Without information, no reconciliation

Balkan activists support detained ex-ICTY spokeswoman

1 min 31Approximate reading time

A hundred Balkan rights groups, journalists and activists declared their support Monday for a former prosecutorial spokeswoman at the Yugoslav war crimes court after she was detained by the tribunal.

French national Florence Hartmann was sentenced on appeal to seven days in prison in 2009 after writing a book containing confidential court details, and on Thursday she was dramatically grabbed at the court entrance in The Hague.

Since her detention, which came as she was trying to attend the landmark verdict for wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, Hartmann has been held under "suicide watch conditions", her lawyer said at the weekend.

"Civil society representatives from the region of the former Yugoslavia hereby voice their support for Florence Hartmann and her uncompromising struggle for truth," said Monday's letter with 100 signatories.

It said Hartmann was sentenced "because of exposing and countering the practice of concealing documents in order to protect the interests of some states".

Hartmann, a former Balkans correspondent for French daily Le Monde, was detained by UN guards in front of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia's (ICTY), where she once worked as the prosecutor's spokeswoman between 2000-2006.

She was prosecuted in 2007 for revealing details of two confidential appeals chamber decisions in a book published that year.

The data, which emerged during the trial of late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, allegedly implicated the Serbian state in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Bosnia.

Hartmann was initially fined 7,000 euros ($7,800) for contempt and in 2011, after she had not paid the fine, ICTY judges sentenced her to seven days in jail.

The court asked French authorities to arrest her, but they refused.

"We are profoundly convinced that what Florence Hartmann did may be contrary to the ICTY Statute but is certainly not contrary to justice. Quite the opposite," Monday's letter said.

It said the tribunal had shown "weakness" over Vojislav Seselj, a Serbian war crimes suspect who will not be present at the court this week to hear his verdict owing to alleged medical reasons.

He is however standing in parliamentary elections in April and has led anti-government protests in Belgrade.

The letter referred to Serbia's refusal to hand over Seselj and three other members of his Serbian Radical party who are accused of contempt of court.

"The Hague Tribunal used to apply the same standards to all accused persons in the past, so it should do so in this case too."

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