To celebrate International Women’s Day, IWCR has decided to post a profile of the inimitable and courageous Ms Carla Del Ponte, former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
In 1981 Ms Del Ponte was appointed an investigating magistrate and public prosecutor at the Lugano district attorney’s office. As public prosecutor, Ms Del Ponte dealt with cases of money laundering, fraud, drug trafficking, arms smuggling, terrorism and espionage, often looking into the many international links forged in Switzerland’s role as a global business centre.
It was during that period that she and Investigative Judge Giovanni Falcone uncovered the link between Swiss money launderers and the Italian drug trade in the so-called “pizza connection.” Judge Falcone was killed by a large Mafia bomb. Del Ponte was more fortunate as the half a tonne of explosives planted in the foundations of her Palermo home were discovered in time for her to escape the attempted assassination unhurt. Falcone’s death nurtured Del Ponte’s resoluteness to fight organised crime. Her enemies in the Cosa Nostra call her “La Puttana” (“the whore”). She therefore became the first public figure in Switzerland to require round-the-clock protection and armour-plated car.
After serving for five years as Switzerland’s attorney general, in 1999 Del Ponte joined the International Court Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Court Tribunal for Rwanda to deal with war crimes as prosecutor. In an interview in late 2001 about war crimes committed during the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s, Del Ponte said: “Justice for the victims and the survivors requires a comprehensive effort at international and national level.”
In late December 1999, in an interview with The Observer in London, Del Ponte was asked if she was prepared to press criminal charges against NATO personnel for alleged war crimes in Kosovo by NATO pilots and their commanders. She replied “If I am not willing to do that, I am not in the right place. I must give up my mission”.
In January 2002, she was chastised for reportedly accusing the former Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica of being an accomplice to war criminals for refusing to extradite Mr Milosevic.
In 2005, she accused the Vatican of helping Croatia’s most wanted war crimes suspect evade capture.
In 2008, Del Ponte published a book “The Hunt” in which she collected extensive evidence that the Kosovo Albanians were smuggling human organs of kidnapped Serbs after the Kosovo war ended in 1999. Her book created an international controversy.
In 2008 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe authorized Carla Del Ponte to lead a formal investigation and report her findings to the Parliament.
In January 2011, the EULEX mission to Kosovo announced that 5 people were to be indicted for human organs trafficking. According to a draft Council of Europe report cited by The Daily Telegraph, Prime Minister Hashim Thaci was one of the key players in the traffic of organs of Serb prisoners after the 1998-99 conflict.
In the course of her career she has implicated a Russian president in a financial scandal, frozen the bank accounts of a Pakistani prime minister and seen that over $100m was confiscated from the brother of a Mexican president.
Carla Del Ponte is a real heroine in the fight for justice for the victims of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.
IWCR salutes her.