A Bosnian Croat war crimes suspect died on Wednesday (29 November) after apparently taking poison in the courtroom of the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, which confirmed his sentence for atrocities during the 1992-95 war in Bosnia.
Croatian media, including state news agency Hina, reported that retired General Slobodan Praljak died in hospital after his 20-year sentence was confirmed.
He was originally sentenced in 2013 for crimes in the southern Bosnian city of Mostar, but he appealed the verdict. On hearing that his sentence had been upheld, he took a small vial out of his pocket, tipped his head back and drank up, saying: “I have taken poison.”
In a dramatic turn of events, former Bosnian Croat General Slobodan Praljak appeared to drink what he said was poison at the ICTY. pic.twitter.com/V3yZLW5sBT
— RFE/RL (@RFERL) November 29, 2017
Praljak had appeared before the tribunal with five other Bosnian Croat officials – the political and military officials of the so-called Herceg Bosna, a self-proclaimed wartime state in southern Bosnia which sought closer ties, and eventually integration, with Croatia.
Praljak had been the commander of Bosnian Croat forces, the HVO.
Bosnian Croats and Muslims were allied against the Bosnian Serbs, but they also fought each other throughout 1993, with Mostar seeing some of the fiercest fighting on its streets.
In The Hague, Presiding Judge Carmel Agius immediately halted the proceedings and an ambulance was called. He later said the Dutch authorities have launched an investigation to determine just how Praljak managed to get the poison inside the courtroom.
Exactly a week ago, the tribunal delivered its last regular verdict – a life sentence for Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladić. Last year, it sentenced Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadžić to forty years.
The tribunal was set up in 1993 to investigate and prosecute war crimes committed during the violent break-up of the former Yugoslavia, in Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia and Kosovo.
It is scheduled to finish its work at the end of this year. It has indicted 161 persons, including former Serbian President Slobodan Milošević, and convicted 84 of them.