A war criminal accused of crimes against Muslims during the Bosnian war, died today after drinking poison from a flask during his appeal hearing at The Hague.
The 72-year-old accused, Slobodan Pralijak had just received news that his 20-year jail term for crimes committed during the Bosnian war was being upheld.
In 2013, Pralijak was sentenced for crimes committed in the city of Mostar during the war that raged from 1992-1995. Although the Bosnian Croats and Muslims were allies in the fight against the Bosnian Serbs, they later fought each other for a period of 11 months. Mostar, the city in question, saw some of the fiercest fighting during this these blood filled months.
On hearing the verdict of the court, Pralijak, who was an ex-commander of the Bosnian Croat forces declared that he was not a criminal and immediately gulped down the contents of the bottle he was carrying.
Pralijak was one of the six former political and military leaders whose cases were being tried before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). All the former Bosnian Croat leaders were in attendance to hear the final appeals judgement on their cases when the event occurred.
Upon hearing the verdict, General Pralijak simply stood, tipped his head back and swallowed from a glass filled with liquid. Then, he ominously declared to the court at large, “I have taken poison”.
The announcement saw chaos erupt in the court, and the presiding judge, Carmel Agius immediately suspended the proceedings and sent for an ambulance.
Visibly shaken by the announcement, Aguis called out “We suspend the…We suspend…Please, the curtains. Don’t take away the glass that he used when he drank something”.
The judge declared that the entire courtroom was now an active “crime-scene” and called out for assistance in moving Pralijak to the nearest hospital.
Although Pralijak was “immediately assisted by the ICTY medical staff”, they could only do so much and Pralijak died in hospital.
Reports state that an independent investigation into the matter is now underway.