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United Nations war crimes defendant claims to have taken poison in court

United Nations war crimes defendant claims to have taken poison in court

Slobodan Praljak, a commander of Bosnian Croat forces during the Bosnian War has died after drinking a phial of poison while standing in the dock at a United Nations tribunal in The Hague, where his war crimes sentence of 20 years was upheld.

Praljak was sentenced to 20 years in jail along with his co-conspirators back in 2013, though it is not clear if he began serving that sentence before his appeal.

Praljak was one of six former Bosnian Croat political and military leaders who were up for their final appeals before the court.

Praljak, who remains standing, begins to shout: "Judges, Slobodan Praljak is not a criminal".

Slobodan Praljak brings a bottle to his lips, during a Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.

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It could not immediately be confirmed whether Praljak had taken poison, but a court spokesman said he was alive and receiving medical attention.

An independent investigation is now underway.

"The government expresses its condolences to all victims of all crimes committed in the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina".

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Croatia's PM Andrej Plenkovic said at a press conference that Praljak's actions reflected a "deep moral injustice". "We voice dissatisfaction and regret about the verdict".

Former military commander Slobodan Praljak, 72, died in a hospital in The Hague not long after drinking the poison.

He also told the judge, as cited by the BBC: "I have taken poison".

The UN war tribunal found that despite his being informed of what was happening, Praljak failed to make serious efforts to stop soldiers from rounding up Muslims in Prozor in the summer of 1993.

The ICTY was set up by mandate of the UN Security Council in 1993, and is due to close when its mandate expires at the end of the year.

"Okay. We suspend the... we suspend..." he said. "Please, the curtains. Don't take away the glass that he used when he drank something", Agius said.

Several emergency rescue workers rushed into the building carrying equipment in backpacks, while court officials called for calm.

Judge Agius declared the courtroom to be a crime scene as he restarted the hearing, though gave no further details.