THE HAGUE – Former Serbo-Croat military leader Slobodan Praljak killed himself during a live video broadcast on Wednesday by drinking poison after his appeal for war crimes during the Balkan War was rejected at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the court said.
Praljak was attending a hearing in the Appeals Chamber of the court where he heard the presiding magistrate confirm his conviction and uphold a jail sentence of 20 years when he lifted a glass to his mouth, drank a liquid and fell ill, the court said in a statement.
“Praljak, one of six defence appellants in the Prlic et al. case, passed away today in HMC Hospital in The Hague,” the court statement said.
The Croatian Prime Minister, Andrej Plenkovic, said Praljak’s suicide was due to what he described as the injustice of having had his 20-year prison sentence for war crimes upheld.
“Judges, Slobodan Praljak is not a war criminal. With disdain, I reject this verdict,” the 72-year-old Praljak said, just before upending a small glass into his mouth and exclaiming: “I have taken poison.”
His lawyer confirmed that there was in fact poison inside the glass, causing chaos in the courtroom where judge Carmel Agius, who looked shocked, immediately ordered the hearing to be suspended.
“Praljak was immediately assisted by the ICTY medical staff,” the court said, adding that simultaneously an ambulance was summoned.
“Praljak was transported to a nearby hospital to receive further medical assistance where he passed,” the statement said.
The court added that Dutch authorities had launched an investigation.
Praljak was being tried alongside five other former Croat political and military leaders from Bosnia.
The six accused had in 2013 been charged with committing war crimes in the city of Mostar, where Bosnian Croats and Muslims had fought in 1993 and 1994.
Praljak was the Chief of Staff of the Croat Defense Forces (HVO) and the court had considered that he had failed to stop the persecution of Muslims in 1993 and had not acted on the information that killings were being planned.