News 28 Mar 16

Hague Tribunal Urged to Free Florence Hartmann

Around 100 Balkan human rights campaigners signed a letter supporting French journalist Hartmann, who was arrested at the Hague Tribunal over an unpaid fine for publishing secret court information.

Ivana Nikolic
BIRN
Belgrade
Florence Hartmann. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Amadalvarez.

Around 100 human rights activists and journalists from across the Balkans expressed support for Hartmann on Monday, after UN police arrested the French journalist outside the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague before Radovan Karadzic’s war crimes verdict last week.

Hartmann was convicted of contempt by the UN war crimes court in 2011 after she used some of its documents in a book and an article, disclosing the details of a decision by the court to withhold documents related Serbiaʼs involvement in the Srebrenica massacres in 1995.

But the activists said that Hartmann, who was also the Hague Tribunal prosecution’s spokesperson at one point, should not be punished for trying to expose the truth.

“We are deeply convinced that Florence Hartmann’s action is not contrary to justice, even if it is contrary to the statute of the Hague Tribunal. That is why we stand by her commitment to the fight for truth and [her] efforts for state archives to be made available,” their letter said.

In her book Paix et Chatiment (Peace and Punishment), which was published in 2007, Hartmann revealed that the documents appearing to prove Serbia’s complicity in the Srebrenica genocide had been sealed by the Hague Tribunal.

She did not reveal the content of the documents, but insisted that people who suffered because of the massacres had the right to know about the tribunal’s decision to keep the papers secret.

Hartmann was originally fined 7,000 euros, but the sentence was later converted to seven days in jail after the tribunal claimed the fine had not been paid. In December 2011, France refused a request to extradite Hartmann.

The activists insisted that she was convicted “because of an action that contributed to revealing the truth and [her] brave decision to stand against the practice of hiding documents from the public, which is happening because of states’ interests”.

As UN police tried to arrest Hartmann last Thursday, relatives of Bosnian war victims and others who were at the tribunal to hear the Karadzic verdict tried to close ranks around her and prevent officers from taking her away, but the attempt failed.

Hartmann’s lawyer has told media that she is being held in isolation until at least Tuesday because of the Easter holidays.

The Guardian newspaper reported Hartmann as saying that she was in the strange position of “watching [Bosnian Serb war crimes defendant] General Ratko Mladic walking around the yard and associating with other prisoners while I’m locked away in a cage”.

BIRN contacted the Hague Tribunal for a comment, but received no response by the time of the publication.

Hartmann is a former Balkans correspondent for the French newspaper Le Monde. In 2000 she went to work for the tribunal as spokesperson for the chief prosecutor, remaining there until 2006.

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