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Documentary Shows Struggle To Dispense International Justice

The documentary film, Carla's List, is a study on the difficulty of dispensing justice internationally. It follows the Chief Prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Carla Del Ponte, as she tries to locate, arrest and bring to justice the last remaining fugitives charged with war crimes in the former Yugoslavia. The film is one of the featured documentaries at the 2007 Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York City this week. From VOA's New York Bureau, Mona Ghuneim has the story.

In one of the opening scenes of Carla's List, the audience sees footage taken from the beginning of the trial of Slobodan Milosevic, former President of Yugoslavia, in 2002. Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte stands before Milosevic and says the trial is proof of international justice in action.

"The crime of genocide - crimes against humanity - are not local affairs, and their prosecution may be beyond the capability of national codes," said Carla Del Ponte. "This tribunal, and this trial, in particular, gives the most powerful demonstration that no one is above the law or beyond the reach of international justice."

From that point in the film, the audience goes on a sort of international judicial roller-coaster ride, with Carla Del Ponte in the front seat. There are ups and downs to her work with some moments of success and many of disappointment. The film focuses on the efforts of Del Ponte and her team to find and arrest six remaining fugitives, but three in particular are at the forefront. Former Croatian Army General Ante Gotovina, former Bosnian-Serb Army Chief Ratko Mladic, and former Bosnian-Serb leader Radovan Karadzic have been indicted by the tribunal for crimes against humanity and are still at large as the film opens.

The prosecutor's political advisor, Jean-Daniel Ruch, says he and the team cross sensitive and confusing political terrain when demanding the arrest of these accused war criminals, as in the case of Gotovina.

"There is also the question of coherence in what we are saying, because in many instances we have been saying, 'full cooperation means either Gotovina in The Hague or they give us the whereabouts of Gotovina.' And we are not there. We are actually far from there," said Jean-Daniel Ruch.

The film's director, Marcel Schupbach, says the documentary is not a portrait of Carla Del Ponte but a foray into her arduous quest to inform, plead and lobby international authorities for help. Spanning a time frame from July to December of 2005, the film moves with Del Ponte and her team through a montage of press conferences, cabinet meetings, talks with political officials, and lots of journeys on airplanes. Del Ponte and her team travel to The Hague, the Balkans, numerous European capitals, Washington D.C. and New York City.

At a discussion with Del Ponte after the screening of Carla's List in New York, the prosecutor said half of her time is spent informing governments and then trying to get them to act. She says it is frustrating, but she needs the political support.

"I did not have a judicial police to execute a search or an arrest warrant," she said. "I must oblige the state to do it, so to obtain that, I need the help from the international community."

Sometimes the efforts pay off, she says, as in the case of Gotovina. In early December of 2005, he was captured and the film catches Del Ponte in a moment of triumph.

"Ante Gotovina is arrested," noted Carla Del Ponte. "[He] was arrested this night in Spain and is now in detention. Finally! And he will be transferred to The Hague."

But Del Ponte's frustration with the international community is by no means hidden in the documentary, and a week after Gotovina's arrest, she is in New York, expressing her disappointment to the U.N. Security Council. She tells the Council members that the inadequate sharing of information among the interested parties interferes with her work:

"Generally, information is not shared with other actors and certainly not with my office," she said. "As a consequence, we cannot compare sources and knowledge which would allow us to make progress towards locating Karadzic and Mladic."

The mandate of the prosecutor ends in September of this year. But Del Ponte says she will work until the last minute, continuing to put pressure on the Balkans, European capitals and the United States to help her arrest the remaining charged criminals.