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United Nations: Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals Arrests French Journalist

(Apr. 6, 2016) The United Nations Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) on March 24, 2016, arrested French journalist Florence Hartmann, based on a warrant issued in November 2011 by the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).  (Press Release, MICT, Mechanism Arrests Contempt Convict (Mar. 24, 2016); Jacqueline Jones, International War Crimes Court Jails Journalist for Contempt, PAPER CHASE (Mar. 27, 2016).) According to its website, the MICT “was established by the United Nations Security Council on 22 December 2010 to carry out a number of essential functions of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR)” and the ICTY “after the completion of their respective mandates.” (About the MICT, MICT website (last visited Mar. 28, 2016).)

Handling of Hartmann Case

The ICTY Trial Chamber had found in 2009 that Hartmann “knowingly and willfully” obstructed justice by releasing information despite orders from the Appeals Chamber not to do so. The information concerned the trial of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and was published both in a book by Hartmann in 2007 and an article she wrote that appeared the next year. Hartmann’s original penalty was a fine of €7,000 (in 2009, equivalent to about US$10,430). The sentence was affirmed by the Appeals Chamber on July 19, 2011, but when the fine was not paid, on November 16, 2011, the ICTY converted the penalty to imprisonment for seven days. (Mechanism Arrests Contempt Convict, supra.)

Hartmann’s attorney, Guénaël Mettraux, said that the earliest possible release date for the journalist was March 29. (Jones, supra.) He complained that her treatment in the prison, located outside The Hague, includes solitary confinement and a suicide watch that requires that a light be on 24 hours a day. Mettraux argued that while appropriate for war crimes convicts, this treatment was “incomprehensible” for a journalist. (Marlise Simons, French Journalist Is Detained at U.N. War Crimes Tribunal, NEW YORK TIMES (Mar. 27, 2016).)

Tribunal Rules on Detention

The rules that govern detention by the ICTY and the MICT specify that each detainee is to have a separate cell, that the officials may order surveillance of a detainee, and that they can keep a detainee segregated from other detainees either to maintain security and good order in the facility or for the detainee’s own protection. (Rules Governing the Detention of Persons Awaiting Trial or Appeal Before the Tribunal or Otherwise Detained on the Authority of the Tribunal (May 5, 1994, as amended July 21, 2005), Rules 17, 39, & 43, ICTY website.)