Slobodan Praljak Dies After Taking Poison in Hague Courtroom

Total Croatia News

A shocking turn of events today in the Hague.

Bosnian Croat Slobodan Praljak died today in the Hague hospital after he took poison in the courtroom of the International Tribunal for War Crimes in former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

On Wednesday morning, the ICTY Appeals Chamber issued a verdict in the case against six Bosnian Croats commanders. After the Appeals Chamber upheld Praljak’s first-instance sentence of 20 years in prison, he stood up and said: “General Praljak is not a war criminal and I reject your verdict.” He then drank contents of a bottle which he had on him.

Judge Carmel Agius interrupted him with the words “stop, please,” and then continued reading a verdict against Milivoj Petković. One of Praljak’s defence attorneys, Nataša Faveau Ivanović, spoke to the presiding judge and told him that her client had just told her he had drunk poison.

Judge Agius ordered curtains to be lowered in the courtroom and interrupted the hearing.

Before that, the Chamber announced that it had accepted some of the grounds for appeal, but at the same time announced that the civilian and military leadership of Bosnian Croats “was still guilty of numerous and serious crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

The ICTY Appeals Chamber also sentenced former Prime Minister of Herceg-Bosna Jadranko Prlić to 25 years in prison, former Defense Minister Bruno Stojić to 20 years in prison, former head of Bosnian Croat forces Milivoj Petković to 20 years, former Military Police commander Valentin Ćorić to 16 years, and Chief of the Office for Prisoner Exchange Berislav Pušić to 10 years in prison.

Reacting to the events, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said he was in contact with President Kolinda Grabar Kitarović and with the ambassador in the Netherlands. The government is reportedly shocked. The Prime Minister is also in contact with a delegation from the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Affairs, and with Croat leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including Dragan Čović, a Croatian member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Prime Minister gave a statement in the afternoon. “On behalf of the Government of the Republic of Croatia and me personally, I wish to express the deepest condolences to the family of Slobodan Praljak. His act speaks about the profound moral injustice done towards the six Croats from Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Croatian people. The government expresses sympathy for all victims of all crimes committed in the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We also express our dissatisfaction and regret that the verdicts have been confirmed.

I would like to point out once again the help and support of the Republic of Croatia provided to Bosnia and Herzegovina at a time when it was facing the Greater Serbian aggression and when its territorial independence was compromised.

Croatia tried three times to get involved in the trial, first in 2006, then in 2016, and finally in 2017. The Court rejected Croatia’s demands. What is particularly important is that the Appeals Chamber in July 2017 interpreted the contents of the first-instance verdict and said that it was not within the jurisdiction of the court to determine the criminal liability of the state.

The Republic of Croatia considers that this verdict wrongly alludes to the role of the state leadership in the developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 1990s. At the same time, we would like to say that it is absurd that no international verdict has established the responsibility of then Serbia’s leadership. In the light of all this, the government will consider all available legal and political mechanisms to disprove certain allegations from today’s verdict. I want to once again send a message of support for the survival of the Croat people in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In all our activities, we will be the biggest advocate of the European path for Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović has interrupted her visit to Iceland and will be returning to Croatia.

Croatian attorneys with Hague experience said they were surprised that the ICTY had confirmed the allegations about a joint criminal enterprise, and most of them considered that the verdict is not favourable for Croatia. “I am surprised with the confirmation of the joint criminal enterprise,” said Goran Mikuličić. Still, Mikuličić said he did not think that the verdict would have a negative impact on Croatia. “This is a kind of spin. The court was not sentencing states, but individuals. If a convicted individual is a citizen of a country, how will that affect that country,” asked Mikuličić.

Lawyer Jadranka Sloković thinks that the verdict was scandalous in the part where it includes Croatia. “This is not a verdict against Croatia, but it is a verdict which involves the Croatian state leadership. There is no criminal responsibility, but if former Croatian President Franjo Tuđman or Defence Minister Gojko Šušak were alive, they would be tried. There will be political consequences,” said Sloković.

Her colleague Anto Nobilo agrees that the verdict is serious because it affirms the joint criminal enterprise. “This is a very serious matter because it appears that the leadership of Herceg-Bosna, together with Croatian President Tuđman, participated in a joint criminal enterprise to achieve political goals in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”


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