The Hague, 28 October 2007 (FH) - Florence Hartmann, former spokesperson of Carla del Ponte, appeared for the first time Monday before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) accused of two charges of contempt to the Tribunal.

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Hartmann has asked for an additional time before saying if she pleads guilty or not.

The presiding Judge Carmel Agius, however, does not believe in suspense: "I am sure you will dispute the charges", he repeated twice.

At the beginning of the hearing, her lawyer, Frenchman William Bourdon, used each detail of the proceedings to carry the case on its facts.

Being opposed to any photography of the defendant in the courtroom, Bourdon drove the nail. "She is not prosecuted for violations to humanitarian international law, she is not at large, she is free." And of his client, the lawyer does not want that this popular image, of defendants in The Hague in their box, be circulated. "This very reserve club is that of those who are prosecuted, accused of having offended humanity". FHartmann, according to her lawyer, is prosecuted for "an intellectual infraction".

Before the hearing, the lawyer had considered that the infraction was constituted because his client does not call into question the decisions but only refers to them. For Bourdon, "the legal actions against Mrs. Hartmann pose very important problems of principle (...) The duty to inform, the freedom of expression and the right of the public to know the operations of international justice".

The ICTY may not come out a winner of this legal adventure because the two decisions which the existence was made public, in particular in Hartmann's book, Peace and Punishment (Paix et Châtiment), show the absence of transparency of the ad hoc tribunals.

The Appeals Chamber had decided twice, within the framework of the Milosevic case, in favour of the confidentiality of evidence given by Belgrade. However, this evidence could have had an impact on another case, heard before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which settles disagreements between countries. Bosnia-Herzegovina accused Serbia of genocide. Sarajevo had vainly requested on several occasions that the Tribunal give this evidence to it, in the objective to give it to the ICJ. In 2007, Bosnia came out a loser in the case.

The trial should proceed at the beginning of 2009. She risks up to seven years in prison and 100 000 Euros in fines if convicted.

It is the first time that one of the ad hoc tribunals prosecutes before its own judges one of its former employees.

"The case must be used as an example to prevent that others reveal the inner workings of the Tribunal, at this time where it is on the point of closing its doors", remarked an observer.


© Hirondelle News Agency