Former Bosnian Croat military leader Slobodan Praljak has died after ‘drinking poison’ in court after judges upheld his 20-year prison sentence.
The UN war crimes court for the former Yugoslavia was the centre of the drama when during its final judgement Slobodan Praljak appeared drink from a small brown bottle.
Seconds before the 72-year-old’s sentence was upheld he shouted: ‘Judges, I am not a war criminal, I reject the verdict with contempt.’
Watch the moment he drinks the poison here:
The hearing was swiftly suspended, after Praljak’s lawyer shouted:
My client says he has taken poison.
As court officials surrounded Praljak, the presiding judge, Carmel Agius, immediately ordered the proceedings to be suspended and the curtains screening the courtroom were then closed to the public.
The judge said:
Okay. We suspend the… We suspend… Please, the curtains. Don’t take away the glass that he used when he drank something.
Before the curtains were fully-lowered, the courtroom could be seen in a ‘state of confusion’, the BBC’s Anna Holligan reported from the tribunal at The Hague.
Within minutes journalists said they saw an ambulance arrive outside The Hague, a court guard appealed for calm, telling crowds Praljak was alive and ‘receiving all necessary medical attention’.
Judges were listening to the appeals in the cases of six former Bosnian Croat political and military leaders in the court’s final verdict for war crimes committed during the bloody 1990s break-up of Yugoslavia.
Some of Paljak’s convictions were overturned, but the judge left his sentence unchanged.
The ‘poison-drinking’ came shortly after the judges upheld a 25-year prison term against Jadranko Prlic, the former prime minister of a breakaway Bosnian Croat statelet, and a 20-year term for its former defence minister Bruno Stojic, writes The Guardian.
Praljak was originally sentenced in 2013 for his involvement in a campaign to drive Muslims out of a would-be Bosnian Croat mini-state in Bosnia in the early 1990s.
100,000 people died and 2.2 million were displaced in the three-year war, writes Sky News.
predsjednik dr. Franjo Tuđman , Gojko Sušak , Ante Roso , Slobodan Praljak i Tihomir Blaškić pic.twitter.com/V02TQEy5Vu
— Valentina 🇭🇷 (@tinaleina_vale) May 2, 2014
Who is Slobodan Praljak?
He was born was born on January 2, 1945 in Čapljina, a town in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and became a politician and general in the Croatian Army.
Praljak was involved in a campaign to drive Muslims out of Bosnia in the early 1990s and he commanded Bosnian Croat forces known as the HVO from July until November 1993.
He and his allies were reportedly ‘fighting to establish the mini state of Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia, with the city of Mostar as its ‘capital’.
Praljak was one of six former Bosnian Croat political and military leaders who appealed against their convictions in 2013 for crimes in East Mostar.
Praljak was charged with nine counts of the breaching of the Geneva conventions – these included wilful killing, inhuman treatment (sexual assault), unlawful deportation and confinements of civilians. Nine counts of violations of the laws or customs of war – including cruel treatment, unlawful attack on civilians and unlawful infliction of terror on civilians. Eight counts of crimes against humanity – including persecutions on political, racial and religious grounds as well as murder, rape, deportation, inhumane acts and imprisonment.