Dutch police probe court suicide
A former Bosnian-Croat general has died after swigging poison while a court in the Hague upheld his 20-year sentence for war crimes.
At the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Slobodan Praljak (pictured) can be seen drinking from a small glass bottle as the judge reads out the verdict.
And the Dutch authorities have opened an investigation into how the war criminal managed to smuggle poison into the supposedly high-security courtroom to kill himself during the televised appeal.
“I, Slobodan Praljak, am not a war criminal. I am rejecting your verdict with contempt,” Praljak shouted before swallowing.
The judge then suspended proceedings and asked for the curtains to be drawn.
The court was being treated as a crime scene, an ICTY spokesperson told CNN. He “quickly fell ill” and died in hospital, said spokesman Nenad Golcevski, adding that he could not name the liquid used.
Praljak, a former assistant defence minister in Croatia and commander of the Croatian Defence Council, was appealing against a 20-year jail term.
In 2013 he had been found guilty of failing to make any serious efforts to stop his troops rounding up Muslims in the summer of 1993.
The ex-general also failed to act on information that murders were being planned, as well as attacks on members of international bodies and the destruction of Mostar’s historic Old Bridge and mosques.
In 2013 he was one of six former Bosnian-Croat leaders found guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including the rape and murder of Bosnian Muslims during the 1992-1995 war.
The six sentences totalled 111 years and included Jadranko Prlic, the former prime minister of the breakaway Bosnian-Croat statelet, known as Herzeg-Bosnia.
Praljak’s suicide was not the first during the Hague trials. Croatian-Serb war crimes suspect Slavko Dokmanovic was found hanged in his cell in 1998 and another Croatian Serb, Milan Babic, killed himself in his cell in 2006.
The 2013 conviction said Franjo Tudjman, the late Croatian president, was a key member of a plan to carve out a mini Croat state in Bosnia.
Although allies against the Bosnian Serbs during the civil war, Bosnian Croats and Muslims also fought each other for around 11 months, with Mostar the focal point of the fiercest fighting.
The ICTY upheld the 2013 ruling that the six convicts, along with Tudjman, formed a Croatian “joint criminal enterprise”, which called for a “unification of the Croatian people” and expelled Muslims from areas in Bosnia and Herzegovina seen as “Greater Croatia”.
Slobodan Praljak in 2013. Picture credit: Wikimedia