Dutch authorities conclude criminal investigation into Slobodan Praljak’s death

The Hague
Dutch authorities conclude criminal investigation into Slobodan Praljak’s death

Today the Hague Public Prosecutor’s Office released the report on the death of Mr. Slobodan Praljak, one of the six appellants in the Prlić et al. case of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), and concluded that no criminal offences were established related to the incident. It further informed the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (Mechanism), as the successor organization to the ICTY of the results of the investigation.

Mr. Praljak committed suicide on 29 November 2017 by drinking a liquid substance in the courtroom, during the public pronouncement of the ICTY appeal judgement in this case. He received immediate medical care at the ICTY and was transferred to the HMC Westeinde hospital in The Hague, where he passed away shortly after. Immediately following the incident, the ICTY requested the Hague Public Prosecutor’s Office to conduct a criminal investigation. The Dutch authorities investigated two alleged offences under the Dutch law; the possession of prohibited substances under the Dutch Medicines Act and the possible assisted suicide.

As set out in the Hague Public Prosecutor’s report, with respect to the first alleged offence, following the investigation it was concluded that Mr. Praljak took a lethal dose of potassium cyanide, dissolved in water, however, the possession of this substance is not punishable under the Dutch Medicines Act. With regard to the alleged offence of assisting Mr. Praljak’s suicide, the Dutch authorities conducted a thorough investigation into the manner in which Mr. Praljak may have obtained the said substance, including interviewing witnesses, examining footage from the United Nations Detention Unit (UNDU) and from the ICTY premises, searching the rooms where Mr. Praljak had stayed, as well as searching documents and data carriers. Subsequently, no conclusive information was discovered as to how Mr. Praljak obtained the substance. However, it could not be excluded that Mr. Praljak had the poison in his possession for a long time, considering the small quantity of the substance required for a lethal dosage and the fact it could be stored in its dry form over a longer time period.

In addition to the criminal investigation carried out by the Dutch authorities, on 1 December 2017 the ICTY initiated an independent administrative review related to the incident, which focused on the adequacy of the ICTY legal and policy framework and the extent to which the relevant procedures were followed.  This review, which was led by Justice Hassan B. Jallow, Chief Justice of the Gambia, was concluded on 29 December 2017. According to the findings in the review, there were no gaps or flaws in the ICTY legal framework with respect to the treatment of detainees at the UNDU and the ICTY premises. The review showed that the legal framework had been complied with by the UNDU Officers, Security Officers and other ICTY staff with regard to the treatment of Mr. Praljak.  The review, however, made a set of recommendations in order to increase the likelihood of detection of similar items in the future.

Following the closure of the ICTY on 31 December 2017, the Mechanism reviewed and implemented the vast majority of the recommendations made in the review and released the public redacted version of it on 9 March 2018.