Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Carla Del Ponte in the WikiLeaks Cablegate files

See also Syria Sarin Blame Game: Is Carla Del Ponte at it again?

Since UN Syria Commission member Carla Del Ponte has been in the news lately for making the charge that fighters opposing the regime of Bashar al-Assad used sarin gas in an unspecified attack, a charge that was immediately denied by her commission, and since she has a long history as a diplomat and a UN bureaucrat, I thought I'd take a look at the WikiLeaks Cablegate files, those "liberated" US State Department cables, to see what they could tell us about the lady.

Her name pops up on 145 cables so the notes that follow are by no means comprehensive, in fact, they just scratch the surface. I started with the SECRET ones as they often have the juiciest stuff.

What a quick survey of these cables show is a basic lack of integrity that bears upon her credibility. And her integrity is so far the only foundation for her claims that the rebels have used sarin gas.

I want to cite a short selection from this first secret cable because it bears directly upon the claim made in my first blog on her by a colleague:
She sought that members of all ethnic groups be convicted. That would lead to some bogus equalisation of criminal responsibility of all sides in war.
The secret cable is about meeting between Serbian PM Dodik and Carla Del Ponte in 2000 when she was Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia [ICTY] {note OTP=Office of Tribunal Prosecutor,RS=Republic of Serbia}:
Reference id 00THEHAGUE1700
Subject Icty: Read-out On Rs Prime Minister Dodik's Meeting With Del Ponte
Cable time Thu, 8 Jun 2000 09:39 UTC
Classification SECRET
I'm quite sure it would have made the Serbs feel better about the ICTY to see more non-Serbs indicted but Del Ponte should have told the PM that he was asking the prosecutor to serve a political purpose that would be unethical for an officer of the court. She should have said that her office could only bring indictments against non-Serbs based on real evidence of real crimes and certainly not to make the Serbs happy. Instead she says they are "working hard" to do what the Serbia Prime Minister wants done.

In this second one, we find her called on the carpet by the US ambassador for violating the rules and playing fast and loose with some evidence the US provided:
Reference id 04THEHAGUE490
Subject Icty: Otp Request 298 Demarche Delivered
Origin Embassy The Hague (Netherlands)
Cable time Thu, 26 Feb 2004 09:32 UTC
Classification SECRET
¶1. (S) Summary: Ambassador Sobel, joined by Deputy Legal Counselor, delivered reftel letter and points February 25 to Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Carla Del Ponte. While arguing that her actions did not amount to a "breach" of the USG's authorization of use of the Mladic documents, Del Ponte nonetheless appeared to understand the seriousness of the message being delivered, committing herself to provide written assurances as described in reftel talking points. Taking the cue from the Ambassador's emphasis that we want to remain supportive of the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) activities, she said that she hoped that, through use of the documents as "lead and background" information, OTP would be able to obtain the full set of documents from Belgrade or other sources directly. End summary.

¶2. (S) Ambassador Sobel began the discussion with Chief Prosecutor Del Ponte by emphasizing the seriousness with which the USG took the breach of the Rule 70 conditions placed on the documents provided in response to Request 298. Del Ponte responded that conversations with Embassy Legal Counselor and members of her team had led her to expect the demarche we were about to deliver. She then read the letter aloud so that staff present, Milosevic prosecutor Dermot Groome and senior adviser Jean-Daniel Ruch, could know the letter's contents. After reading the first line -- "This letter and its contents are to be considered protected by Rule 70" -- she laughed and said, "then we cannot talk!" Moving on to the substance of the letter, she argued that "we didn't breach" the Rule 70 authorization. She explained that she was fully aware that the documents could only be used in the Milosevic proceedings, but that discussions with members of her staff led her to believe it would be important to determine whether the judge who ordered Belgrade to produce the Mladic personnel file authorized Belgrade to redact some of the information in it.
Del Ponte asserted emphatically that she did not show the Mladic documents to the judge. (NB: Patrick Lopez-Teres, chief of investigations, had joined Del Ponte in her meeting with Judge Weinberg de Roca and told embassy legal officers subsequently that he and Del Ponte had "formally breached" the Rule 70 authorization when she showed the judge the documents. Embassy legal officers learned from other OTP prosecutors that they had advised her previously that sharing the documents with the judge would amount to a breach of the USG's Rule 70 conditions.)
¶6. (S) Comment: Del Ponte seemed to get the message intended by the letter and demarche. She understands that the USG takes the breach extremely seriously, though her maintenance that the use of the documents did not amount to a Rule 70 violation undercut her ability to express such understanding.
I added the emphasis above because if there is one thing I have learned to hate in this world, it is a prosecutor who lies!

