UN war crimes defendant claims to drink poison in court
The final hearing at a United Nations war crimes tribunal has been dramatically halted after a former Bosnian Croat military official drank from a small bottle in court and claimed to have taken poison.
Slobodan Praljak, 72, a former commander in Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, drank from a small bottle or glass and yelled “I am not a war criminal” moments after judges at the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia confirmed his 20year sentence on appeal on Wednesday.
Praljak’s lawyer then shouted “My client says he has taken poison”, before the presiding judge suspended the hearing and called for a doctor. It could not immediately be confirmed whether Praljak had taken poison or what the status of his health was.
Praljak was one of six former Bosnian Croat political and military leaders due to hear their appeal verdicts on Wednesday. All had been convicted in 2013 of persecuting, expelling and murdering Muslims during Bosnia’s war.
Wednesday’s hearing is the final case to be completed at the tribunal before it closes its doors next month.
The tribunal, which last week convicted the former Bosnian Serb military chief General Ratko Mladić of genocide and other crimes, was set up in 1993 while fighting was ongoing in the former Yugoslavia. It indicted 161 suspects and convicted 90 of them.
Praljak was specifically charged with ordering the destruction of Mostar’s 16th-century bridge in November 1993, which judges said “caused disproportionate damage to the Muslim civilian population”.
The presiding judge Carmel Agius had overturned some of Praljak’s convictions but left his sentence unchanged.