Investigation of Praljak’s dead has been completed: no criminal offences
2 november 2018 - Arrondissementsparket Den Haag
The investigation of Mr Slobodan Praljak’s death has been completed. The defendant Praljak committed suicide last year in the court room of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) after the court had passed its sentence against him. The investigation has not shown in what way and at what point in time Mr Praljak had obtained the potassium cyanide he used. No criminal offences were established.
On Wednesday, 29 November 2017, the defendant Slobodan Praljak was present when the ICTY passed its sentence against him. After having listened to the verdict, Praljak took the floor and subsequently took a sip from a bottle. Shortly afterwards, he became unwell and died at the Westeinde hospital after more than two hours. The ICTY asked the Public Prosecutor’s Office that same day to investigate the non-natural death.
After Praljak’s death, the suspicion arose that two offences had been committed under Dutch law. Firstly, the suspicion that the substance Praljak had taken was prohibited in the Netherlands under the Medicines Act. After investigation, it turned out that it had been a fatal dosage of potassium cyanide, dissolved in water. Although the substance isn’t easily available, its possession is not punishable under the Medicines Act.
Secondly, the suspicion arose that Praljak had been assisted by other people for the purpose of committing suicide. In order to investigate that, the Public Prosecutor’s Office tried to discover how the bottle with poison had made its way to the court room. For that purpose, camera footage was studied, several witnesses were interviewed, the rooms where Praljak had stayed were searched and documents and data carriers were examined. However, no information was discovered clarifying how and when he had obtained the poison.
On the camera footage of both the United Nations Detention Unit and the ICTY, no peculiarities were discovered. In particular, the images don’t show him carrying or being handed over a bottle or such an item. In addition, nothing specific was noted in the course of the various searches that day. Images of the court room don’t show where he got the bottle from.
Prior to the court ruling, Praljak was briefly in two rooms where there wasn’t any camera surveillance: the toilet and the holding cells, a kind of waiting area. Nothing relevant was found in those rooms afterwards.
In retrospect, it can be derived from witness statements that Praljak had been considering suicide for some time. For instance, he had already had his items packed for shipment to Croatia and said goodbye to people on several occasions. Witnesses linked this to the imminent end of the appeal case. After Praljak’s death, a farewell letter was found, in which he had written to his family that he had already decided to put an end to his life a long time ago, should he be found guilty.
It can’t be excluded that Praljak already had the poison in his possession for a (very) long time. Potassium cyanide can be stored in its dry form and suicide only requires a very small quantity. In this context, it isn’t strange that the importation or storage of the substance wasn’t noticed.