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April 2002 issue of
World Press Review
(VOL. 49, No. 4)
Carla Del Ponte: Legal
World Press Review assistant editor
Carla Del Ponte
is not afraid of making enemies. In fact, she takes pride in
the insults her enemies have slung at her: the new Gestapo,
the whore, and the unguided missile.
To her, the name-calling is merely testament to the fact that
she is doing her job: bringing criminals to justice.
|Carla Del Ponte at The Hague, March 6,
2002 (Photo: AFP).
As chief prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal
Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Del Ponte, 55, has accused
former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic of committing genocide
against Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as war crimes
in Croatia and Kosovo. The historic trial opened on Feb. 12
and is expected to last for at least two years.
Del Ponte says she is a woman who never served anyone
or anything but the law. This dogged determination for
justice characterizes all of her investigations. In the late
1980s, she exposed the connection between the Sicilian mafias
drug trade and Swiss money launderers, which came to be known
as the pizza connection. Incensed by Del Pontes
findings, members of the Cosa Nostra tried to assassinate her
by placing half a ton of explosives in the foundations of her
Palermo home. Amazingly, the bomb was found before it could
detonate, and she survived.
Her close friend and colleague, Judge Giovanni Falcone, was
not as fortunate. He was blown up in his car after three years
of instrumental work in dismantling the Cosa Nostra network.
His untimely death only enhanced Del Pontes quest for
At Arusha, Tanzania, Del Ponte prosecuted Hutus charged in the
1994 genocide of ethnic Tutsi in Rwanda. She has also in the
course of her career implicated Russian leader Boris Yeltsin
in a financial scandal, frozen the bank accounts of former Pakistani
Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and seen that more than US$100
million was confiscated from Raúl Salinas, the brother
of disgraced Mexican President Carlos Salinas, according to
Born in Lugano, Switzerland, Del Ponte, a petite woman barely
over five feet tall and a self-professed chain-smoker, began
her legal career as a local lawyer. She then became an investigating
magistrate, a public prosecutor, and the Swiss attorney general.
Despite her formidable résumé, this legal powerhouse
confesses that she is deeply affected by her encounters with
survivors of war crimes. In an interview with Het Financieele
Dagblad at The Hague, she said, I still get emotional
when I meet survivors. You feel you are the symbol of something
they must reach. Justice. You feel the responsibility. You see
the hope in their faces.