War crimes court to hold independent probe into Praljak death

A wartime commander of Bosnian Croat forces, Slobodan Praljak, is seen during a hearing at the UN war crimes tribunal in the Hague, Netherlands, Nov. 29, 2017. (ICTY via Reuters TV)
Updated 01 December 2017

War crimes court to hold independent probe into Praljak death

THE HAGUE: A UN war crimes court said Friday it is launching an “independent expert review” into the death of a Bosnian Croat war criminal who appeared to drink poison in front of shocked judges.
The probe will complement the Dutch investigation into the suicide of Slobodan Praljak, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) said in a statement.
Praljak, 72, died in hospital shortly after drinking from a small brown glass bottle in the ICTY courtroom on Wednesday, with his lawyer claiming it was poison.
His final act of defiance, which was broadcast live around the world, came just moments after judges rejected his appeal, upholding his 20-year jail term for atrocities committed in a breakaway Bosnian Croat statelet during the 1990s wars.
On Thursday, Dutch prosecutor Marilyn Fikenscher told AFP that initial tests showed the bottle contained “a chemical substance which can cause death” although they have yet to carry out an autopsy or toxicology tests.
The shocking images drew the curtain on two decades of work at the court, set up in 1993 to try those responsible for the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II.
But it remains a mystery what the former theater and movie director, known for his forcible courtroom presence and outbursts, drank and how he managed to get it past the tight security at the tribunal.

Speaking to Croatia’s HINA news agency, Praljak’s lawyer Nika Pinter said she had no idea what her client was about to do.
“Nobody killed him, it was suicide. I am sad but I understand and respect what he did,” she told the agency Thursday on board a flight from Amsterdam to Zagreb.
“I never thought he could do such a thing, but I understand because he is a man of honor who couldn’t live with a conviction for war crimes and being led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.”
The lawyer said that during conversations ahead of the verdict, Praljak had never given any hint of what he was planning, but she said it was clear her client would find it very difficult to accept the court’s confirmation of his 20-year sentence.

Dutch prosecutors have already launched a full investigation at the court’s request, including into security lapses, and have said their probe will focus on “assisted suicide and violation of the Medicines Act.”
The UN court probe, which will begin next week, will look at “ICTY internal operations” in order to assess “relevant existing procedures as well as make any recommendations which may assist other courts in the future,” the statement said.
It will be led by justice Hassan B. Jallow, chief justice of The Gambia and former prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and will aim to issue a report by the time the court closes on December 31, with its conclusions to be made public.
Major questions remain about how Praljak obtained the substance and if it happened at the fortress-like UN detention center in Scheveningen where he was being held, or inside the tribunal building a few miles away.
Everyone entering the UN detention center is subjected to security checks “irrespective of his or her status, nationality, function or age,” according to the rules.
And everyone must pass through scanners. Every item brought to the center or sent by mail is also inspected, or opened or X-rayed.


Johnson the Brexit ‘Hulk’ finally meets EU’s Juncker

Updated 16 September 2019

Johnson the Brexit ‘Hulk’ finally meets EU’s Juncker

  • Downing Street has confidently billed the Luxembourg visit as part of efforts to negotiate an orderly divorce from the union

LUXEMBOURG: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker for talks Monday insisting a Brexit deal is possible, despite deep skepticism from European capitals with just six weeks to go before departure day.
After a weekend in which he compared himself to comic book super-smasher Hulk, the British leader will enjoy a genteel working lunch of snails and salmon in Luxembourg with the EU Commission president.
Downing Street has confidently billed the Luxembourg visit as part of efforts to negotiate an orderly divorce from the union before an October 17 EU summit.
A UK spokesman said Johnson would tell Juncker that “progress has been made, given that before the summer recess many said reopening talks would not be possible.
“The UK needs to enact the referendum result and avoid another delay; the UK wants to deliver Brexit and move on to other priorities, and EU member states’ leaders want to renegotiate an orderly Brexit.”
But Brussels has played down talk of a breakthrough, insisting Johnson has yet to suggest any “legally operable” proposal to revise a previous withdrawal accord.
As he shook hands with Johnson, Juncker declared himself “cautiously optimistic” and insisted that “Europe never loses patience” despite the tortuous Brexit saga dragging on over three years.
Finland’s European affairs minister, Tytti Tuppurainen, who was chairing an EU ministerial meeting in Brussels, gave a more downbeat assessment, repeating the bloc’s long-standing complaint that London has simply not come up with detailed ideas for replacing the so-called “Irish backstop” section of the divorce deal.
“The European Union is always ready to negotiate when a proper proposal from the UK side is presented,” Tuppurainen said.
“So far I haven’t seen any proposal that would compensate the backstop.”
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, who joined the leaders for their talks in Juncker’s native Grand Duchy, said last week he has “no reason to be optimistic.”
The European Parliament will this week vote on a resolution rejecting Johnson’s demand that the backstop clause be stripped from the deal.
Johnson insists this measure, which temporarily keeps the UK in the EU customs union, has to go if he is to bring the agreement back to the House of Commons.
But the accord will also have to win the support of the other 27 EU leaders and the European Parliament if Britain is not to crash out with no deal on October 31 — a scenario that businesses warn would bring economic chaos.
Johnson, in turn, boasts that he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than ask his European counterparts to postpone Brexit for a third time.
“Be in no doubt that if we cannot get a deal — the right deal for both sides — then the UK will come out anyway,” Johnson said, writing in the Daily Telegraph on Monday.
A UK spokesman said that Britain would refuse an extension even if one were offered.
It is difficult, then, to see what might come from the lunch. There is no plan for a joint statement, but Barnier will meet Britain’s Brexit minister Stephen Barclay for separate discussions.
Speaking to the BBC on Sunday, Barclay indicated that any post-Brexit transition period could be extended past 2020 in order to resolve issues with the border.
Johnson, meanwhile, compared himself to Marvel comics hero Hulk, the rampaging mutant alter-ego of a mild-mannered nuclear scientist.
“The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets and he always escaped, no matter how tightly bound in he seemed to be,” Johnson told the Mail on Sunday.
Johnson’s strategy faces resistance at home, where rebel and opposition MPs have passed a law aimed at forcing him to seek a Brexit delay.
Britain’s Supreme Court will rule this week on a bid to overturn Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament and limit time to debate the crisis.
Barnier will address the European Parliament session in Strasbourg on Wednesday as MEPs vote to reaffirm and reinforce the EU Brexit stance — and insist that the backstop must stay.
After his lunch with Juncker, Johnson is due to meet Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel. The pair will hold a joint news conference.