Bosnian war criminal dies after drinking poison in UN war crimes court

Bosnian war criminal dies after drinking poison in UN war crimes court

A dramatic court case against a Bosnian war criminal ended in dramatic circumstances today when the man in question died after "drinking poison" while appearing in court. Former Bosnian Croat military leader Slobodan Praljak decided to drink the poison after judges upheld his 20-year-prison sentence.

The UN war crimes court was at the centre of the action when during the final stages of the judgement, Slobodan Praljak drank from a small brown bottle that apparently contained a poisonous substance.

Seconds before the 72-year-old's sentence was upheld, he looked into the camera before shouting: "Judges, I am not a war criminal, I reject the verdict with contempt." Praljak then took a large swig from the bottle.

Understandably, the hearing was swiftly suspended by the court, after Praljak's lawyer shouted: "My client says he has taken poison!"

As court officials began to surround Praljak, the presiding judge, Carmel Agius, immediately called time on proceeding and the curtains to the courtroom were swiftly closed to the public. The judge, who was clearly shaken by the incident, said: "Okay. We suspend the… We suspend… Please, the curtains. Don’t take away the glass that he used when he drank something."

Reporting from the tribunal at The Hague, the BBC's Anna Holligan claims that before the curtains were fully-lowered, the courtroom could be seen in a "state of confusion."

According to several sources at the scene, an ambulance arrived within minutes of the event, with a crown court guard appealing for calm and telling crowds that Praljak was alive and that he was "receiving all necessary medical attention" he required.

The case was focused on the appeals of six former Bosnian-Croat military and political leaders who were accused of war crimes that were committed during the violent 1990s break-up of Yugoslavia. However, while some of Paljak's convictions were overturned by the judges, his sentence was left unchanged.

You can watch the video here, but for obvious reasons, we will not be including it here.

In 2013, Praljak was sentenced for his involvement in a campaign to rid a would-be Bosnian Croat mini-state of Muslims during the early 1990's. He was charged with nine counts of breaching the Geneva conventions. The charges aimed at him included wilful killing, inhuman treatment, unlawful deportation and confinements of civilians.

He was also charged with nine counts of violations of the laws of war, including cruel treatment, unlawful attack on civilians and unlawful infliction of terror on civilians.

On top of this, Praljak was also charged with eight counts of crimes against humanity, including persecutions on political, racial and religious grounds as well as murder, rape, deportation, inhumane acts and imprisonment.

Despite the horrendous nature of his crimes, the Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said that he "regrets" the death of Slobodan Praljak. The UN has announced that the courtroom is now being treated as a "crime scene" as the investigation into how the substance entered the court continues.