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UN war crimes tribunal fines ex-spokeswoman for contempt of court

By Aaron Gray-Block, Reuters, in the Hague

The United Nations' Yugoslav war crimes tribunal yesterday found its former prosecution spokeswoman guilty of disclosing confidential information about the trial of Slobodan Milosevic, the former Serb president, in a book that she wrote.

Florence Hartmann, a former journalist who had covered the war in the Balkans, was charged with contempt after publishing information in a 2007 book in violation of a tribunal order.

"The chamber is satisfied the prosecution proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused knowingly and wilfully interfered with the administration of justice," said Bakone Moloto, a judge for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. "The chamber has found the accused's conduct may deter sovereign states from co-operating with the tribunal."

Hartmann, a Frenchwoman 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 (£6,170). The maximum penalty was seven years in prison and/or a €100,000 fine.

Judge Moloto said the court had taken into account some of the information published by Hartmann had already been made public before her book was released, 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.

In her writings, Hartmann said information about the alleged role of Serbian state institutions in the 1995 Srebrenica genocide was not made public during Milosevic's 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) because a genocide conviction would have had "enormous political and economical consequences for Serbia".

In a case lodged by Bosnia, the ICJ ruled in February 2007 that 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 favour could have allowed it to seek compensation from Serbia.