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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About the Author
Carla Del Ponte was chief prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia from 1999 to 2007 and chief prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda from 1999 to 2003. Her work contributed to the indictment, arrest, or prosecution of dozens of persons accused of genocide and other war crimes, including Slobodan Milosevic, Theoneste Bagosora, and two of the world’s most-wanted men, Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic. Del Ponte has received numerous awards and honors. She is currently Switzerland’s ambassador to Argentina.
Co-author Chuck Sudetic reported for the New York Times from 1990 to 1995 on the breakup of Yugoslavia and the transition from communism in other Balkan countries. He is the author of Blood and Vengeance (1998), and his articles have appeared in The Economist, The Atlantic Monthly, Rolling Stone, and Mother Jones, among others. From 2001 to 2005, he worked as an analyst for the Yugoslavia Tribunal. He is now a senior writer for the Open Society Institute (Soros Foundation) and is completing a book about the Adriatic town of Dubrovnik. He resides in Paris.
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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