The NY Times reports that a Croatian war criminal committed suicide by drinking poison in court last month. In the courtroom, judges for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia were set to deliver their rulings on appeals of Croatia’s involvement in the Bosnian conflict from 1992-95. Out of six defendants, Slobodan Praljak stood to address the court, claimed he was not a war criminal and subsequently rejected the court’s upholding of his 20-year jail sentence for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
He then raised a small container to his lips and drank the contents, stating that it was poison. Authorities then escorted him from the courtroom and the hearing was suspended to a later date. Curtains were drawn to separate the courtroom from the public viewing area, and the container was collected by guards.
Praljak, 72, was a former general and died in a Dutch hospital. No one knows how he was able to obtain the poison and smuggle it into the courtroom. He had been transferred from a high-security jail to the tribunal building via an underground lot while being accompanied by guards. Visitors to the jail are all subject to a security check, and the prisoners never had contact with the public gallery in the building.
This is the third suicide that has been committed in connection to the tribunal. The other two occurred in the defendants’ jail cells. The courtroom is now considered a crime scene.
The panel of judges upheld all six defendants’ sentences.
Praljak was formerly a director and writer before becoming a senior official in the Croatian army in 1991. He was later named commander of the Croatian forces fighting in Bosnia. During the time of the siege in Mostar, he was the main liason between political and military leaders.
He was convicted of numerous crimes, and some of his convictions were overturned during appeal; however, his sentence remained the same.
Doctors have told reporters that Praljak was found to have some concentration of potassium cyanide in his blood.
*Photo credit Reuters