A wild and disturbing scene played out at the Hague earlier today, as a former Bosnian Croat military official dramatically committed suicide in the courtroom just after a judge upheld his lengthy prison sentence for war crimes. The video, understandably, quickly spread like wildfire on social media. Convicted war criminal Slobodan Praljak started shouting as the presiding judge delivered the tribunal’s final decision, which would have kept Praljak behind bars for 20 years. The 72-year-old yelled, “Slobodan Praljak is not a war criminal! I reject this verdict!” Ignoring an instruction to sit down, Praljak then drank an unidentified liquid from a small bottle, drawing confused stares from his attorneys and others in the chamber. That’s when he revealed what he’d just done. “I just drank poison. I am not a war criminal. I oppose this conviction,” he said, prompting the judge to clear the room:
He wasn’t joking or pulling a weird stunt, either: “Though Praljak was quickly ushered from the courtroom by paramedics, it appears their efforts could not save his life: Croatian TV reports that he died later in the hospital,” NPR reports. This tribunal featured trials against six Bosnian Croats accused of crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and other grave offenses in the 1990’s. Via NBC News:
All six Croats charged in the case had their sentences, ranging from 25 to 10 years, confirmed. Judges overturned some of their 2013 convictions, but left many unchanged. The other suspects showed no emotion as Agius reconfirmed their sentences for their involvement in a campaign to drive Muslims out of a would-be Bosnian Croat ministate in Bosnia in the early 1990s. The tribunal, which last week convicted former Bosnian Serb military chief Gen. Ratko Mladic of genocide and other crimes, was set up in 1993, while fighting still raged in the former Yugoslavia. It indicted 161 suspects and convicted 90 of them…The original trial began in April 2006 and provided a reminder of the complex web of ethnic tensions that fueled fighting in Bosnia and continues to create frictions in the country even today.
Mladic also created a stir in the courtroom, berating the panel until he was thrown out of the proceedings. A guilty verdict was then handed down in his absence last week:
It was the closing of one of Europe’s most shameful chapters of atrocity and bloodletting since World War II. With applause inside and outside the courtroom at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Gen. Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb commander, was convicted on Wednesday of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. He was sentenced to life in prison. It was the last major item of business for the tribunal in The Hague before it wound down, a full quarter-century after many of the crimes on its docket were committed. From 1992 to 1995, the tribunal found, Mr. Mladic, 75, was the chief military organizer of the campaign to drive Muslims, Croats and other non-Serbs off their lands to cleave a new homogeneous statelet for Bosnian Serbs. The deadliest year of the campaign was 1992, when 45,000 people died, often in their homes, on the streets or in a string of concentration camps.
Sources: Reuters, NPR, NBC, and Townhall