Bosnian War

A Convicted War Criminal Killed Himself With Poison at The Hague

He's the third defendant to commit suicide at the international criminal court.
November 30, 2017, 4:05am
Slobodan Praljak enters the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, to hear the verdict in the appeals case. The hearing was suspended after Praljak claimed to have drunk poison and shouted that he was not a war criminal, after his 20-year sentence was upheld. Photo by Robin van Lonkhuijsen,Pool Photo via AP

This article originally appeared on VICE News.

A Bosnian Croat war criminal died after drinking from a vial of what he called “poison” after his appeal was denied at a United Nations tribunal in The Hague Wednesday.

Judges had just upheld a 20-year jail term against former military commander Slobodan Praljak, when the 72-year-old drank from a small bottle seconds after his verdict was read.

“I just drank poison,” he told the judges. “I am not a war criminal; I reject the verdict with contempt.”

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Amid chaotic and confusing scenes, the presiding judge suspended the hearing and summoned medical help. Croatian state television, citing sources close to Praljak, later reported that he had died in hospital, although the UN court has not confirmed this.

The court then resumed reading the verdict, which involves five other defendants, all of them Bosnian Croat political and military leaders. Presiding judge Carmel Agius noted that the courtroom was “now a crime scene.”

Praljak, a former commander of the Bosnian Croat defense forces, was originally sentenced to 20 years in jail in 2013 for his role in a campaign to drive Muslims out of an intended Bosnian Croat state in 1993.

The appeal led to the judges overturning some of Praljak’s convictions, but his sentence was not reduced.

The verdict is the last to be delivered in the court, known as the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, before it closes down when its mandate expires at the end of the year. The court, which has indicted 161 people since it was established by the UN in 1993, convicted former Bosnian Serb military chief General Ratko Mladic of genocide and other crimes last week.

The tribunal has previously seen two other defendants commit suicide, one in 1998 and one in 2006, both by hanging themselves in their cells while awaiting trial.