Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Hartmann Doubts West's Will to Catch Suspects

French journalist insists there is no political will for the arrest of top war crimes fugitives.
Florence Hartmann is abuzz with energy. She may have stopped working for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, but that doesn’t mean she’s stopped talking about it.

And, at the moment, she’s telling us to watch out. If Britain, France and America don’t insist the ICTY continues its work after 2010, the date when it’s supposed to be wound up, then that means they want Serb war crimes suspects Radovan Karodzic and Ratko Mladic to escape, she believes.

Mladic and Karadzic are the two highest-profile indictees still at large, and they were both assigned major parts in Hartmann’s recent book Peace and Punishment: The Secret Hague Wars Between International Law and International Politics, in which she details her time as spokeswoman to the tribunal’s chief prosecutor and uses documents to which she had access to then to explore the sometimes competing interests of peace and justice.

“We have absolutely no clear cut commitment from [Britain, France and America] and a big question is why," Hartmann told IWPR.

"Serbia will not give up Mladic by itself. The international community has to assist this process with the means they have. They have diplomatic means [but] they are spending all of their ammunition without getting results. Then you change strategy or you recognise that you don't want him. They don't want to recognise that."

The book is not even out in English yet, having been published first in French and now in Bosnian. But it has already caused a stir by suggesting former US ambassador Richard Holbrooke could have done a deal allowing Karadzic to escape justice for his role in the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica and other atrocities in the Bosnian war.

Holbrooke angrily denied any deal had been done, telling Sarajevo's Dnevni Avaz newspaper the allegations were “dirty lies”.

Hartmann defended her book, saying she had been misinterpreted since she never categorically stated that there had been a deal.

“I have been saying [in my book] that we have Karadzic’s people claiming there was a deal and we have Holbrooke and other officials saying there was no deal,” she said.

“I’m not convinced by any of it. I’m not convinced by the denial, but I’m not convinced about the statement that there was a deal … it fits with what happened in the next few years, but it’s not enough.”

Hartmann does, however, accuse the western powers of not doing enough to ensure the capture of Karadzic and Mladic while NATO troops occupied the region and of now failing to force Serbian leaders to turn over the fugitives.

She pointed to the recent initialing of a Stabilisation and Association Agreement, SAA, between the European Union and Serbia, possibly a first step towards Serbian membership of the EU, which came despite the fact that Mladic is still believed to be hiding in Serbia, as proof the West was not serious about catching war criminals.

Balkan countries, said Hartmann, only cooperate with the Hague tribunal under strong pressure from the outside. Strong pressure, she said, had never been applied in the cases of Mladic and Karadzic.

“That doesn’t need to necessarily be seen as special treatment of Serbia and another kind of treatment towards Croatia. I see it as a special treatment of Mladic and Karadzic,” she went on. “They cooperate under pressure. But each time you had Mladic on the list, then they [the western powers] would step back.”

She was also concerned by the tribunal’s plans to end its work. Under its original charter, it is due to stop hearing cases in 2009, and to stop hearing appeals in 2010. The Security Council is currently discussing what to do after that.

Judge Fausto Pocar, the president of the tribunal, told a meeting of legal advisors to UN member countries that he envisions the ICTY continuing some of its work - possibly including trials of fugitives - in a “radically downsized” fashion, while transferring other responsibilities to other international institutions.

Hartmann said the limited timescale was already causing problems at the tribunal. Prosecutors and defence lawyers were banding together to plead for more time to present their cases - an unlikely alliance in the adversarial system of the court.

She said it had also led to the decision not to prosecute more of Serbia’s political and military leaders for their role in the “joint criminal enterprise” to ethnically cleanse Croats, Bosnians and others.

A lot of criticism has been leveled against the prosecutors' decision not to indict other Serbian top civilian and military leaders alongside Slobodan Milosevic. The tribunal never indicted two former Yugoslav defence ministers Blagoje Adzic and Veljko Kadijevic, and two former Yugoslav presidents Dobrica Cosic and Borisav Jovic. They were all Milosevic's close allies during the Balkan wars.

“The tribunal took too long on the direct perpetrators, and it took too long to work from the perpetrators to the top,” said Hartmann.

“And when they arrived there, they had the completion strategy. … If the tribunal were working for five to 10 more years it would be much better.”

However, it is clear Hartmann believes the tribunal has many lessons to offer the world and the permanent International Criminal Court.

“There would never have been justice for the region without the ICTY, that’s very clear. Milosevic would still be alive and a top official or head of state,” she said.

Furthermore, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC prosecutor, now knows that he has to publicly push to have his indictments enforced to battle the idea that punishment can be traded away in the interest of peace, said Hartmann.

“Now he is learning that he has to open his mouth and fight, otherwise it’s ‘put your indictment in the cupboard. We are going to sign a peace deal’,” she said.

Brendan McKenna and Denis Dzidic are IWPR reporters.

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