Croatian war criminal dies after drinking poison in United Nations court

Slobodan Praljak

It could not immediately be confirmed whether Praljak had taken poison, but a court spokesman said he was alive and receiving medical attention.

There were dramatic scenes at the International Criminal Court in the Hague on Wednesday as a former general appeared to poison himself upon hearing he was guilty of war crimes.

Presiding Judge Carmel Agius quickly halted the November 29 hearing.

Dutch police say they are investigating.

He then raised a small brown bottle to his lips and tipped its contents into his mouth in full view of the public and cameras which were filming the appeal hearing for the six Bosnian Croat political and military leaders.

Though allies against the Bosnian Serbs in the 1992-95 war, Bosnian Croats and Muslims also fought each other for a period of 11 months, with Mostar seeing some of the fiercest fighting.

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The Yugoslav army targeted Bosnian Muslims and Croats in a brutal conflict that killed more than 100,000 people.

Croatia's state-run TV service later said he died in hospital in the Netherlands, a statement which was later confirmed by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, who offered condolences to his family.

Agius had overturned some of Praljak's convictions but left his sentence unchanged.

"Judges, Slobodan Praljak is not a war criminal", he said. "Everything that you have said is pure lies", he yelled in response.

"They talk about the theatre of war for a reason".

Earlier, AFP journalists had seen an ambulance arrive outside the tribunal in The Hague, and several emergency rescue workers rushed into the building carrying backpacks.

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"He was a theatrical character and he died in a theatrical way".

Praljak was a former assistant minister of defense of Croatia, and later commander of the main staff of the former Croatian Defense Council, a militia operating in Bosnia.

The tribunal, which last week convicted former Bosnian Serb military chief General Ratko Mladic of genocide and other crimes, was set up in 1993, while fighting still raged in the former Yugoslavia.

Commenting on the apparent suicide, Tudjman's son, Miroslav, said Praljak's gesture was a "consequence of his moral position not to accept the verdict that has nothing to do with justice or reality".

He was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment in 2013 for crimes in the city of Mostar.

The court, established by the United Nations in 1993, is due to close when its mandate expires at the end of this year.

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The ICTY closes its doors on December 31, having indicted and dealt with 161 people.

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