News 01 Dec 17

Hague Tribunal Probes Slobodan Praljak’s Courtroom Death

As Dutch prosecutors confirmed that Bosnian Croat military chief Slobodan Praljak took poison before he died, the Hague Tribunal launched an independent review to establish what went wrong at the UN court.

BIRN
Slobodan Praljak. Photo: ICTY.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia on Friday launched its own independent review into the death of former Bosnian Croat military chief Slobodan Praljak, who swallowed poison in the courtroom after being sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The review will focus on “ICTY internal operations”, the UN court said.

It remains unclear how Praljak got access to the poison in the court.

“The review is mandated to undertake an assessment of relevant existing procedures as well as make any recommendations which may assist other courts in the future,” said a statement from the ICTY.

“The outcome of the review will be made public, subject to due process and confidentiality considerations,” it added.

The probe will be led by Hassan B. Jallow, Chief Justice of The Gambia and former prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals.

It aims to deliver a report before December 31, when the ICTY closes down.

The announcement comes after Dutch prosecutors confirmed that the vial from which Praljak drank in the courtroom contained a highly toxic substance.

“We cannot yet say what that substance was. Further testing is needed,” prosecution spokesperson Vincent Veenman told AFP news agency.

Praljak, 72, was the commander of the Main Headquarters of the Bosnian Croat wartime force, the Croatian Defence Council, HVO.

As the ICTY confirmed his conviction on Wednesday, he noisily interrupted the proceedings.

“Slobodan Praljak is not a war criminal. I reject your judgment,” he shouted at the judge.

He then drank something from a small container. In the confusion that followed, his defence lawyer Natasa Fauveau-Ivanovic could be heard saying that Praljak “says he has drunk poison”.

The UN court on Wednesday also upheld the convictions of five other political and military leaders of the unrecognised wartime Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia for crimes against Bosniaks in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Jadranko Prlic, Bruno Stojic, Milivoj Petkovic, Valentin Coric and Berislav Pusic were all found guilty of crimes against humanity and other crimes against Bosniaks while they were senior political and military officials of the Herzeg-Bosnia statelet during wartime.

Prlic, the former prime minister of the Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia and the senior figure among the defendants, was jailed for 25 years.

Stojic, the defence minister of the Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia, was jailed for 20 years, as were HVO chief Praljak and Petkovic, who was the HVO’s deputy commander.

Coric, the former commander of the HVO’s military police, was sentenced to 16 years in jail, while Pusic, the president of Herzeg-Bosnia’s Commission for the Exchange of Prisoners, was given ten years.

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