8 months ago
A former Bosnian Croat general is dead after drinking a vial of poison at a UN tribunal in The Hague. His war crimes sentence of 20 years had been upheld on Wednesday, reports The Guardian.
Seconds after his sentence was upheld at the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Slobodan Praljak, 72, shouted, “Praljak is not a criminal. I reject your verdict,” before drinking out of a small brown bottle, reports The Guardian.
After drinking the bottle in full, he turned to the cameras and said, “I just drank poison. I am not a war criminal. I oppose this conviction,” according to The Guardian.
The Croatian prime minister, Andrej Plenković, confirmed his death after it was initially reported by Croatian state TV. He then offered his condolences to the family. Dutch police have declared the courtroom a crime scene, reports The Guardian.
This startling scene came as judges were passing down judgment in the appeals case of six former Bosnian Croat political and military leaders, according to The Guardian. This marks the court’s final verdict for war crimes committed during the bloody 1990s break-up of Yugoslavia.
Praljak was charged with ordering the destruction of Mostar’s 16th-century bridge in Nov. 1993. Judges in the first trial had said this “caused disproportionate damage to the Muslim civilian population,” reports The Guardian.
After he drank the poison, the presiding judge, Carmel Agius, ordered the proceedings to be suspended and the curtains screening the courtroom were abruptly closed to the public, The Guardian reports. An ambulance arrived within minutes and several emergency workers rushed in.
The bloody 1992-95 war in Bosnia killed 100,000 people and displaced 2.2 million more.