Western Promises | The Nation


Western Promises

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Milosevic did end up in the dock at the ICTY several months after he was toppled from power by a popular revolution in October 2000. Hartmann credits then-Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic for arranging Milosevic's transfer to The Hague in June 2001. While Pierre Richard Prosper, who was US ambassador at large in charge of war crimes from 2001 to 2005, told me that the United States worked feverishly to achieve such an outcome, Arnaud Danjean, a former French intelligence analyst who was in charge of tracking Yugoslav war criminals from 1996 to 1998, is adamant that "Djindjic and Djindjic alone pulled it off," adding that his efforts to hand over other war criminals, especially Mladic, are the main reason Djindjic was assassinated by Serb nationalists in March 2003.

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Marc Perelman
Marc Perelman is a Paris-based journalist for the TV station France 24 and was previously the diplomatic correspondent...

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Hartmann claims that the court's proceedings--primarily Milosevic's trial, which was ended by his death in March 2006--were obstructed by secretive manipulations of and within the ICTY. For instance, she explains the crucial role of the so-called Military Analyst Team (MAT), which the tribunal's investigators had to rely on to determine crucial details about military command-and-control issues. Hartmann charges that the MAT, largely staffed with US and British analysts, promoted the notion that Karadzic and Mladic acted on their own in Bosnia rather than on Milosevic's orders and doggedly excluded the possibility that special forces from Serbia participated in the Srebrenica killings. The MAT's assessment had a major impact on the Milosevic prosecution and was overcome only when the ICTY obtained minutes of key meetings of the Serbian leadership in early 2004 and, most vividly, when footage of the slaying of six Srebrenica men by members of a Serb paramilitary group became available in 2005.

Hartmann asserts that up to that point, Sir Geoffrey Nice, the British head of the Milosevic prosecution team, had tried repeatedly to throw out the gravest charges against the Serbian strongman, such as the genocide count; the Srebrenica massacre; and the siege of Sarajevo, Bosnia's capital. But Del Ponte held firm. "We were that close, really that close, to having an indictment against Milosevic without those three key elements," Hartmann told me, adding that she had threatened to resign at the time. Hartmann--whose 1999 biography Milosevic: La diagonale du fou (Milosevic: The Madman's Diagonal) documents the Serbian leader's overall control of Serbian underlings in Croatia and Bosnia--says she can understand why the allegations about Serbian special forces would have been treated skeptically by typically cautious legal minds. "But once the evidence to the contrary started to accumulate and they continued to fight against it, it became troubling," she adds. "Those who were pushing this had orders, and their attitudes hewed to the position of their respective countries."

Since the publication of Paix et châtiment, Hartmann and Nice have exchanged angry letters in French and Balkan newspapers. As I discovered, the bad blood between the former colleagues in the prosecutor's office runs deep. Nice has claimed that Hartmann was not privy to all key meetings, and the former spokeswoman has countered that as a member of Del Ponte's cabinet and as her Balkans adviser, she was intimately familiar with the ICTY's decision-making process. "This is a pre-emptive attack on behalf of Del Ponte in order to forestall the criticism of her job that will inevitably come out once she steps down," Nice told me.

Both Nice and Hartmann left the ICTY in the spring of 2006, but for different reasons. He departed after the death of Milosevic, while she was forced out for unclear reasons. She claims it was because of her criticism of the international community's tepid efforts to arrest Mladic and Karadzic. Del Ponte's office merely stated that she left at the end of her contract. One can argue that such internal disputes are unavoidable in an international bureaucracy--and bound to come out once the main protagonists have left office. And it's not as though Hartmann's book is flawless. Her obvious dislike of Milosevic and her grudges against former colleagues such as Nice sometimes color her judgment and even her accuracy. For instance, she describes an ICTY judge as having previously served as both US ambassador to Israel and Israeli ambassador to the United States. He was neither. Nevertheless, when Hartmann sticks to the facts and relies on her prime access to key meetings and documents to reveal the inner workings of the court and the interactions of its chief prosecutor with Western officials, her claims about how these officials tried to conceal evidence from the ICTY are shocking. "What she provides is the proof that the court was in effect managed by Western powers," says Diego Arria, who was Venezuela's ambassador to the UN and was instrumental in setting up the tribunal. "I find it scandalous."

According to Article 29 of the ICTY's statutes, all states have an obligation to cooperate fully with the court and answer without delay any request for assistance, including requests for evidence, witnesses and aid in the arrest of indicted individuals. While Balkan countries, Serbia especially, have often ignored Article 29, there are troubling indications that Western countries, including the United States, have done the same. One especially galling incident involves the so-called Kula Tape, a video from May 1997 showing Milosevic and key Serbian leaders participating in a ceremony marking the sixth anniversary of the Red Berets, a unit of Serbian special forces created on the eve of the Yugoslav wars. As Hartmann told me, a transcript of the tape was provided to the tribunal in late 2001. It was riddled with "inaudible" mentions and mostly unrecognizable names. However, when the prosecutors received the original footage a year later, they discovered that the names were, in fact, perfectly clear and that "inaudible" passages contained descriptions of the wartime "accomplishments" of the Red Berets in Croatia and Bosnia, and also identified Milosevic as their godfather. Hartmann describes the video as a treasure trove because it contains the names of key personalities of the Milosevic network. The tape was eventually presented in court in February 2003, leading to the dismantling of the Red Berets a few weeks later in Serbia after the tape was broadcast on television there. Hartmann does not identify the source of the translated tape in her book. When I pressed her, she told me that the country involved in the translation was the United States.

It seems, then, that the Kula Tape was sent by the US Embassy in Belgrade to Washington in 2001 and only ended up in The Hague in late 2002, Hartmann told me. In the meantime, the United States provided the ICTY with a truncated transcript of the tape that concealed its most important information. Pierre Richard Prosper told me the United States was not the originator of the tape, although he conceded having limited knowledge of the incident. According to Nice, a member of the prosecution team failed to grasp the importance of the tape, and then a colleague realized its value. "There might have been a bad translation at some point, but there is absolutely no reason to believe the providing source didn't want to help us out," he says.

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