By Bonny Ibhawoh,
I first met Katarina in 1998 while working at the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) in Copenhagen (then the Danish Centre for Human Rights). Our mutual friend Mark Gibney had introduced me to her. We did not spend much time together at the DIHR as she soon moved to the Raul Wallenberg Institute at the University of Lund, Sweden where she was a professor in International Human Rights Law. Our friendship continued while she was at Lund. Katarina became a close friend, colleague and mentor. She was always willing to lend a listening ear and share her wealth of experience and expertise in human rights scholarship with a new and sometimes clueless researcher. She often invited me and Hashil to her apartment in Copenhagen treating us to her delicious cooking. I loved her soups.
Katarina’s passion was the right to education. She dreamed of the day when all the world’s children would have rights and access to education – a dream she tirelessly pursued in her capacity as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to education from 1998 to 2004. Her death in 2006 left a void not only in the hearts of her friends and colleagues but in the international human rights community. It is will be a void that will be hard fill.
Katarina was an avid collector of ornamental turtles which she collected over the years from around the world during her travels. Her Copenhagen apartment was beautifully adorned with turtles of all shapes, colors and sizes. To me, they reflected Katarina personality in many ways – gentle, endearing and resilient. When she died in 2006 I received 3 of Katarina’s turtles which I cherish and treasure. They sit on my office shelf – a reminder of the inspiration that Katarina provided and continues to provide for me.
Katarina’s Tomasevski memorial: