Debunking Fred Harhoff’s Outrageous Email

Reblogged from Misetic Law

By Luka Misetic

Much has been made in the past week about the incredibly naive email sent by ICTY Judge Fred Harhoff to 56 of his “closest friends.”  According to the New York Times, on 6 June 2013, Judge Harhoff sent an unsubstantied, highly defamatory email to over 56 people in which he cast doubt on the propriety of the acquittals of several accused persons before the ICTY.[1]  Not surprisingly, the letter was leaked immediately to the international press.  At the outset, it should be noted that Judge Harhoff had no involvement whatsoever in the Gotovina, Perisic, Stanisic or Haradinaj cases, and thus had no access to any “inside information” about these matters.  Nevertheless, in his email Judge Harhoff made the following defamatory statements without any evidence to support them:

But then the court’s Appeals Chamber suddenly back-tracked last autumn with the three Croatian generals and ministers in the Gotovina case. They were acquitted for the Croatian army’s war crimes while driving out Serbian forces and the Serbian people from major areas in Croatia – the so-called Krajina area in August 1995 (home to generations of Serbians)…What can we learn from this? You would think that the military establishment in leading states (such as USA and Israel) felt that the courts in practice were getting too close to the military commanders’ responsibilities.
Well, that begs the question of how this military logic pressures the international criminal justice system? Have any American or Israeli officials ever exerted pressure on the American presiding judge (the presiding judge for the court that is) to ensure a change of direction? We will probably never know. But reports of the same American presiding judge’s tenacious pressure on his colleagues in the Gotovina -Perisic case makes you think he was determined to achieve an acquittal – and especially that he was lucky enough to convince the  elderly Turkish judge to change his mind at the last minute. Both judgements then became majority judgements 3 -2. …
You may think this is just splitting hairs. But I am sitting here with a very uncomfortable feeling that the court has changed the direction of pressure from “the military establishments” in certain dominant countries. …
The latest judgements here have brought me before a deep professional and moral dilemma, not previously faced. The worst of it is the suspicion that some of my colleagues have been behind a short-sighted political pressure that completely changes the premises of my work in my service to wisdom and the law.
(Emphasis added).

A careful review of the above passages reveals that Harhoff admits that he has absolutely no evidence to support the assertions made in his email:

1.      Harhoff consistently writes that these are his “suspicions” and “uncomfortable feeling(s)”, i.e. things that “one would think”;

2.       Harhoff outrageously asks the question (as opposed to asserting as fact) whether “any American or Israeli officials ever exerted pressure on the American presiding judge (the presiding judge for the court that is) to ensure a change of direction?” He then proceeds to answer the question by acknowledging that he has no evidence to support any claim of impropriety:  “We will probably never know.”

3.        Harhoff refers to “reports” that the American presiding judge in the Gotovina case put “tenacious pressure” on his colleagues in the Gotovina case and that he was “lucky enough to convince the elderly Turkish judge to change his mind at the last minute.”  The statements in this sentence are preposterous for several reasons:

i.                 Harhoff claims to have heard “reports” to this effect.  These “reports” appear to be nothing more than rumors and innuendo that are typically exchanged in the Tribunal’s cafeteria and corridors.  While I was defence counsel at the ICTY, I often heard such “cafeteria reports” and most often found them to be unsubstantiated;

ii.              Harhoff claims that Judge Meron exerted “tenacious pressure” on the “elderly Turkish judge,” Judge Guney.  It should be noted that Judge Meron is six years older than Judge Guney, so Harhoff’s implication that Judge Meron took advantage of an “elderly” colleague is absurd on its face.  Moreover, Harhoff’s disparagement of his fellow colleagues is beneath the dignity of the office he holds.  For the record, I have heard many “cafeteria reports” at the ICTY about Harhoff, but would never make them public absent evidentiary corroboration.  Judge Harhoff should have held himself to the same professional standards.

iii.            Harhoff has acted irresponsibly by repeating in public rumors he has heard in the ICTY rumor mill.  Several days after Harhoff’s email was published, the ICTY’s official rumor mill, SENSE news agency, published another rumor which completely contradicts Harhoff’s innuendo about Judge Guney. On 17 June 2013, SENSE claimed as follows:  “According to the rumors, the five judges met only once (for one hour or one and a half hour at most), established that the votes are 3 to 2 in favor of an acquittal and went away: the majority refused to further discuss any of the issues with the minority.” [2]  Accordingly, Harhoff’s claim that Judge Guney changed his vote at the last minute is now contradicted by SENSE’s most recent rumor that the judges had reached a 3:2 vote at the very outset of their deliberations, thus demonstrating the gross recklessness (by both Harhoff and SENSE) of publicly repeating unreliable ICTY rumors.

