In one of the longest appellate proceedings in the history of the Tribunal in The Hague, all grounds of appeal presented by Florence Hartmann were dismissed by the Appeals Chamber. The Trial Chamber’s judgment handed down in September 2009 was upheld. The Trial Chamber found the French journalist guilty of contempt of court and fined her €7,000. As the French journalist said, the judgment threatens to undermine the progress achieved in the past three decades in the domain of the protection of freedom of speech

Florence Hartmann in the courtroomFlorence Hartmann in the courtroom

The Appeals Chamber confirmed today the judgment of the Trial Chamber which found French journalist and former Tribunal’s OTP spokesperson Florence Hartmann guilty of contempt of court and fined her €7,000.

In September 2009, the Trial Chamber found Hartmann guilty of ‘knowingly and deliberately disclosing the contents, alleged effects and confidential nature’ of two decisions of the Appeals Chamber granting protective measures to the documents of the FR Yugoslavia’s Supreme Defense Council. The documents were delivered to the Tribunal to be used in the trial of Slobodan Milosevic. In the incriminated texts, Hartmann wrote that the documents were granted confidentiality to protect Serbia’s ‘vital national interests’, at a time when the case brought against it by Bosnia and Herzegovina before the International Court of Justice was heard. BH filed a legal suit against Serbia, alleging violations of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The case was adjudicated in February 2007; the judges found Serbia responsible for failing to prevent the genocide in Srebrenica. In March 2011, the Tribunal unsealed the controversial Supreme Defense Council documents.

In the opinion of the Appeals Chamber, the fact that the documents have in the meantime been made public has not affected the culpability of the French journalist. The judges dismissed all grounds of appeal presented by the defense, and emphasized that the decision to lift protective measures ‘is under exclusive jurisdiction of a Tribunal’s trial chamber that has an intimate knowledge of the facts, information and circumstances of a relevant case’.

The defense argument that the Trial Chamber’s judgment violated Florence Hartmann’s right to freedom of speech as a journalist was dismissed by the Appeals Chamber, which found that the ‘restriction of freedom of speech’ was in this case ‘both proportionate and necessary to protect ‘public order’ and prevent the disclosure of confidential information’.

In the appellate judgment, the French journalist was ordered to pay the fine in two installments of €3,500 each. The first installment should be paid by 18 August and the second payment should be made by 19 September 2011. The Appeals Chamber that delivered the judgment consisted of Judge Robinson, presiding, and judges Vaz, Meron, Hall and Morrison.

Although the Appeal Chamber’s judgment is final, it is not likely to put an end to the case of the former OTP spokesperson. Hartmann’s defense lawyers indicated after the first-instance judgment that they would turn to ‘other legal instances’ asking them to verify if the Tribunal’s judgment was in line with international legal standards, particularly the International Covenant on Human Rights.

In a statement to our agency, Florence Hartmann noted that today’s judgment called into question the progress achieved in the past 30 years in the domain of the protection of freedom of speech. In light of the supremacy of the International Tribunal over national courts, Hartmann warned that the judgment has set a legal precedent any country could use in order to restrict freedom of speech in its territory.

A statement issued this evening by a group of organizations and individuals who supported Florence Hartmann says that the Tribunal in this appellate proceedings ‘imposed a form of censorship aimed to protect the international judges from any form of criticism’.

In a statement to our agency, Hartmann’s defense lawyer Guenael Mettraux stated that the defense is “considering the possibility of bringing before competent judicial and non-judicial bodies a number of human rights issues pertaining to the denial and/or violation of those rights by the Tribunal”.