Netherlands: Probe Into War Criminal Praljak’s ‘Assisted Suicide’


By Dzana Brkanic

The Public Prosecution Service in The Hague has opened an inquiry into the possible ‘assisted suicide’ of Slobodan Praljak, who died after saying he had taken poison in court during his verdict.

Dutch prosecutors told BIRN on Thursday that they have opened an inquiry into the death of former Bosnian Croat military chief Praljak, who swallowed a vial of liquid during his verdict at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and later died.

“The Public Prosecution Service The Hague has received a request of the ICTY to investigate the death of Praljak. For the time being the inquiry will focus on assisted suicide and violation of the Medicines Act,” the prosecution said.

It said that Praljak “swallowed something and died possibly of the consequences”.

“As the inquiry has just started, the Public Prosecution Service The Hague cannot comment any further on the matter,” it added.

ICTY spokesperson Nenad Golcevski also told BIRN that because the inquiry is underway, he could not give any more information about Prljak’s death on Wednesday.

“What we can say is that we will work with the police,” Golcevski said.

He offered no information about the security procedures that Praljak underwent at the UN court on Wednesday.

As the court confirmed the 20-year sentence handed down to Praljak, the former commander of the Main Headquarters of the Bosnian Croat wartime force, the Croatian Defence Council, HVO, the defendant noisily interrupted the proceedings.

“Slobodan Praljak is not a war criminal. I reject your judgment,” he shouted at the judge.

He then drank something from a small container. In the confusion that followed, his defence lawyer Natasa Fauveau-Ivanovic could be heard saying that Praljak “says he has drunk poison”.

It remains unclear how the liquid suspected to have been poison got into the courtroom.

The UN court on Wednesday also upheld the convictions of five other political and military leaders of the unrecognised wartime Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia for crimes against Bosniaks in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Jadranko Prlic, Bruno Stojic, Milivoj Petkovic, Valentin Coric and Berislav Pusic were all found guilty of crimes against humanity and other crimes against Bosniaks while they were senior political and military officials of the Herzeg-Bosnia statelet during wartime.

Prlic, the former prime minister of the Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia and the senior figure among the defendants, was jailed for 25 years.

Stojic, the defence minister of the Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia, was jailed for 20 years, as were HVO chief Praljak and Petkovic, who was the HVO’s deputy commander.

Coric, the former commander of the HVO’s military police, was sentenced to 16 years in jail, while Pusic, the president of Herzeg-Bosnia’s Commission for the Exchange of Prisoners, was given ten years.

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (formerly the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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