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Hague Court Finds Ex-Spokeswoman Guilty Of Contempt

Florence Harmann (file photo)
THE HAGUE (Reuters) -- The war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has found its ex-spokeswoman guilty of disclosing confidential information related to the trial of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.

Florence Hartmann, a French former journalist who had covered the war in the Balkans, was charged with contempt after she published information in a 2007 book and a 2008 article in violation of a tribunal order.

"The chamber is satisfied the prosecution proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused knowingly and willfully interfered with the administration of justice," said Bakone Moloto, a judge for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

"The chamber has found the accused's conduct may deter sovereign states from cooperating with the tribunal where the provision of evidential material is concerned," Moloto said.

Hartmann, who worked as a spokeswoman for the ICTY's prosecutor between 2000 and 2006, was found guilty on two charges of contempt and fined 7,000 euros ($10,200). The maximum penalty for the charge was seven years' imprisonment and/or a 100,000 euros fine.

Moloto said the court had taken into account some of the information published by Hartmann had already been made public prior to her publications, but said her disclosures could have seriously interfered with court proceedings.

The court did not give any further details of the case, which related to confidential appeals chamber decisions in the case of Milosevic, who died in 2006 during his war crimes trial.

Hartmann's defense lawyers argued she had only disclosed information that was public knowledge prior to the publication of her book and article.

In her writings, Hartmann said information about the alleged role of Serbian state institutions in the 1995 Srebrenica genocide was not made public during the Milosevic trial because judges had granted Serbian requests for the material to remain confidential.

She claims the purpose of the judges' decision was to shield Serbia from responsibility at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as a genocide conviction would have had "enormous political and economical consequences for Serbia."

In a case lodged by Bosnia-Herzegovina, the ICJ ruled in February 2007 the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian Serb forces at Srebrenica constituted genocide, but Serbia could not be held responsible for the mass killing, or complicity in the act.

A judgment in Bosnia's favor could have allowed it to seek compensation from Serbia.