Late in the afternoon of Wednesday, the Hague Tribunal confirmed the death of Slobodan Praljak, the Bosniak Croat high official during the war in BiH, who died in The Hague hospital after swallowing poison still while inside the courtroom.
His action took place immediately after the final verdict against him was pronounced, which was nothing else but a confirmation of his 20-year imprisonment sentence for war crimes.
His death was earlier indirectly confirmed by the Croatian PM, Andrej Plenkovic, who sent his condolences to the Praljak family.
Almost all of those who commented on the unprecedented events asked the same question – “How did Praljak manage to bring the poison inside the courtroom?”
As expected, a detailed investigation must be implemented to clarify this issue and answer the logical questions born by the tragic incident.
Although, once the verdicts were pronounced, The Tribunal would firmly shut its doors, right now -and as a result of what happened- judges will not try anybody in the (near) future nor will the ICTY close, as was planned, until unravelling the skein of this public suicide.
The Appeals Chamber – Confirmation of sentences
Apart from confirming the sentences against Jadranko Prlic and Slobodan Praljak, the Appeals Chamber did the same with the sentence of Bruno Stojic and Milivoj Petkovic, each one of who got 20 years of imprisonment. The Tribunal confirmed the 10-year sentence to Berislav Pusic and the 16-year sentence to Valentin Coric.
The first reactions
The first reactions to this final verdict varied from indignation to approval, depending on who was commenting on them. Political leaders of Croats in BiH condemned the verdict calling it a biased and political act. The Croatian member of BiH’s Presidency, Dragan Covic said that the verdict does not contribute to the reconciliation process in the country marking every Croat in this state as criminal.
“The verdict has no legal base and it is more political than real”, said Covic to the media.
He repeated that The Hague Tribunal made a mistake when they confirmed, as part of the verdict that the leadership of Croatia, during the war in BiH, had the plan to commit the war crimes in order to create an ethnically clean Croatian territory inside BiH. Covic urged the Croatian people to remain calm and dignified, saying that there is no reason to panic. He also called on the Croat citizens not to answer to provocations that would surely come from different political -and not only political- centres in and outside BiH.
The Bosniak Member of the BiH Presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic said that Bosniak citizens will never forget the victims or the criminals who committed the crimes against them.
“But there was the bright face of the Croatian politician during the war, regarding the military cooperation of Bosniaks and Croats when in defence against the Serbian forces,” said Izetbegovic.
He added that Croatia’s aggressiveness that aimed at annexing a part of BiH belongs to the past and the past only. Izetbegovic urged all citizens to accept the bright side of this past and continue to the future jointly.
The leader of the Alliance for a Better Future in BiH, Fahrudin Radoncic was brief, saying that the verdict confirmed the Bosniak nation was the biggest victim of that war.
Serb leaders in BiH restrained from making radical statements but some of them expressed satisfaction that The Tribunal declared Croatia as the aggressor in BiH. Serbia’s image, even after the Ratko Mladic verdict (pronounced last week) was not as severely tarnished.
The U.S. Embassy in BiH as well commented on the judgment of the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
“The United States supports the critically important work of the ICTY and respects its ruling. Today’s verdict in the case of “Prlic and others” is an important step toward holding to account those individuals responsible for the tremendous suffering of the people of BiH. We hope that it can provide some sense of justice and closure to the victims and their families.
We urge all parties to respect the court’s verdict, and rededicate themselves to the continued reconciliation and peaceful coexistence essential to the future of a stable, secure BiH that safeguards the rights of all its citizens,” read the American Embassy’s announcement.
The International community High Representative to BiH, Valentin Inzko, said that the crimes committed by the individuals sentenced today inflicted pain and grievance on many in BiH, but for many of them also a tragic chapter came to an end.
“Now that the final verdict has been pronounced in this case, we must remember that these were acts of individuals, not nations and that each one of us should be judged only by our deeds, not our nationality,” said Inzko.
The High Representative used the opportunity to, once again, call on everyone in BiH to accept this final verdict and move further along the path towards reconciliation.
“Truth and justice is the only way forward and it is also a point from which to move towards true reconciliation and a better future. The way Germany dealt with its past – honestly and vigorously – is exactly what made that country progress so dramatically and earn the respect of the entire world. To achieve the same, this verdict, as well as all others passed by the ICTY must be fully respected and not politicized. It should be also taken as a turning point for a better future,” the High Representative said.
He added that justice and truth are perhaps slow, but now that they are here, “let us respect the victims and let them rest in peace.”…/IBNA