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Yugoslavian war criminal 'takes poison' to end hearing at United Nations court

03 December, 2017, 00:45 | Author: Priscilla Morrison
  • Slobodan Praljak

The final hearing at a United Nations war crimes tribunal has been dramatically halted after a former Bosnian Croat military official drank from a small bottle in court and claimed to have taken poison.

Praljak was among six former leaders of the wartime "Croat Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia (Herceg-Bosna)" - whose guilty verdicts were confirmed today by the Appeals Chamber.

While the sentence was being read out, Praljak stood up and said: "Judges, Slobodan Praljak is not a war criminal!".

Praljak's condition, and whether he actually drank poison, are unknown. Judges upheld sentences ranging from 10-25 years against Praljak and five other Bosnian Croat wartime political and military leaders for their part in a plan linked to Croatia's late former President Franjo Tudjman to violently carve out a Croat-dominated mini-state in Bosnia during the Balkan wars by killing, mistreating and deporting Muslims.

In their ruling, the judges allowed part of Praljak's appeal, saying the bridge had been a legitimate military target during the conflict.

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.

More than an hour after the incident, a court guard told Reuters news agency said Praljak was still "being treated".




Dutch police, an ambulance and a firetruck quickly arrived outside the court's headquarters and emergency service workers, some of them wearing helmets and with oxygen tanks on their backs, went into the court.

Praljak, 72, was convicted for trying to create an ethnically pure Croatian state during the Bosnian war in the 1990s, which sparked by the breakup of Yugoslavia. It has indicted 161 suspects, of which 90 have been convicted.

Last week it convicted former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic of genocide and other crimes.

Plenkovic said at a press conference that "we have all unfortunately witnessed his act by which he took his own life".

The ICTY charged Prlic and his co-defendants in 2004.

In statements sure to anger Zagreb, the judges upheld the original trial finding that the men had been part of a joint criminal enterprise whose "ultimate objective was shared" by late Croatian president Franjo Tudjman, and other leaders.

Prior to drinking the substance, Praljak had heard that his 20-year sentence for alleged war crimes in the Bosnian city of Mostar was being upheld. The six surrendered with Croatia under pressure to comply with the court in return for joining the European Union.

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