The UN war crimes court in The Hague instantly turned into a crime scene when a former Bosnian general drank poison in front of the UN tribunal after the judges delivered their verdict and sentenced the general for 20 years in prison for his war crimes.
Who was Slobodan Praljak?
Born on January 2, 1945, Slobodan Praljak grew up in a small town in Croatia. After attending high school, he moved to Zagreb where he received his engineering degree from Faculty of Electrical Engineering. Before joining the Croatian army, Praljak had tried out different career paths but none of them seemed to stuck; he worked as college professor, a freelance artist and a successful theatre director in the capital among others.
After the Croatian War of Independence broke out in 1991, Praljak volunteered to join Croatia’s newly formed army. A year later, he was promoted to the rank of major general and became a key member of both, UNPROFOR and Croatian National Defense Council. Praljak began exploiting his power during the Croat–Bosniak War in 1993 and committed several violations of the law by promoting the killing of Bosnian Muslim population during the Croat-Muslim conflict and sending a large number of weapons into the besieged Sarajevo.
Guilty of Committing War Crimes
Praljak’s mistakes came back to haunt him in 2004, more than a decade after the war when he found himself surrendered to the International Criminal Tribunal of Yugoslavia. The Croatian government was pressured into cooperating with the tribunal in return for their entry in the EU. The former general was finally charged with breach of Geneva Convention and crimes against humanity in 2013 and only a few days ago, the judges found him guilty of intentionally destroying Mostar’s 16th-century bridge and causing the deaths of Bosnian Muslims in the 1993 conflict.
On Wednesday, as the 72-year-old former general stood in front of the UN tribunal in Netherlands, the judges proceeded to pass their ruling in the case, declaring Praljak a war criminal and upholding their previous verdict of 20 years of imprisonment. However, what happened next was something that no one inside the courtroom had anticipated…
Praljak’s Drastic Decision
After hearing the judges’ ruling the white-haired, the 72-year-old former general rose to his feet and shouted in an angry voice, “I do not accept your final verdict. I’m no war criminal.” With these words, he took out a small bottle filled with a strange, brown liquid from his pocket and raised it to his lips.
In a room filled with cameras and confused onlookers, Praljak emptied the content of the bottle in his mouth and said, “I just drank poison.” A flustered panel of judges ended the proceeding abruptly and closed the courtroom’s curtains to block the horrifying view from the public.
In no time, an ambulance rushed to the tribunal to take the former Croat general to the hospital. Sadly, he was declared dead before he could be taken to the emergency room.
161 War Crime Cases
After his death, an investigation has been initiated by the Dutch authorities to find out who provided the deceased general with the poison and how he managed to sneak the bottle into a heavily secured courtroom.
Praljak was among the six Croatian generals who had been found guilty of committing war crimes and were imprisoned. Jadranko Prlić, the former Prime Minister of Herceg-Bosna has also received a sentence of 25 years in prison. His Defense Minister, Bruno Stojić, was received 20 years of imprisonment while the former Bosnian commander, also known as the butcher of Bosnia for his ruthlessness in the war, was sentenced for life. With 161 people handled by the tribunal, ICTY will close its doors on 31 December once and for all.