Madame Prosecutor: Confrontations with Humanity's Worst Criminals and the Culture of Impunity

Madame Prosecutor: Confrontations with Humanity's Worst Criminals and the Culture of Impunity

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by Carla Del Ponte
     
 

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Carla Del Ponte won international recognition as Switzerland's attorney general when she pursued cases against the Sicilian mafia. In 1999, she answered the United Nations' call to become the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda. In her new role, Del Ponte confronted genocide and crimes against humanity

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Overview

Carla Del Ponte won international recognition as Switzerland's attorney general when she pursued cases against the Sicilian mafia. In 1999, she answered the United Nations' call to become the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda. In her new role, Del Ponte confronted genocide and crimes against humanity head-on, struggling to bring to justice the highest-ranking individuals responsible for massive acts of violence in Rwanda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Kosovo.

These tribunals have been unprecedented. They operate along the edge of the divide between national sovereignty and international responsibility, in the gray zone between the judicial and the political, a largely unexplored realm for prosecutors and judges. It is a realm whose native inhabitants–political leaders and diplomats, soldiers and spies–assume that they can commit the big crime without being held culpable. It is a realm crisscrossed by what Del Ponte calls the muro di gomma –"the wall of rubber"– a metaphor referring to the tactics government officials use to hide their unwillingness to confront the culture of impunity that has allowed persons responsible for acts of unspeakable, wholesale violence to escape accountability. Madame Prosecutor is Del Ponte's courageous and startling memoir of her eight years spent striving to serve justice.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
New York Times Book Review

"Cynics argue that because the United Nations was unable to stop the carnage in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, it set up war crimes tribunals instead, as a kind of humanitarian consolation prize.
What the diplomats did not expect was Carla Del Ponte’s determination to bring the perpetrators to justice and to end the culture of impunity. As the attorney general of Switzerland, she had fought against the muro di gomma, the wall of rubber, that deflected her attempts to stop Mafia money-laundering. “Madame Prosecutor” is her account of battling the muro di gomma across the Balkans, Rwanda and Western capitals.
It is a relentless, sometimes (understandably) angry book, and an important insider’s account of the quest for international justice."

Newsweek

"Carla Del Ponte is not the quiet type. The tenacious European prosecutor took on some of the most powerful members of the Sicilian mafia, hammering away at their now infamous "pizza connection" with Swiss bankers. As head of the international tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, she hauled Slobodan Milosevic and dozens of others into court for war crimes, and investigated acts of genocide in Rwanda. Her enemies branded her "the whore" and plotted to blow her up with bombs, prompting the Swiss government to assign her around-the-clock bodyguards, who protect her to this day. Her investigative prowess impressed former FBI director Louis Freeh—and infuriated former CIA director George Tenet, whom she badgered for assistance in tracking Milosevic's henchmen. And in her new memoir, "Madame Prosecutor," the English-language edition of which was released this month, she courts fresh controversy by charging that officials at the United Nations and NATO failed to properly investigate allegations of Albanian atrocities against Serbs in Kosovo in 1999."

ForeWord Magazine

"Madame Prosecutor is a lengthy discussion of the heinousness of crimes against humanity and a poignant plea for a better international crimi-nal justice system. Using the imperfect system now in place, Del Ponte’s efforts to bring war criminals to trial are nothing short of fascinating and heroic. Her work contributed to the indictment, arrest, or prosecution of Slobodan Milosevic and dozens more. Sudetic’s experience as a New York Times reporter and author as well as his work as an analyst for the Yugoslavia tribunal and his current position as senior writer for the Open So-ciety Institute, also inform the politics and scope of Madame Prosecutor."

Publishers Weekly

“Del Ponte, protagonist of this...hard-nosed memoir, was chief prosecutor for the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the biggest war crimes prosecution since WWII… Her implacable quest for justice is admirable…”

Kirkus Reviews

“The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda recounts eight years of frustration seeking justice for the victims of genocide and crimes against humanity.”

The Economist

“Crucial historical depth…is what separates [Madame Prosecutor] from the dozens of others written by the diplomats and soldiers who have tangled with the Balkans.”

The New York Review of Books

“Carla del Ponte’s recollection and defense of her controversial tenure as the chief prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal…mercilessly searches for historical truth...What drove [Del Ponte] with a kind of manic fury was a desire to see justice done.”

Elle Magazine

Onetime Swiss Attorney General Carla Del Ponte was chief prosecutor for the international tribunals that went after the genocidal masterminds responsible for mass violence in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. Madame Prosecutor: Confrontations With Humanity’s Worst Criminals and the Culture of Impunity (Other Press), coauthored with reporter-writer Chuck Sudetic, is her unforgettably brave story.

California Lawyer

"Del Ponte offers a highly personal story of how she took on the awesome responsibility of prosecuting war crimes."

