Ex-ICTY spokeswoman held under 'suicide watch conditions'


The Hague (AFP)

The former prosecutorial spokeswoman for the Yugoslav war crimes court, convicted in 2009 on contempt charges, was being held under "suicide watch conditions" at the tribunal's detention unit, her lawyer said Saturday as efforts continued to get her released.

French national Florence Hartmann, who was sentenced on appeal to seven days in prison in 2009 after writing a book containing confidential court details, was dramatically grabbed Thursday at the tribunal's entrance as she tried to get in to hear the landmark verdict against former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.

Hartmann's lawyer Guenael Mettraux told AFP his client was being held separate from other detainees, "under suicide watch conditions, meaning with light in her cell 24-hours a day and that she is being checked on every 15 minutes by the guards."

"She is isolated from other detainees and so far has only been visited by the French consul," he said.

"I have filed applications yesterday (Friday) including one for her conditions of detention to be urgently modified as these measures are totally unnecessary, unjustified and disproportionate," Mettraux said.

Hartmann, a former Balkans correspondent for the French daily Le Monde, was grabbed by blue-shirted UN guards 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.

She had been prosecuted in 2007 for revealing details of two confidential appeals chamber decisions in a book published that year.

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.

In 2009, Hartmann was initially fined 7,000 euros ($7,800) for contempt for disclosing confidential information in her book "Paix et Chatiment" (Peace and Punishment).

In 2011, after Hartmann had not paid the fine, ICTY judges sentenced her to seven days in jail. The court asked French authorities to arrest her, which the French foreign ministry refused to do.

Mettraux said Saturday he has also asked "for her early release, a course of action even extended to war criminals convicted by the court, who are released after serving two-thirds of their sentence... she should be entitled to the same."

He added that he did not expect any reaction from The Hague-based UN tribunal, set up in 1993 to try those accused of atrocities during the 1990s Balkan wars, as it was closed for the Easter weekend public holidays.

"We expect to know more on Tuesday," he said.

The ICTY could not immediately be reached for comment.

ICTY war crimes judges Thursday sentenced Karadzic to 40 years in jail for his role in Bosnia's 1992-95 war that killed some 100,000 people and left 2.2 million others homeless.