news 29 Nov 17

Bosnian Croat Dies after ‘Taking Poison’ at UN Court

Former Bosnian Croat military chief Slobodan Praljak has died after apparently swallowing poison in the courtroom at the Hague Tribunal as the verdict convicting him of crimes against humanity was announced.

BIRN
The Hague, Belgrade
 Slobodan Praljak in court. Photo: ICTY.

Slobodan Praljak died on Wednesday after apparently taking poison in the courtroom at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague as the judge read out the sentence convicting him of crimes against humanity during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the UN court has confirmed.

Praljak, 72, was the wartime chief of the Main Headquarters of the Croatian Defence Council, HVO, the armed forces of the unrecognised Croat-led statelet of Herzeg-Bosnia.

The Hague Tribunal on Wednesday upheld his conviction for crimes against humanity and sentenced him to 20 years in jail.

While the judge was reading the verdict, Praljak dramatically interrupted the proceedings by shouting: “Slobodan Praljak is not a war criminal. I reject your judgment.”

He then appeared to drink some liquid from a small bottle, which he said was poison.

The reading of the verdict was immediately halted and an ambulance called. Praljak was taken to hospital but later died.

“Praljak drank a liquid in the courtroom, after which he fell ill. The emergency services took Praljak to a nearby hospital, where he died,” Tribunal spokesperson Nenad Golcevski told media.

The courtroom has been declared a crime scene.

“In line with procedure, the Dutch police have started an independent investigation, which is currently ongoing,” Golcevski said.

 
Praljak taking what he said was poison in the courtroom. Photo: ICTY.

The UN court on Wednesday also upheld the convictions of five other political and military leaders of Herzeg-Bosnia.

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.

The Tribunal’s appeals chamber confirmed the finding from the first-instance verdict that wartime Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, his Defence Minister Gojko Susak and the chief of the Main Headquarters of the Croatian Army, Janko Bobetko, participated in a joint criminal enterprise with the Herzeg-Bosnia leaders.

Croatia has repeatedly denied that it was involved in the Bosnian war.

Bosnian Croats and Bosniaks had fought side by side against the Serbs at the start of the war, but in late 1992 a conflict erupted between the two sides, which continued until it was resolved by a peace deal in 1994.

Wednesday’s verdict was the last to be handed down by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, which will shut down at the end of this year.

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