Judge Harhoff would have been wiser to avoid commenting about cases in which he took no part.  Instead, he could have provided his “56 friends” with information about the inner workings of the ICTY through his own personal experience. Judge Harhoff has sat in judgement in many cases at the ICTY, including Dragomir Milosevic, Delic, Stanisic and Zupljanin, Seselj, et. al.  Was any political pressure exerted on him in those cases? Did Judge Meron ever try to interfere with his work in any of those cases?

I suspect that Judge Harhoff’s answer to these questions would be in the negative.  If so, it’s really too bad that he did not give Judge Meron and his colleagues in the Appeals Chamber the benefit of his doubt.

[1] Marlise Simons, Judge at War Crimes Tribunal Faults Acquittals of Serb and Croat Commanders, New York Times, 14 June 2013, as found at  Judge Harhoff’s email is attached hereto as Exhibit A.
[2] Mirko Klarin, A Question for the Judges: And What Have You Done?, SENSE News Agency, 17 June 2013, as found at


Luka Misetic    Photo: Darko Tomas/Cropix

Luka Misetic Photo: Darko Tomas/Cropix

About Luka Misetic: Lawyer, based in the United States of America. Luka Misetic represents clients in state, federal and international litigation, including commercial, civil, white-collar criminal and international criminal cases. In business litigation, Mr. Misetic represents corporations and partnerships, as well as their directors, officers and partners in breach of contract and fiduciary duty claims, regulatory matters, trade secrets claims, fraud and negligence suits, and a variety of other claims. Mr. Misetic represented Croatian General Ante Gotovina before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, The Netherlands


RELATED POST: Prostitution Of Justice A-la-Judge-Frederik-Harhoff Style

ICTY isn’t coming to Vuk Jeremic’s UN General Assembly debate

Theodor Meron, President of International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Theodor Meron, President of International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

According to HINA Croatian news agency, “All three Hague war crimes tribunals have turned down the invitation to attend a discussion on their work convened for April 10 in New York by UN General Assembly President Vuk Jeremic, the president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Theodor Meron, has said.
Not only the ICTY but all three war crimes tribunals turned down Jeremic’s invitation, Meron said at a panel on the role of the Hague tribunals in the protection of human rights held at the Brookings Institution in Washington on Thursday.
Jeremic convened the discussion in response to certain rulings, which raises questions about the basic rules on respect for the rule of law, Meron said, adding that his participation would not make any important contribution to the condemnation of something he cared about very much.
US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues Stephen Rapp told Al Jazeera on the fringes of the panel he would not attend the discussion and that, as far as he knew, the US would present a statement together with several other countries in support of international justice and the importance of fair trials.
Rapp warned about attempts to ascribe to international war crimes tribunals bias at the expense of a people or collective.
Terms under which entire peoples, ethnic groups or political movements are responsible for a crime should never be included at war crimes tribunals, he said, stressing that in prosecuting war crimes it was always about individualising guilt.
In war crimes it is about individual responsibility and those individuals should be held to account under the law and based on evidence, and if someone is convicted, it is a signal to the rest of the community that it is not about the community but about the individual, said Rapp.
He said the two panels convened after the General Assembly session were composed so as to be entirely unilateral in criticising the work of international war crimes tribunals. He said Jeremic should have invited both supporters and opponents of the Hague tribunals.
Asked by the press whether the date of the session, April 10, was appropriate given that on that day in 1941 the Nazi-styled Independent State of Croatia (1941-45) was declared, Rapp said Jeremic’s choice of that date was cause for concern.
The horrors of World War Two, the Ustasha government in Croatia against which we fought until all were defeated… Those involved in the persecution of Serbs, Jews and others at that time are not people we should remember that day. Every day on the calendar has some implication, but we think Jeremic could have chosen a better day. We don’t want what happened recently to be linked with those events from World War Two, said Rapp”.

