War criminal dies after taking poison in UN court

Slobodan Praljak (File Photo). Image credit: Sky News

–TMC Desk

The Hague, Nov 30: A Bosnian Croat war criminal has died after drinking poison during an appeal hearing in The Hague, media report said.

Slobodan Praljak, 72, died in hospital, with the UN court announcing that the courtroom was now “a crime scene”, the BBC said.

On hearing that his 20-year jail term had been upheld, the ex-commander of Bosnian Croat forces said he “was not a criminal” and then drank from a bottle.

In 2013, he was sentenced for crimes in the city of Mostar during the Bosnian war from 1992-95.

Praljak was one of six former Bosnian Croat political and military leaders up before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

They were attending the final appeals judgment to be handed down by the court, the BBC report said.

Though allies against the Bosnian Serbs in the war, Bosnian Croats and Muslims also fought each other for a period of 11 months, with Mostar seeing some of the fiercest fighting.

After hearing the verdict, General Praljak stood and raised his hand to his mouth, tipped his head back and appeared to swallow a glass of liquid.
“I have taken poison,” he said.

Presiding judge Carmel Agius immediately suspended the proceedings and an ambulance was called. “Okay,” the judge said. “We suspend the… We suspend… Please, the curtains. Don’t take away the glass that he used when he drank something.”

An ambulance could later be seen arriving outside the tribunal while a helicopter hovered above the scene. Several emergency rescue workers also rushed into the building carrying equipment in backpacks.

The BBC quoted a ICTY statement as saying Praljak “was immediately assisted by the ICTY medical staff”. It said Praljak “was transported to a nearby hospital to receive further medical assistance where he passed away”.

An independent investigation is now under way.


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