War Crimes Defendant Claims To Take Poison In UN Court

Dec 03, 2017, 00:47
War Crimes Defendant Claims To Take Poison In UN Court

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in the Hague itself became a crime scene on Wednesday when a convicted war criminal committed suicide with poison he had smuggled into the courtroom. A former Croat army general, Slobodan Praljak, has died after taking poison while hearing the International Crime Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia pronounce a verdict in his case, the Croatian news agency Hina said on Wednesday quoting a source in Praljak's entourage.

"His act, which we all unfortunately witnessed today, speaks mostly about the deep moral injustice towards six Croats from Bosnia and the Croatian people", he told reporters.

The court appeared keen to carry on with proceedings, before Praljak told his translators: "I have taken poison".

Slobodan Praljak's sentence had just been upheld in the UN's war crimes tribunal.

Reuters reported a Croatian general telling local media he spoke to the wife of one of the defendants, who confirmed Praljak drank poison and was in a serious condition.

He then raised a small brown bottle to his lips and tipped its contents into his mouth in full view of the public and cameras which were filming the appeal hearing for the six Bosnian Croat political and military leaders. There was an ambulance on the scene soon after.

Praljak was charged with ordering the destruction of Mostar's 16th-century bridge in November 1993, which judges said "caused disproportionate damage to the Muslim civilian population".

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In their ruling, the judges allowed part of Praljak's appeal, saying the bridge had been "a military target at the time of the attack".

Though allies against the Bosnian Serbs in the 1992-95 war, Bosnian Croats and Muslims also fought each other for a period of 11 months, with Mostar seeing some of the fiercest fighting.

The appeals judges also upheld a key finding that late Croat President Franjo Tudjman was a member of a plan to create a Croat mini-state in Bosnia.

The original verdict, passed in 2013, sentenced Jadranko Prlic, wartime prime minister of the self-proclaimed Herzeg-Bosnia, to 25 years in prison.

He was appealing his punishment before Wednesday's hearing confirmed his 20 year sentence for involvement in driving out Bosnian Muslims of a potential Bosnian Croat state.

His judgement had also descended into confusion when he accused the judges of lying and had to be dragged away into a nearby room. Of the 161 individuals indicted by the ICTY, the body created specifically to prosecute wartime crimes, 94 are ethnic Serbs, compared to 29 Croats, nine Albanians and nine Bosniaks.

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