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Bosnian War Criminal Drinks Poison during Tribunal
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Summary: A Bosnian war criminal drank poison during a court hearing, vowing his innocence before dying.

A former Bosnian Croat military chief accused of war crimes drank a vial of liquid in court after being read his sentence. The defendant, Slobodan Praljak, claimed he drank poison.

A video of the courtroom proceedings shows Praljak standing while the United Nation judge informed him of his 20-year sentence for the murder of Muslims in addition to other war crimes. Praljak shouts “I am not a war criminal!” before lifting a vial to his lips, tilting his head back and swallowing the liquid. A little while later he informs the court he “drank poison.”


The Croatian state TV reported the 72-year-old’s death. Praljak was accused of ethnic cleansing in 1993 during an attempt to create a Bosnian Croat ministate. Praljak was in court that day, appealing the charges against him by the International Criminal Tribunal of the former Yugoslavia. They alleged that he used violence and murder to get rid of Muslims.

The United Nations contends that Praljak “facilitated the murder of Muslims who did not belong to any armed force, and the destruction of property in Stupni Do in October 1993.” He was indicted in March 2004, pleading not guilty in April 2004. On May 29, 2013, he was found guilty on all charges.

The tribunal, which was expected to conclude this month, has suspended while they determine what Praljak swallowed and how he came into possession of it and smuggled it into the courtroom.

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Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic told Reuters, “His act, which we regrettably saw today, mostly speaks about a deep moral injustice towards six Croats from Bosnia and the Croatian people … We voice dissatisfaction and regret about the verdict.”

From 1992-95, a group in Bosnia, of which Praljak was one of the leaders, tried to form a “Greater Croatia.” Prosecutors believe he helped destroy the legendary 16th-century bridge in November 1993 in the Bosnia city of Mostar. He allegedly facilitated and concealed the death of Muslim civilians by his armed forces. This includes the Stupni Do massacre.

The Stupni Do massacre was committed by Croatian forces on Bosniak civilians, including children, in the village of Stupni Do. The Croat forces, Bosnian Croat militiamen from the nearby town of Vares, took over the village, raping the women before killing them and looting their homes before setting them on fire. At least 37 people died.

U.N. forces who arrived shortly after the massacre were shocked by the brutality. Chief of staff of the U.N. Protection Force in Bosnia, Brig. Angus Ramsay, said, “Those who did this are not soldiers, they are scum. This is not war. This is a war crime. Those who have done this thing will one day answer for it.”

Praljak insisted that the Croatian forces were not involved in the Bosnian wars but the tribunal disagreed, finding Praljak and others guilty. While the tribunal overturned some of the convictions against Praljak, the most serious charges and the 20-year sentence remained.

How do you think Praljak got the poison inside the courtroom? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

To learn more about war crimes, read these articles:

Photo: ICTY


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