Bosnian Croat War Criminal Slobodan Praljak Dies After Drinking Poison In UN Court

A former Bosnian Croat general has died after drinking a vial of poison at a UN tribunal after his sentence for war crimes was upheld, according to Croatian State TV.

Former military commander Slobodan Praljak, 72, died in a hospital in The Hague not long after drinking the poison.

Praljak was one of six former Bosnian Croat political and military leaders who found themselves in front of the international war crime tribunal. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2013 for crimes against humanity committed in the city of Mostar.

The six leaders were attending the final appeals judgment to be handed out by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which will close when its mandate expires at the end of this year.

"Praljak is not a criminal. I reject your verdict," Praljak shouted, seconds after his sentence was upheld. He then raised a small brown vial to his mouth, tipped his head back and drank it in full view of cameras filming the hearing.

"I just drank poison," he said. "I am not a war criminal. I oppose this conviction."

Praljak's actions threw the court into a state of confusion as onlookers attempted to understand what they had just witnessed.

The judge presiding over proceedings, Carmel Agius, immediately suspended the hearing and an ambulance was called for Praljak.

When the ambulance arrived outside the tribunal, several emergency workers rushed into the building carrying equipment while a helicopter also hovered overhead.

A photo of a mass grave containing victims of the Bosnian War, taken in 1996. Credit: PA

Although they were allies against the Bosnian Serbs in the Bosnian War of 1992 - 1995, Bosnian Croats and Muslims were also in conflict for almost a year, with Mostar seeing some of the bloodiest conflict as the country of Yugoslavia messily divided.

At the time of the conflict, Praljak was serving commander of the main staff of the Bosnian Croat defence forces (HVO).

The UN war tribunal found that despite his being informed of what was happening, Praljak failed to make serious efforts to stop soldiers from rounding up Muslims in Prozor in the summer of 1993.

The tribunal concluded that Praljak failed to act on information that murders were being planned, as well as attacks on members of international organisations.

Mostar's Old Bridge. Credit: PA

Praljak was also specifically charged with ordering the destruction of Mostar's 16th century Old Bridge and mosques in November 1993. Judges found Praljak's act to have "caused disproportionate damage to the Muslim civilian population".

Those appearing alongside Praljak in the court included Jadranko Prlic, the former prime minister of the Bosnian Croats' breakaway statelet, and its former defence minister Bruno Stojic.

Just prior to Praljak's taking poison, the judges had upheld Prlic's 25 year prison sentence and Stojic's 20 year term. They have not yet passed judgment on the three other defendants.

Featured Image Credit: PA

Chris Ogden

Chris Ogden is a journalist at LADbible. He graduated from the University of East Anglia with degrees in English Literature and Creative Writing before completing his NCTJ Diploma in Multimedia Journalism. Chris has previously written for the independent culture magazine The Skinny, among other publications.

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