When Justice is not Just

by olgasoutstanding

Those of you who have been following this blog will know that I am no fan of impunity.  As I mentioned in a previous post, impunity persists partly because leaders understand that there are fundamental injustices in the criminal justice system, both domestically and internationally.

This brings me to the case of Florence Hartmann, a French journalist who was jailed this week by the International War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague for reasons that are not altogether clear.  She was held in contempt by the tribunal in 2009 for revealing information that she obtained from Serbian sources about a deal that the judges made with the Serbian government to keep certain information about war crimes in Bosnia private from the International Court of Justice.  Ms. Hartmann is said to have obtained the information from Serbian sources, rather than from sources within the tribunal.  No documents were leaked to her.  She was arrested on Thursday while waiting for the verdict against Radovan Karadzic to be read.  Survivors of the Bosnian genocide surrounded her in an attempt to protect her from arrest, and Balkan human rights campaigners are asking the tribunal to free her.  She is now being held in close confinement with lights on 24 hours a day.

From my (admittedly American) perspective, jailing journalists for saying things you do not like is dangerous.  It is a clear violation of the freedom of the press, which exists to protect journalists from having their views silenced and their lives and freedom threatened because they are critical of authorities.  The Hague has not made clear what kind of violation Ms. Hartmann has committed beyond making them feel bad.    The hurt feelings of a few judges are not sufficient reason to keep a journalist in detention far harsher than that experienced by alleged war criminals.