Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Hartmann Convicted of Contempt of the Tribunal

Yesterday, a Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia convicted Florence Hartmann of contempt of court with regard to the publication of her book Paix et Châtiment. The website of the tribunal only has a summary of the ruling, but here is the full judgment: http://www.mediafire.com/?4cix1mmdrvu.
Guènaël Mettraux, her defense lawyer, promises a 'robust appeal'. It cannot be excluded that this case might also find its way to the European Court of Human Rights, in Strasbourg, given the issues it raises with respect to freedom of expression.
Hartmann was sentenced to a fine of EUR 7,000, which is a useful guide to the overall gravity of the offence. I was never convinced that the Tribunal should even deal with such cases. After all, its jurisdiction is confined to serious violations of humanitarian law committed on the territory of the former Yugoslavia. Publishing a book in Paris hardly fits within that remit. The judges argue that this is an inherent jurisdiction, one that is necessary to ensure the administration of justice. But they might just as well have agreed with the Dutch authorities that contempt and similar matters be dealt with by national courts, something that was seriously entertained many years ago by the International Law Commission. At present, the Yugoslavia devotes a considerable amount of its resources to prosecution of contempt cases. The money might be better spent. The argument that this is necessary in order to deter violations doesn’t convince. The Trial Chamber referred to deterrence in imposing the fine. I doubt that a EUR 7,000 fine is a serious deterrent.
Thanks to Joe Powderly and Guénaël Mettraux.

1 comment:

Nathalie said...

Dear Professor,
If the ICTY dealing with cases of contempt against it raises questions of jurisdiction, doesn't the problem arise for the ECHR dealing with a case of freedom of expression related to an ICTY decision?
Many thanks!