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

Victims' Request to Speak in Hartmann Trial Dismissed

Several groups had said they wanted to provide information which would contribute to a fair trial.
By Simon Jennings
Hague tribunal judges set to hear the case against former prosecution spokeswoman Florence Hartmann have denied permission to regional war victims’ organisations to present arguments during the trial.

The Association of the Concentration-Camp Detainees in Bosnia and Hercegovina, the Association of Mothers of the Srebrenica and Zepa Enclaves and the Association of Women Victims of War wrote to the court in March this year, requesting to appear before it to provide information which they said would contribute to a fair trial for Hartmann.

Hartmann, who was spokeswoman to former chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte from 1999 until 2006, faces trial for two counts of contempt of court for allegedly revealing the contents of confidential decisions made by appeal judges in the trial of former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic. Milosevic’s war crimes trial for atrocities in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo, which began in 2002, was never completed as he died in his cell in March 2006.

According to the order issued by the trial chamber in place of an indictment on August 27, 2008, Hartmann is responsible for “knowingly and wilfully disclosing information in knowing violation of an order of [judges]”.

The court order states that the disclosures were made in Hartmann’s 2007 book Paix and Chatiment (Peace and Punishment), and in an article, Vital Genocide Documents Concealed, which was published on the Bosnian Institute website on January 21, 2008.

Hartmann allegedly revealed elements of two confidential decisions – made by appeals judges on September 20, 2005 and April 6, 2006 – while at the same time acknowledging that they were confidential.

The decisions are thought to relate to the court’s handling of certain documents, including minutes of meetings of Serbia’s Supreme Defence Council, SDC, during the wars in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

The contents of these documents have been kept confidential by the court – under rules that enable it to protect a state’s national security – but are widely believed to include crucial information about Belgrade’s involvement in the wars.

By requesting to appear in Hartmann’s trial, the victims’ organisations were seeking to present information to the court about the “damages that both the victims and all the communities in the region have suffered because of the so-called protected archives and documents”.

They also said they wished to inform the chamber of the difficulties of prosecuting war crimes suspects and compensating victims in the region as a result of the Hague tribunal continuing to protect the documents.

Under tribunal rules, judges may invite or allow a state, organisation or person to appear before it as an amicus curiae – or friend of the court – and make submissions on a particular issue if they consider it “desirable for the proper determination of the case”.

The organisations said they also wanted to demonstrate the negative impact of holding the proceedings against Hartmann.

According to them, the trial may “destabilise relations in the region, inflame victims’ frustrations, [and] endanger the founding principles of the work of the [tribunal],” said the groups in their joint letter of March 13 this year.

“Trust in the [tribunal] and international justice might be lost [as a result of this].”

The Association of Concentration Camp Detainees of Bosnia and Herzegovina wrote a separate letter to the court on February 2, 2009, also seeking to present arguments during the Hartmann case for the confidential Serbian military documents in the court’s possession to be made public.

The organisation believes that the documents will show that refugee camps which housed Bosniak, Croat and Serb civilians in Serbia during the war were actually prisons, deliberately set up as such by the former Yugoslav authorities.

Serbian officials have denied that this was the case, arguing that the camps served as collection centres for refugees in the region, and maintain that conditions inside were in line with international law.

However, in a ruling of May 6, judges denied the organisations the opportunity to put their concerns to the court as part of the contempt case against Hartmann.

“The chamber is of the view that it would not be desirable for the proper determination of this matter to consider the submissions proposed by the applicants,” ruled judges. No further reasons were given.

Murat Tahirovic, president of the Association of Concentration Camp Detainees of Bosnia and Hercegovina, has told IWPR that he will be appealing the decision of the specially appointed chamber of judges hearing the Hartmann case not to hear arguments for releasing protected documents.

“[The] Association of Concentration Camp Detainees of Bosnia and Herzegovina is not satisfied with the decision of the specially appointed chamber,” he told IWPR.

“Victims of torture in the camps deserve to participate in the [trial] process. We hope that [the court will] reconsider our request, or appeal, [and] allow [us] to take part in the legal process against Florence Hartmann.”

No new date has been set for Hartmann’s trial, which was originally scheduled for February 5 this year. Prior to that date, the case was suspended on the back of a request from the defence for two judges to be replaced because they “lacked an appearance of impartiality”.

A panel of judges appointed by the court’s president to oversee the matter ruled that the relationship between the judges and the appointed prosecutor, Bruce MacFarlane, “may lead an objective observer to conclude that the chamber has an interest in the investigation and prosecution of the case against Ms Hartmann”.

The two judges – Carmel Agius and Alphons Orie – were removed from the case and replaced by Judge Mehmet Guney and Judge Liu Daqun on April 2.

The defence has since filed a request on April 21 for judges to set aside all orders and decisions made by the previous judges, including the charges themselves.

It says that the charges against Hartmann are no longer valid as they were initiated by the previous judges, and argues that the new judges should neither reinitiate nor continue with the contempt proceedings against the accused.

No ruling has yet been made on this request.

Simon Jennings is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.

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