Madame Prosecutor

Confrontations with Humanitys Worst Criminals and the Culture of Impunity

Publication Date: Jan 20, 2009

448 pp


List Price US $19.99
ISBN: 9781590515372


List Price US $25.95
ISBN: 9781590513026

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.

Excerpt from Madame Prosecutor

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.

“A relentless, sometimes (understandably) angry book, and an important insider’s account of the quest for international justice.” —New York Times Book Review

Madame Prosecutor is a lengthy discussion of the heinousness of crimes against humanity and a poignant plea for a better international criminal 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 Society Institute, also inform the politics and scope of Madame Prosecutor.” —ForeWord Magazine

“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…” —Publishers Weekly

“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.” —Kirkus Reviews

“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.” —Economist

“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.” —New York Review of Books 

“[An] unforgettably brave story.” —Elle

“Carla Del Ponte is not the quiet type….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.” —Newsweek