The Hague, 28 August 2008 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has indicted Florence Hartmann, former spokesperson for the prosecutor Carla del Ponte, for contempt of the Tribunal, reports Hirondelle Agency.

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According to a document released by the communications department of the Tribunal, without the defendant or her lawyer's knowledge, the UN Court accuses Hartmann of having made public the existence and the content of two confidential orders in her book "Paix et Châtiment (Peace and Punishment)", published last September by Flammarion. It also accuses her of an article published by the Bosnian Institute in January 2008.

In her book, Florence Hartmann denounced, in particular, the obstacles placed by the international community to the arrest of Radovan Karadzic. She also revealed American pressures to force the prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to give up the investigation into the attack against the plane of then Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, which sparked the 1994 genocide.

The investigation for contempt opened in February 2008 and had been led by an independent investigator from the Tribunal, nominated in the capacity of Amicus Curiae (friend of the court), just like the prosecutor who will be in charge of this case. This procedure was applicable because Hartmann served for almost six years the Tribunal.

At the end of the investigation, and within the framework of a rather unusual procedure, the judges ordered the prosecutor, on 27August, to prosecute Hartmann, by dictating to the prosecution the criminal charges as well as the facts which must be held against her.

The decision had been rendered within the framework of the Milosevic case. During several months, the prosecutor had asked the Serbian government to cooperate and give to the Tribunal evidence showing the implication of Belgrade in the crimes committed in neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Serbia had agreed to cooperate only in exchange of confidentiality, which the Tribunal had accepted in first instance and then in appeal. The documents had been examined behind closed doors by the Chamber during the trial.

These documents, which according to several experts contained concrete evidence of the implication of Belgrade, and thus of the Serbian former President Slobodan Milosevic, were the subject of another case. Because at the same time, Bosnia and Herzegovina had brought legal action against Serbia for genocide before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which is charged with settling disagreements between countries. Bosnia and Herzegovina lost the case, in particular due to lack of evidence.

The lawyer of Hartmann, Frenchman William Bourdon, the former Secretary-General of the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), considered this decision to be "confusing". "It can only be explained by considerations other than legal", he stated. "To prosecute Mrs. Hartmann means that all those which legitimately, in the interest of the public and history, would wish to testify of their actions to the service of international criminal justice will be muzzled".

The imperfections of the ICTY do not have a calling to be silenced, he added.

Nearly a score of cases for contempt to the Tribunal, generally relating to the protection of witnesses, have been initiated by the ICTY since 1993. Some have led to convictions.

The harshest until now has been a fine of 20 000 Euros. The sentence can range up to seven years in prison and 100 000 Euros in fines. Generally, the cases for contempt are initiated when the witnesses are put in danger.

The ICTR has had two cases for contempt; one against a witness charged with false testimony, who served nine months in prison, and the other against an investigator charged with having encouraged false testimonies. The case, complex, should be tried beginning on 29 December.


© Hirondelle News Agency