War Criminal Slobodan Praljak Reported Dead After Drinking Poison in Court
Croatia’s state TV says Slobodan Praljak who claimed to have taken poison just after his 20-year sentence was upheld by appeals judges at a U.N. war crimes tribunal, has died.
Dutch police will not comment on the TV report based on “sources close to Gen. Praljak.”
Spokesman for the tribunal Nenad Golcevski, when asked by the AP if he could confirm the death, said: “I have no information to share at this point.”
Praljak, 72, drank from a bottle shortly after appeals judges confirmed his sentence for involvement in a campaign to drive Muslims out of a would-be Bosnian Croat ministate in Bosnia in the early 1990s.
Judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia were in the midst of delivering appeals rulings on Wednesday involving six defendants over Croatia’s often-overlooked involvement in the Bosnian conflict. They upheld two of the sentences before moving on to Praljak, who had been sentenced to 20 years in prison for war crimes linked to his involvement in an offensive against a Bosnian town.
But when judges announced that they had upheld the sentence against Praljak, he addressed the bench in Croat. In a solemn voice, he said: “Slobodan Praljak is not a war criminal. I reject your judgment with contempt.”
Praljak then raised a small vial and drank from it. His lawyer called out, “Our client says he took poison.” Dutch police officers and an ambulance rushed to the tribunal and Praljak was taken from the courtroom shortly afterward. The hearing was suspended.
The case in The Hague draws attention to Croatia’s often-overlooked role in the Bosnian war.
The tribunal has for the past 24 years largely focused on the dominant Serbian role in the conflict, most recently sentencing Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb military commander, to life in prison for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
But Croatia, a range of trials at the tribunal have shown, also orchestrated a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign to seize Bosnian lands once the Yugoslav federation began to disintegrate in 1991.