevo was one of the world’s only state courts that dealt with war crimes cases on a daily basis. It has therefore played an important role in the development of international law in the field, and has been a model for Cambodia’s new war crimes tribunal.

Marie Tuma does not want to wind down any part of the RWI’s work, but she would like to expand various aspects of its activities. For example, she would like to broaden the activities relating to peace and security, and include areas such as rape and corruption in connection with armed conflicts. She would also like to broaden the training in human rights to more professional groups, both in and outside Sweden, and introduce similar education to schools.

This requires more money, of course. Marie Tuma expects to see active fundraising to get in donations, and higher grants from agencies and organisations such as the EU, the United Nations, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice. Human rights and humanitarian law has not become any less topical since the Institute started in 1984, so there should be many possible partners.

Fact box: Raoul Wallenberg Institute

The Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law is an independent institution with links to Lund University. The Institute has been in existence since 1984 and its areas of activity include university education, development cooperation projects and research.

With regard to the former, it contributes to three Master’s programmes at LU and a two-year undergraduate programme in Human Rights. A range of professional development courses are taught in project form, often with the support of SIDA, both in Lund and abroad. The courses are assisted by project offices in Nairobi, Istanbul, Beijing and Jakarta, but courses are also given in other parts of the world, including Latin America and Europe. Among the participants are police officers, lawyers, civil servants, politicians and representatives of non-governmental organisations and the media in different countries.

RWI also carries out research, produces various publications and has one of Northern Europe’s largest libraries within its field.

- Ingela Björck