Yesterday, November 29, sentenced to 20 years in prison, the Croatian General Slobodan Praljak took poison in the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague. How is it possible? Why Praljak did it, when you consider that in 2004 he surrendered to the Tribunal voluntarily, had served for almost 14 years and, according to some media reports, could be released any time soon? LIGA.net studied the security system in the courthouse of the ICTY, the conditions of detention in Eveningenjoy prison, as well as the response to the event representatives of the Croatian authorities, politicians and ordinary citizens.
Shveningen, “Hague Hilton”
Sinigerska prison in the Hague is a kind of prison for suspects or those whose cases are still before the court. It is located in the beautiful Dutch city of Shveningen on the North sea coast.
She is described as “the most luxurious prison in the world, which was more hotel than prison.” One of the guards companies said in comments to the BBC that the staff calls Shveningen “the Hague Hilton” because of the “luxurious” conditions of detention, especially compared to the prisons in the inmates.
A standard camera here has an area of about 10 sq m. it has a single bed, Desk, chair, sink, shower, toilet, and satellite TV, a radio and a computer, but without Internet access.
In the games room – Darts, table games, opportunities to practice the art and study of languages, a large library. There is also a gym with a fitness instructor. The courtyard Playground. In addition the prison has a matrimonial room, allowing couples privacy (no cameras), and rooms for religious ceremonies. For prisoners in round-the-clock available a doctor and a psychologist.
Contained in Shveningen meals, in addition they can cook for themselves, buy products in the prison shop and request special meals that meet their “cultural and dietary requirements.”
Also a prisoner in prison the UN allowed every day to call family and friends.
The problem of suicides in Shveningen
According to the BBC, Shveningen no surveillance cameras, because it contains suspected but not convicted. Possibly, in prison, there were two suicides. Both committed suicide in the Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
Slavko Dokmanovic, the former Serb officer, 29 June 1998, hanged himself in his cell on Cabinet doors by using tie. He was charged with grave breaches of the Geneva conventions, violations of the customs of war and crimes against humanity. According to the Tribunal, he was involved in the so-called Vukovar massacre – the mass murder of Croats in Serbian pow camp. Then it was killed from 255 to 264.
The dokmanovic was arrested in 1997 by the Polish special services. In court he pleaded not guilty. The trial of Serb stopped without a verdict after his death.
Milan babić, former President of the Republic of Serbian Krajina, also hanged himself in the cell of Shveningen in March 2006. Babic surrendered voluntarily to the Tribunal in November 2003. He decided early on to cooperate with the investigation and testify against his chief ally, the former President of Yugoslavia Slobodan Milosevic. In court Babic pleaded guilty in 2004 was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment.
The version about suicide of the two Serbs still dispute their lovers from among the Serbian nationalists. They believe that Dokmanovic and Babic were killed.
Court security the ICTY in the Hague
The fact that Croatian General Praljak was able to commit suicide in the courtroom, questioned the effectiveness of security procedures at this facility. The question arises: what would have happened if Praljak wanted to cause harm to someone else?
Lawyer Toma FILA said that to carry to the court the poison is not too difficult, as security measures are similar to those in airports. He said that protection can ensure the impossibility of entering the courthouse metal objects and mobile phones, but “tablets and small quantities of liquids” remain unnoticed, writes La Vanguardia.
At the same time, the Dutch publication NOS claims that the security system in the courtroom of the ICTY is quite strict. Journalists are wondering how Prilaku managed to smuggle the poison. “Obviously, the Croat got poison someone in prison or in the Tribunal. The question is, how is this possible, because security is pretty strict,” – said in the publication edition. In NOS also compared the control in the courthouse in the Hague with airport security: belongings pass through x-ray machine, they must also pass through the protective gate, then they can search.
The publication had an interview with a Dutch Croat Sido PACOM who was friends with Prescom and visited him in Shveningen last Saturday. He said that the test in prison is carried out twice: at the entrance to the building and at the entrance to “Tribunale wing”. Pake apparently believes that the poison General brought to a prison: “a Belt, shoes, rings, watches, liquid… all-consuming. I don’t understand how he got the poison.”
In addition, Horvath said during a meeting with Prescom last weekend he made a good impression. “We told jokes, he made pies for my wife and for me, I didn’t notice anything,” said pake. He argues that security in the court of the ICTY is the same as in Shveningen.
The Dutch Prosecutor’s office at the request of the ICTY launched an investigation into the incident. Prosecutors today said that in a glass vial, which was holding Praljak, traces of toxic substances, but what exactly, is still unknown. The autopsy of the body General is not yet complete. The room where Praljak drank the poison, is closed. “Now it’s a crime scene,” said the judge.
However, the Minister of justice of the Netherlands Ferdinand Grapperhaus does not consider that the reputation of the Netherlands was hurt in the incident in the Hague court. “The Netherlands still has a great reputation and did very well,” said the Minister.
Reaction of Croatia: a heroic act, worthy of respect
The Croatian authorities are outraged by the incident, they basically do not believe the court ICTY against Croatian military leaders fair.
The Prime Minister of Croatia Andrey Plenkovich expressed its deepest sympathy to the family of General Praljak. “His act during the announcement of the verdict by the court of Appeal when he committed suicide, tells about the most profound moral injustice against six Croats from Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Croatian people,” said Croatian Prime Minister.
Miroslav Tudjman, son of the deceased in December, the former President of Croatia, also involved in the case at the ICTY, said that the incident is “a consequence of his (Praska – ed.) the moral right not to accept the verdict that has no relation to justice or reality”
The leader of the right-wing party Croatian democratic Union, Dragan Covic, said that Praljak “showed the world what price he is willing to pay to prove that he is not a war criminal.”
Serbian politician Vojislav šešelj noted that although the General Praljak was the enemy, his action was “heroic step, worthy of respect”.
Almost a thousand Bosnian Croats gathered in the square of Mostar, to light candles in memory of the General Palace.
The journalist of the Daily Telegraph, Harry de Catwell wrote in his article that the suicide Praljak was “the most dramatic evidence of a very inconvenient reality: many in the Balkans refuse to acknowledge that the terrible ethnic cleansing of the 1990-ies was wrong”.
Poison as a matter of principle
“Judge, Slobodan Praljak is not a war criminal, I spurn the verdict,” said the General in the courtroom of the ICTY before taking the poison.
Praljak, together with five other Croatian military, surrendered to the Tribunal voluntarily. He never agreed with the charges brought to it. To date, the General has served almost 14 years out of 20 and, according to some media reports, could soon be released. The conditions of detention at the prison of Shveningen is hardly unbearable.
All of this suggests that the action of the Croatian General was not motivated by fear of imprisonment and is most likely an act of desperation in an attempt to prove his innocence.
What convicted Praljak the Hague Tribunal, read the material “topic of the day. The Croatian General, who took poison in the Hague: who he is.”