UN court ex-official describes tough five-day detention

Maude Brulard
Florence Hartmann was detained when she made an unexpected appearence at The Hague on March 24, 2016 to attend the verdict against former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic (AFP Photo/Robin van Lonkhuijsen)

The Hague (AFP) - The ex-spokeswoman for the former chief prosecutor of the Yugoslav war crimes court Wednesday described her five-day detention for contempt of court, alleging it was part of a "personal vendetta" against her.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) however dismissed Florence Hartmann's claims, saying a guilty verdict was the "sole reason for her arrest".

Hartmann, 53, was detained last Thursday when she unexpectedly turned up at the court based in The Hague to attend the verdict against former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.

Facing an outstanding warrant for her arrest the former Le Monde correspondent was held by UN guards in front of the ICTY where she once worked as the spokeswoman for former prosecutor Carla Del Ponte between 2000-2006.

"I came to attend what, for me, was a historic day," Hartmann -- who covered 1990s Balkans wars for Le Monde -- told AFP in an interview a day after her release.

She was unceremoniously carted off into the ICTY's building before being handcuffed and driven to the court's nearby detention centre.

"I was treated more strictly than those people already on trial, or who have been convicted for crimes against humanity or genocide," Hartmann said.

Once inside the high-security detention centre, she said she was held under very strict conditions.

"I was in complete isolation, I was forbidden from taking walks. I was under around-the-clock surveillance, first every 15 minutes and then every half-hour and I had to leave the lights on," said Hartmann.

She was "shocked to find herself on a bed where some of the accused had probably slept."

Hartmann said she was now looking at taking legal action through "international commissions and national courts".

Set up in 1993 to try the worst crimes emanating from the brutal Balkans wars, the ICTY said Hartmann was separated from the rest of the suspects purely because she was the only woman in the detention centre.

Asked about Hartmann's claims, ICTY spokesman Nenad Golcevski told AFP she was arrested "purely based on an arrest warrant."

"She was found guilty of contempt and that was the sole reason for her arrest," he said.

The arrest warrant was issued after Hartmann failed to pay a 7,000 euro fine imposed by the court for revealing details of two confidential appeals chamber decisions in her 2007 book.

Two years later in 2011, after Hartmann had not paid the fine, ICTY judges sentenced her to seven days in jail and asked French authorities to arrest her. The French foreign ministry refused.

The data, which emerged during the trial of late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, allegedly implicated the Serbian state in the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, Bosnia.