French Journalist Is Detained at U.N. War Crimes Tribunal


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Florence Hartmann was arrested on Thursday, before the genocide verdict against Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader, was given.

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Robin Van Lonkhuijsen/European Pressphoto Agency

THE HAGUE — Shortly before the announcement of a genocide verdict on Thursday for Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader, security guards at the United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia received an extraordinary order from the court presidency: They were told to arrest a French journalist, Florence Hartmann, who could be found outside the tribunal gates with survivors of the Bosnian war.

They did arrest her, assisted by the Dutch police, who pushed back onlookers and Bosnian war victims who tried to protect her.

Since then, Ms. Hartmann, a former correspondent for Le Monde, has been locked up at the tribunal prison on the outskirts of The Hague to serve a pending seven-day sentence for a contempt of court conviction from 2009. She is in an isolated section of the jail, said Guénaël Mettraux, her lawyer. “The idea is that she cannot mingle with anyone, either war crimes suspects or convicts, even if she wanted to,” he said.

Ms. Hartmann is being kept on a suicide watch, which means that the light must stay on 24 hours a day so that guards can check on her every 15 minutes, Mr. Mettraux said. These are standard operating procedures for arriving war criminals, but the lawyer said treating a journalist this way was “incomprehensible.”

Ms. Hartmann’s case has baffled tribunal lawyers for some time. She reported on the 1990s war in Yugoslavia for Le Monde and then served as the spokeswoman for the tribunal prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte.

After leaving her job, she wrote a book, titled “Peace and Punishment,” and an article, parts of which angered several judges.

Ms. Hartmann was convicted of contempt of court in 2009 for writing about how tribunal judges had agreed that sensitive records provided by Serbia could be used in closed sessions of the court but kept out of the public eye. She said that she had not revealed the contents of the records, but that the victims had a right to know about the deal that kept them confidential.

Other journalists and Mrs. Del Ponte have also written about the negotiations over these records, which involve the minutes of the wartime meetings of the Supreme Defense Council led by Slobodan Milosevic, who was the Serbian president at the time. The records, which were much coveted by the tribunal prosecutors, offered insight into Serbia’s role in the Bosnian war from 1992 to 1995.

Unlike the others, Ms. Hartmann was prosecuted and convicted of contempt of court because of her references to the judges’ confidential decisions. She was originally fined 7,000 euros, but the sentence was converted to seven days in prison. She says she stole no tribunal records and obtained her information from sources in Serbia.

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