Del Ponte Book Gets Mixed Reception

While some at Zagreb launch accused former prosecutor of self promotion, others praised her decision to speak out.

Del Ponte Book Gets Mixed Reception

While some at Zagreb launch accused former prosecutor of self promotion, others praised her decision to speak out.

Saturday, 25 October, 2008
The Croatian language edition of the autobiography of ex-war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte was given a mixed reception at its launch in Zagreb this week

In the book, Madame Prosector, Del Ponte talks of her time leading the prosecution team at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY, from 1999 to January this year, where she earned both praise and censure for her outspoken and uncompromising style.

The book has already causes a stir in the Balkans since it was published in Italian in April, and opinions were similarly varied at its Zagreb launch on October 20.

In her memoirs, Del Ponte looks back over her eight years at the tribunal.

Del Ponte said “the worst period” of her mandate was the time when appeal judges significantly reduced the sentence given to Bosnian Croat Tihomir Blaskic. Although Blaskic was sentenced initially to 45 years in prison for crimes against Bosniak civilians, this was slashed to just nine years in the appeals chamber and 16 of the original 19 counts were thrown out.

However, she won no sympathy from Ante Nobilo, Blaskic’s former defence counsel, who spoke at the launch.

“I can say that Carla Del Ponte wrote this book to change the image of herself and her work, to justify herself [for failing to secure convictions in some cases, and more severe sentences in others],” he told IWPR.

In her book, the former prosecutor said the failure to make charges against Blaskic was the fault of the Croatian authorities who she said hid documents that were relevant to the case. She also blamed judges at the Hague tribunal for deciding to accept written testimonies from some witnesses into evidence, instead of hearing them in court.

However, this week, Nobilo dismissed Del Ponte’s claims.

He told the audience gathered at the Zagreb event that the tribunal’s investigators had full access to Croatian archives. He added that the judges did not do anything unusual by accepting written testimonies from some witnesses, as this happened in other cases at this court, too.

All of those who spoke at the event said they were sorry that the book did not touch on allegations that world powers obstructed the search for two indicted suspects, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his army chief Ratko Mladic.

Karadzic was arrested in July this year, after 13 years on the run, while Mladic is still at large.

“The things that should have been told she could not say. She did not dare to because of the balance of power in the world today,” said Zvonimir Cicak, moderator at the talk and president of the Croatian Helsinki Committee, suggesting that Del Ponte could somehow be in danger if she spoke.

“Most of those politicians and powerful people, especially in intelligence services, are still holding the same posts, not in ex-Yugoslavia, but around the world,” he added.

However, he predicted that she would reveal more one day, “We can only wait for her to, maybe, really say something. I believe she will…”

Among the criticism, there was one positive response to the book.

Florence Hartmann, Del Ponte’s ex-spokeswoman, who also spoke at the launch, said further information on the court should always be welcomed.

“More important than all the gossip and absurdities [contained in the book], if I can call them that, is freedom of movement and speech [in relation to the work of the court]. Perspectives should be multiplied, because we cannot have only one opinion on the work of the tribunal,” said Hartmann, who published a book on the work of the court last year.

“I think it is important that people [discuss the court so] that they have different perspectives and provide numerous details, so a more complete, a more complex and objective opinion could be formed,” she said.

Enis Zebic is an RFE reporter and IWPR’s contributor in Zagreb.
Support our journalists