Indeed not only is Jeremic’s choice of the date for the UN General Assembly debate on International tribunals justice and reconciliation a cause for concern, but the fact that several Jeremic’s outrageous public statements, which seemed to belittle and twist the weight of the ICTY rulings of acquittals of Croatian Generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, have definitely left a taste of Jeremic’s misguided attempts to impute politics into criminal justice.
Serbian politics in justifying the horrors of 1990’s aggression against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina have often seen references to the horrors perpetrated against Serbs during World War II – a kind of justified revenge type of viewpoint. Surely, this cannot be permitted anywhere. The fact that many Croatians during World War II did not participate in these horrors, but fought against them is all the more reason why Serbia must not be permitted to promote the politics of World War II is such an abominable way.

Since it refers to WWII so much, Serbia would do the truth a great service if, instead of peddling coverups, it turned to its own WWII truth: Nazi occupation, Nazi puppet state led by Milan Nedic, keen collaboration with the Nazi regime by many Serbs loyal to Nedic’s government and in this enabling and facilitating the extermination of 94% of Serbian Jews by May 1942, instead of blaming it all on the German occupying forces.

Let’s trust that all the countries affected by war crimes, to be covered by the UN debate on 10 April (Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Lebanon, Sierra Leone, East Timor, Cambodia, Rwanda…), will get a fair hearing on that day and that the debate will not be consumed by Jeremic’s agenda of batting for Serbia. As I said in my previous post, when you have an obviously biased person with a narrow political agenda leading a debate, it is almost impossible to have full objectiveness of the debate process and content. Furthermore, reconciliation between people, which is on the agenda of this debate, does not depend on criminal court rulings for or against individuals, it depends on the people themselves and the resolution of issues and disputes among those peoples. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A.,M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Related post

Look Who Is Digging Theodor Meron’s Grave!

Theodor Meron, President of International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Theodor Meron, President of International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Have just discovered that Stjepan Mesic (die-hard Communist in mind and heart, former president of Croatia, who was the apparent ICTY Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte’s “best boy” for political maneuvering of ICTY indictments that would equate the aggressor with the victim in 1990’s Serb war of aggression against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina at any price – even lies and confabulations that would blacken and attempt to degrade the righteousness of Croatian citizens’ right to defend their lives and homes from aggression) and his cronies (such as Budimir Loncar/former advisor to Mesic and current advisor to president Ivo Josipovic  – but with a disturbing history in the notorious former communist police OZNA, which ordered multitudes of murders of innocent people during Tito’s Yugoslavia) are behind the “ifimes” (International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies) which has recently published a malicious article “ICTY: ‘Meronization’ of our future”. Stjepan Mesic is listed as Honorary President of staff of ifimes!

Of course, it’s as clear as day: this group of individuals, with this article, are telling the world that if we do not question the ICTY judgments brought down by Judge Theodor Meron, President of ICTY, (especially regarding the acquittals of Ante Gotovina, Mladen Markac and Momcilo Perisic) then there is no real justice!

The problem with this group’s reasoning is that they do not appear to uphold as paramount the appellate court’s responsibility of weighing the evidence and decisions made by lower courts, that they contradict themselves as they strongly suggest ICTY judges must consider political implications and consequences of their judgments, and at the same time that judges must not be political!

Lord, save the humanity from this lot!

They definitely appear to be subscribed to the trends started under Carla del Ponte, as Chief Prosecutor, under Judge Fausto Pocar as ICTY President (who, by the way had a dissenting opinion to the majority one in the 16 November 2012 ICTY Acquittal judgment for Croatian Generals) when the politics of equating the victim with the aggressor was painfully obvious and “order of the day at the ICTY”.

It seems that Meron, by weighing evidence before him with fresh and non-political eyes (as Appeal courts should and have the duty to do) has ruffled the feathers of those who consider cold evidence and interpretation of it less important than political agendas between nations, particularly of, say, the aggressor such as Serbia was against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the early 1990’s. So, those who did not like the way ICTY judgments were delivered by Meron started a new trend of labeling him with the sins they themselves subscribed to: political court judgments. This so reminds me of the horrible days under Communism – attack becoming the tool of defence!

This “ifimes” group has the gall to say that Meron is the one who “has definitely marked ICTY as a political court and Theodor Meron as its gravedigger and the executioner of anticipated international justice”.

