The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

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Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL: black_rod_usher@yahoo.com

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Further Adventures of Bruce MacFarlane, Manitoba Special Agent 204

What's a mild-mannered Manitoban like Bruce MacFarlane doing as a possible defendant at the International Court in The Hague?

The Hague? Think Slobodan Milosevic Think cold-blooded massacres of innocents. Think rape camps. Think war crimes. Think bloodthirsty bemedalled Serbian generals and heartless mustachioed Croatian killers. The last thing you'd think is Bruce MacFarlane.

And you would be wrong.

Almost a year ago--in March, 2008---MacFarlane was appointed by the court in The Hague as a special investigator of a very sensitive case---a case involving one of their own. Now that case has backfired and MacFarlane could wind up on the hot seat himself.

First, a little background.

Florence Hartmann had been the official spokeswoman for Carla Del Ponte, the former prosecutor of the Tribunal, from 2000 to 2006. After she left her job she wrote a book, the contents of which got her charged with contempt of court for telling tales out of school. If convicted, she's looking at up to seven years in prison and/or a fine of 100,000 Euros.

It seems that her 2007 book Paix et Châtiment (Peace and Punishment) "disclose(d) information related to the decisions of the Appeals Chamber dated 20 September 2005 and 6 April 2006, including the contents and purported effect of these decisions, as well as specific reference to the confidential nature of these decisions." Or so the indictment says.

And to make things worse, she's accused of doing it again in an article she wrote entitled “Vital Genocide Documents Concealed” which was published in January, 2008, by the Bosnian Institute.

What's all this highfalutin' lawyer talk mean?

It seems that during the trial of Slobodan Milosevic, the court agreed with the Serbian government to go into closed sessions to see documents from Milosevic's Supreme Defense Council. Serbia was then allowed to redact parts of the evidence before it was put on the public record.

At the same time, Bosnia had charged Serbia at the UN court with war crimes. The charges were eventually dismissed, and Hartmann says Bosnia could have proved its case if it had known about the documents withheld by the Serbs in the Milosevic case.

But the fact that the court had seen the documents and had allowed Serbia to withhold some of them from the public was supposed to be a secret.

She decided to tell the secret.

In September, 2008, Bruce MacFarlane was appointed amicus curiae prosecutor in the case. He is preparing to go to trial Feb. 5 and 6 in The Hague.

Up to now, he thought the worst that could happen was to be painted as an enemy of freedom of the press. Hartmann has been giving media interviews in which she is accusing the UN war crimes tribunal of "trying to silence the truth". She's being hailed by supporters as a whistleblower being muzzled by a corrupted court.

And who's doing the muzzling? Our Bruce.

And now things have gotten weirder.

Hartmann traded her French lawyer for a pair of new counsel, Brit Karim Khan and Belgian Guenael Mettraux. Talk about irony, both of them have long experience defending accused war criminals before the UN court, the very people Hartmann wants convicted.

But today they have their sights set on Manitoba Special Agent 204, Bruce MacFarlane.

Hartmann's lawyers are arguing the charges should be dismissed because of irregularities and abuses committed by MacFarlane.

They've filed a number of motions in court, including one to have MacFarlane dismissed. They want the court to call a hearing into their evidence, a hearing where they would put MacFarlane on trial for his alleged abuses and flaws in his investigation.

And for good measure, they said they want to call MacFarlane as a defence witness.

The UN Tribunal says that, usually their proceedings are broadcast (with a 30-minute delay.)
If our local television stations know how to tap into the satellite TV broadcasts, we may get to see Manitoba's Bruce MacFarlane in action.

"Se-cret a-a-a-gent man, se-cret a-a-agent man..."

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