U.N. court orders independent review of “internal operations” after ex-general’s death

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A United Nations war crimes tribunal ordered an independent review of its “internal operations” Friday following the dramatic death of a former Croatian general who swallowed what he said was poison in the tribunal’s courtroom and later died.

Dutch prosecutors, meanwhile, said an autopsy was underway on Slobodan Praljak’s body. The Hague Public Prosecution Service said two Croatian experts were observing the procedure at the request of the U.N. court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Results of the autopsy were not immediately available.

The tribunal said its review was meant to complement the ongoing investigation of Praljak’s death by Dutch prosecutors.

The announcement came after Croatia’s justice minister called into question whether security and medical staff at the tribunal in the Netherlands responded quickly enough Wednesday when Praljak, 72, raised his trembling right hand to his lips and drank from a small bottle.

The stunning act came just seconds after an appeals judge had confirmed much of Praljak’s conviction and his 20-year sentence for war crimes and crimes against humanity during the 1992-95 Bosnian war. He was the commander of Bosnian Croatian military forces.

Dutch prosecutors have confirmed that the bottle contained a toxic chemical, but have not identified the liquid. It remains unclear how Praljak got the bottle and managed to smuggle it into the courtroom. 

A wartime commander of Bosnian Croat forces, Slobodan Praljak, is seen during a hearing at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in the Hague, Netherlands, Nov. 29, 2017.

ICTY via Reuters TV

The tribunal’s review will begin next week and be led by Hassan Jallow, a former prosecutor with the U.N.’s Rwanda war crimes tribunal. It aims to file a report by Dec. 31, when the tribunal formally closes its doors, having completed all its cases.

The court says Jallow “is mandated to undertake an assessment of relevant existing procedures as well as make any recommendations which may assist other courts in the future.”

Tribunal spokesman Nenad Golcevski said it is not the first time such a probe has been ordered by the court.

“Similar internal reviews have been initiated, for example, after the death of Slobodan Milosevic,” Golcevski said, referring to the former Yugoslav president who died in his tribunal cell in 2006 before judges could deliver…

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