Adam LeBor
…a relentless, sometimes (understandably) angry book, and an important insider's account of the quest for international justice.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Del Ponte, protagonist of this dogged, hard-nosed memoir, was chief prosecutor for the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the biggest war crimes prosecution since WWII. Her investigations had her ousted from the Rwandan tribunal and insulted in Yugoslavia ("Carla is a whore," Belgrade billboards proclaimed), and she lacked police powers to compel cooperation or even respect. Her mission became a battle between moral dudgeon and realpolitik. She repeatedly importunes government officials, especially the Serbs, to arrest and deliver up influential citizens for prosecution as war criminals; when they respond with evasions and stonewalling, she importunes world leaders to use their clout to force compliance with the tribunal's warrants. She accomplished much, including the prosecution of Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, but the memoir wears itself out detailing her interminable, fruitless efforts to apprehend Serbian fugitives Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. Del Ponte sometimes comes off as chief scold; even Vatican officials incur tongue-lashings. Her implacable quest for justice is admirable and at times illuminating, but it makes for a repetitive and exhausting read. (Jan.)

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Library Journal

Del Ponte was the attorney general of Switzerland, aggressively prosecuting money-laundering cases against the Mafia, when she was tapped for the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and for the former Yugoslavia. The job of chief prosecutor was tailor-made for Del Ponte, who had taken on what she calls the "culture of impunity" that made Mafia bosses almost impossible to prosecute, and she was equally determined to bring those responsible for genocide to justice. But she soon found herself fighting not only criminals but governments, the UN, and even her own staff. She had triumphs (Milan Babic took a plea bargain) and disappointments (Slobodan Milosevic died during trial; Radovan Karadzic was arrested only after her tenure was up). The writing is dry and awkward, probably because English is not Del Ponte's first language, but her strength and determination to break through the muro di gomma(wall of rubber, or diplomatic doubletalk) and fight the culture of impunity shine through. An important story that belongs in all academic libraries and in large public libraries where there is interest.
—Deirdre Bray Root

Kirkus Reviews
The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda recounts eight years of frustration seeking justice for the victims of genocide and crimes against humanity. From her post as Switzerland's attorney general, Del Ponte reluctantly accepted a 1999 summons from Kofi Annan to become the UN's chief prosecutor at The Hague's war-crimes tribunal, the first such enterprise since Nuremberg. Assuming an office designed to operate independently of governments, she was soon head-butting what she called the muro di gomma (the wall of rubber)-pretended cooperation from diplomats, political leaders, police and military officials intent on thwarting her assignment. At times throughout this dense narrative Del Ponte appears clear-eyed about the difficulties of prosecuting violators of the law or customs of war from an office lacking the powers typically employed by courts in sovereign states: the ability to discover important evidence, recruit witnesses, arrest individuals, etc. At times she's prepared to accept a certain amount of blame for her failings as an administrator and negotiator. Too frequently, though, she strikes the reader as wholly unsuited-because of her abrasiveness, her disposition to take quick offense, her missionary zeal-to the real-world limitations of her admittedly daunting task. This is most apparent in her determination to eschew mere victor's justice in favor of prosecuting, midstrife, all sides in the Rwanda and Yugoslavian conflict. Not content going after the likes of Milosevic, Karadžic and Mladic, she's genuinely disappointed to have been unable to bring charges against NATO for its possible misdeeds in the 1999 bombingcampaign in Serbia. She is intolerant of anything short of complete cooperation and absolute justice, a conviction her admirers will find noble and her critics insufferable. Full of her worthy mission, she comes off as precisely the pampered bureaucrat-eager for distinction, jealous of her turf, protective of her legacy-she claims to loathe. Relentlessly self-serving.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590513026
Publisher:
Other Press, LLC
Publication date:
01/20/2009
Pages:
448
Sales rank:
976,367
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

I should have known better. I trusted Tenet to put action behind his words. I assumed he was not erecting something we Italian speakers call the muro di gomma, the wall of rubber, the rejection disguised so it won’t appear as a rejection. So often, when you approach powerful people with an unwelcome request or demand, your words bounce back. You seem to hear what you want to hear. You might even sense that your effort has yielded something of substance.

My career had begun with a long series of collisions with the muro di gomma, sometimes followed by cruder forms of resistance as well as physical threats. I had encountered, and would encounter, the muro di gomma during meetings with many powerful people, from mafia financiers to Swiss bankers and politicians, from heads of state such as George W. Bush and prime ministers like Silvio Berlusconi to bureaucrats in government offices and the various departments of the United Nations and, late in my tenure, European foreign ministers who seemed to be prepared to welcome Serbia into the European Union’s embrace even as Serbia’s political leaders, police, and army were harboring men responsible for killing thousands of prisoners in cold blood before the eyes of the world. The only way I know of breaching the muro di gomma and serving the interests of justice is by asserting my will, consistently and persistently.
´ ´

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