This third cable complains "that DelPonte often made claims... without backing them up." Certainly that is relevant to the present case.
Reference id 06SARAJEVO3203
Subject Bosnia - High Rep Presses For "real Assessment" On Ohr Closure At February 2007 Pic
Origin Embassy Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Cable time Wed, 20 Dec 2006 06:46 UTC
Classification SECRET

ICTY - The Metric Remains "Full Cooperation"
¶5. (C) Turning the ICTY, DiCarlo expressed concern that ICTY Chief Prosecutor Carla DelPonte was "raising the bar" on SAA conditionality for the Bosnians. DelPonte had often failed to make clear to the Bosnians precisely what type of cooperation she required from them or what kind of support she required from the international community. Schwarz-Schilling agreed, adding that DelPonte often made claims about the whereabouts and travels of war criminals without backing them up. This approach had frustrated the Bosnians and undercut her credibility with them, he said. Schwarz-Schilling said he had told DelPonte that OHR could not support her work based on unsubstantiated assertions.

¶6. (S) DelPonte told him that she believed RS Minister of Interior Cadjo know the whereabouts of ICTY indictee Stojan Zupljanin, Schwarz-Schilling continued; and she informed the HighRep that she had given Cadjo an ultimatum to arrest Zupljanin and transfer him to The Hague within 30 days. If Cadjo failed to deliver, DelPonte wanted him to use his Bonn Powers to remove Cadjo from office, Schwarz-Schilling said. Aspects of DelPonte's case against Cadjo appeared credible, but he needed evidence. He was prepared to use his Bonn Powers, but only if he could verify the information Del Ponte presented him.
In this next one we see a prosecutor who would rather double-down on a mistake than own up to it. This is a very dangerous characteristic for someone holding these powers. As I related in the earlier blog, she was responsible for the indictment of nine non-Serbs that spent a cumulative 40 years in detection before they were all acquitted.
Reference id 04THEHAGUE975
Subject Icty: Del Ponte Defends Positive Assessment Of Croatian Cooperation
Origin Embassy The Hague (Netherlands)
Classification SECRET
¶1. (C) Summary. Carla Del Ponte, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), vigorously defended her positive assessment to EU officials of Croatia,s cooperation with the Tribunal. She based her decision on Croatia,s cooperation in recent weeks with respect to the transfer of eight indictees under two indictments as well as the unprecedented level of involvement Croat authorities had accorded ICTY investigators in efforts to locate and apprehend fugitive Ante Gotovina. She believed these efforts, although of very recent vintage, to be genuine and said that under these circumstances she had "no choice" but to inform European Commissioner Verhengen that "Croatia is now cooperating fully" with the ICTY. End Summary.
¶4. (C) Del Ponte dismissed suggestions that her unqualified report to the EC had squandered OTP leverage over Croatia and further hampered efforts to obtain cooperation from SAM on Mladic.
¶5. (C) Del Ponte similarly rejected criticism that she had played into the hands of SAM critics by changing the standard for full cooperation. In response to Legal Counselor,s point that Del Ponte had said that "full cooperation" for SAM requires the transfer of Mladic while "full cooperation" for Croatia apparently doesn,t require the transfer of Gotovina, Del Ponte asserted that there was no similarity between the state of cooperation in the two countries and that Belgrade had not come close to establishing a good faith effort to apprehend Mladic.
¶6. (C) Comment. Del Ponte,s dramatic and precipitous reassessment of the OTP,s relationship with Croatia can be explained by both substance and personality. Substantively, Croatia,s conduct in facilitating the recent transfers is undeniably important as is its responsiveness on ICTY witness, document, and fugitive-apprehension related requests (see ref B). But the change in OTP policy was less one of deliberate design than it was impulsive and unpremeditated. Del Ponte,s senior advisers informed us that they had drafted a carefully nuanced set of points for her conversation with Verhengen in order to balance out the desire to send a positive signal to the GOC while retaining important leverage over Gotovina. During the call, however, she abandoned the points and gave the largely unqualified assessment. When Verhengen requested it in writing, she was boxed in and her staff was left with drafting a much more forward-leaning message than planned. As for the political consequences, Del Ponte,s approach can be explained by her consistent tone-deafness to the region and her response to the UK,s demarche the previous day on the same subject: "The political aspects are for you to worry about." End comment. SOBEL