And yet, just before they wrote this disgraceful sentence they wrote that Meron  “should have examined all the possible implications of the partial acquittal in the Karadzic case as well as a series of other issues that have appeared in the final stage of ICTY’s work”.

Now, why should a judge examine all possible implications of his judgment!? Implications of a decision should not and must not influence the making of a decision that is based on evidence and the weighing of evidence with view to the actual alleged criminal offence.

So, “ifimes”  group criticise Meron as being political on the one hand and on the other they criticize him for not using politics in bringing decisions in court!

Furthermore, the group admits that Serge Brammertz, ICTY Chief Prosecutor who seems to follow Carla del Ponte’s political lines of equating aggressor with the victim at any cost, is in conflict with Meron. In “conflict between two concepts and two civilisational approaches to resolving international relations: the conservative and anticivilisational concept represented by ICTY President Theodor Meron and the positive and realistic concept represented by ICTY Chief Prosecutor Serge Bramemertz”.

Can you believe this rot of humanity “ifimes” is peddling!?

The world does not need such transgressions of democracy, human moral code and real justice that Majority Opinion brings to the table as accepted and final judgment in a court case.

For them the Majority Opinion (led by Judge Meron) is conservative and anti-civilisational and the politically driven bias (even with highly suspect testimonies that, if tested, could amount to perjury)  Brammetrz appeared as having continued with after Carla del Ponte, is considered by them as positive and realistic!

And now we come to the real motive behind this atrociously biased and political, but insidious article from “ifimes” (Stjepan Mesic  & Co.):

The IFIMES International Institute is of the opinion that the announced discussion on the activities of ICTY which will take place at the UN General Assembly on 10 April 2013 should focus on strengthening international law and protecting the victims of past and future crimes rather than serving individuals and countries whose aim is to (mis)use the international legal system for their own interests”. Or, in other words, let the UN General Assembly debate on 10 April 2013 be the platform where Serbia will receive legitimacy for its rejection of ICTY judgments (as Vuk Jeremic had expressed publicly during past months) and for its relentless politics of justifying the horror its aggression against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina had set in motion.

As I said in one of my previous posts, and in my letters to various heads of UN member states – there is a realistic and immediate danger that the UN General Assembly debate on 10 April WILL NOT BE PROTECTING ALL THE VICTIMS, WILL NOT BE AN UNBIASLY LED DEBATE UNLESS IT IS COORDINATED AND FACILITATED BY A FULLY INDEPENDENT GROUP OF PEOPLE.

With such importance being given to “dissenting opinions” as opposed to “majority opinions”, which define the final judgment of a court, let’s not be surprised if we enter a future (after April 10) where the courts will no longer be fully independent of politics, where majority opinion will mean squat, where appellate courts will cease to function, where people can take as valid whatever judgment they want – from majority or minority – where the rule of law, accepted legal standards and democracy (which includes accepting the majority opinion or vote with due grace and humility) will become just a footnote in history books.  Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)


Theodor Meron on BBC HARDtalk, March 2013 “…Criminal court must not have a broader agenda … we would not be doing our job if we are guided by how people, nations, community will react to judgments… reconciliation is up to the people … not the court…”. Hear! Hear!

Disclaimer, Terms and Conditions:

All content on “Croatia, the War, and the Future” blog is for informational purposes only. “Croatia, the War, and the Future” blog is not responsible for and expressly disclaims all liability for the interpretations and subsequent reactions of visitors or commenters either to this site or its associate Twitter account, @IVukic or its Facebook account. Comments on this website are the sole responsibility of their writers and the writer will take full responsibility, liability, and blame for any libel or litigation that results from something written in or as a direct result of something written in a comment. The nature of information provided on this website may be transitional and, therefore, accuracy, completeness, veracity, honesty, exactitude, factuality and politeness of comments are not guaranteed. This blog may contain hypertext links to other websites or webpages. “Croatia, the War, and the Future” does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness or completeness of information on any other website or webpage. We do not endorse or accept any responsibility for any views expressed or products or services offered on outside sites, or the organisations sponsoring those sites, or the safety of linking to those sites. Comment Policy: Everyone is welcome and encouraged to voice their opinion regardless of identity, politics, ideology, religion or agreement with the subject in posts or other commentators. Personal or other criticism is acceptable as long as it is justified by facts, arguments or discussions of key issues. Comments that include profanity, offensive language and insults will be moderated.
%d bloggers like this: