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france 24 Europe

Balkan activists support jailed French journalist Hartmann

© Olaf Kraak, POOL, AFP | Florence Hartmann appears before the International Criminal Court in The Hague, on October 27, 2008

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-03-29

A hundred Balkan rights groups and some 100 journalists and activists declared support Monday for a French former spokesman for the Yugoslav war crimes court after she was arrested for revealing confidential court details in a 2007 book.

Florence Hartmann, a former Balkans correspondent for French daily Le Monde, was dramatically grabbed by blue-shirted UN guards on Thursday in front of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia’s (ICTY) entrance, where she once worked as the spokeswoman for former prosecutor Carla Del Ponte between 2000-2006.

Hartmann will be released later on Tuesday, lawyer Guenael Mettraux said, adding that she was "very happy". Hartmann was detained as she was trying to attend the landmark verdict for wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.

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

"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, which garnered 100 signatures.

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

The information, 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 ($7,800) for contempt in 2009, but was sentenced to seven days in jail by an ICTY judge in 2011 after failing to pay the sum.

‘Her book undoubtedly annoyed some judges’

Despite her jail sentence, Hartmann made several trips to the ICTY without incident over the years. But on Thursday, everything changed.

“It’s true that she visited The Hague several times without being worried,” one of her lawyers, William Bourdon, told FRANCE 24, adding that he didn’t know why the ICTY had decided to detain her now.

“Her book undoubtedly annoyed some judges. It looks like some sort of score is being settled. There must have been some who didn’t like her aplomb and refusal to pay the [€7,000] fine,” he said.

Although Hartmann’s supporters acknowledged that she may have technically committed a crime by divulging the information in her book, they defended her actions.

"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," it said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Date created : 2016-03-29


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