Remember that bit about not worrying about the political aspects as you read this next cable because it sounds like she was willing to embrace Serbian political concerns as her own and lobby for them in the UN:
Reference id 07BELGRADE814
Subject Del Ponte Overly Bullish On Serbia's Icty Cooperation
Cable time Fri, 8 Jun 2007 15:17 UTC
Classification CONFIDENTIAL
Carla del Ponte's decidedly upbeat briefing to Belgrade's diplomatic corps June 6 highlighted the recent arrest of Zdravko Tolimir as evidence that Serbia is cooperating with the ICTY. Del Ponte told the group her June 18 report to the Security Council would "most likely" be positive, and said she had asked Serbian President Tadic to make sure Rade Bulatovic stayed in his position as Serbia's intelligence chief until Mladic's capture was secured.
More troublingly, del Ponte used the briefing to plead with the assembled Ambassadors not to make any decisions regarding Kosovo status until Mladic had been handed over- something she said she was confident could be done by September (coincidentally also when she plans to step down as ICTY chief prosecutor). When asked to clarify later in the briefing whether that request was from her or a re-transmittal of a request from the GoS, she conceded that both Tadic and Kostunica had asked her to make the case to stall the Kosovo status process until ICTY cooperation could be completed. ¶3. (c) Comment: It would be a serious mistake to use promised ICTY cooperation as the crutch on which to support a dragging out of the status process.
From this next cable we may gather that Del Ponte may not be the easiest person to work for because, while it is clear that she gives herself a wide latitude, the complaint below makes it sound like she keeps her investigators on a short leash, at least when it comes to investigating the Serbs:
Reference id 06BELGRADE1694
Subject War Crimes Prosecutor Fed Up, Threatens To Quit
Cable time Tue, 17 Oct 2006 14:09 UTC
Classification CONFIDENTIAL
War Crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic stunned local journalists and emboffs when he announced on Ocotber 17 that he was tendering his resignation as operational coordinator for the GoS's Action Plan for ICTY cooperation. Vukcevic cited to us his deep frustration over not having the authorities and latitudes necessary to coordinate and compel cooperation and more robust investigative activity from Serbian intelligence and security services. Vukcevic told RLA during the conference that he was tired of being little more than an "errand boy" between the government and ICTY chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte, and intended to quit his post. His pronouncement was almost immediately posted on local news websites, including B92.
That's all I have time for now but please feel free to make your own investigation. This link will find you the WikiLeaks State Department cables that reference Carla Del Ponte. Post what you find to comments or send me an email at clayclai(at) and I'll add it to this collection.

You may detect a certain bias in favor of the Serbian leadership by Carla Del Ponte in the items above, but her greatest injustice yet may be the one she just committed against the Syrian people.

Without gaining the support of the other members of the UN Syria Commission, or even giving them advanced notice, she went before the media and using the full weight of her office and the reputation of the UN, charged that the Syrian rebels, not the Assad regime, had used the deadly gas sarin on other Syrians.

This serves the political interests of Assad, who is a client of the Russians, as the Serbs are, but it does not serve the interest of justice because it was made in a provocative unofficial manner with no offer of proof what-so-ever.

She made her claim at a critical time when the Assad regime is trying desperately to consolidate its position and is slaughtering the civilian population with everything including some chemical weapons to do it. At a time when the international community is for the first time giving serious consideration to arming Assad's opposition. A bill is already working its way through the US Congress. And she timed her announcement so that it would focus the Syria news on her and the international fetish for chemical weapons at a time when Assad's thugs are doing this with ordinary weapons:

And now something to lighten the mood. A short animated story about the Syria revolution.

One Hand 2012 from wael toubaji on Vimeo.

More, Later...

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

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