A former general in the Croatian army convicted of war crimes and sentenced to 20 years in prison four years ago committed suicide in a United Nations court on Wednesday after a judge in The Hague denied his appeal.
“Footage from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) showed 72-year-old Slobodan Praljak tilt his head back and drink from a small glass bottle as the presiding judge read out the verdict,” CNN reported.
But first, he loudly declared his innocence.
“Slobodan Praljak is not a war criminal,” Praljak yelled before swallowing the poison. “I am rejecting your verdict with contempt.”
Footage from scene may be seen below:
The judge then suspended proceedings. Praljak was taken to a hospital where he died.
His suicide marks a climactic end to a process that began when he was indicted by the international court in 2004 for his role in a campaign to drive Muslims out of Bosnia during the Bosnian War, according to The Guardian.
During the war, which occurred between 1992 and 1995, Praljak ordered the destruction of an important 16th-century bridge. Its loss “caused disproportionate damage to the Muslim civilian population,” the judges in his trial ruled.
The Los Angeles Times noted that Praljak’s actions were part of a broader campaign by “Croatia’s late former President Franjo Tuđman to violently carve out a Croat-dominated mini-state in Bosnia during the Balkan wars by killing, mistreating and deporting Muslims.”
What makes Praljak’s suicide remarkable is that, as of November, he had already served 13 years in prison — and because most war criminals apparently only serve two-thirds of their sentences, he likely would have been released fairly soon, the Times reported.
That he committed suicide nonetheless suggests he was adamant in his belief that he wasn’t a war criminal.
His suicide was the “consequence of his moral position not to accept the verdict that has nothing to do with justice or reality,” remarked Tuđman’s son, Miroslav.
Nick Kaufman, a former prosecutor with the court, had his own take on the suicide.
“When deprived of authority over the masses and the attention which formerly fueled their ego and charisma, such defendants can often be extremely resourceful with the little power they retain,” he told the Times.
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H/T U.K. Daily Mail