What did Praljak hope to achieve with suicide?
The final case of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has come to a tragic end: Bosnian-Croatian general Slobodan Praljak drank poison after the sentence was handed down and died later in hospital. For many newspapers the suicide is a blow to the tribunal and proof that the trauma of the Balkan Wars still persists.
Grist to the nationalists' mill
Praljak's suicide is a blow for the tribunal just weeks before its mandate ends on December 31, De Telegraaf fears:
“By drinking a vial of poison he deliberately insulted the court, knowing full well that his act would make him a hero for many Croats. ... Nationalists have been given new fodder for their conspiracy theories, and that will no doubt further fan the flames of nationalism in the states of the former Yugoslavia. The judges have done an excellent job of trying the 161 accused. But it took too long, and Praljak's being able to smuggle a vial of poison into the courtroom is a mistake that will no doubt be remembered for a long time in the Balkans.”
Praljak will be celebrated as a hero
Praljak is not the only one who resorted to extreme measures to undermine the legitimacy of the UN war crimes tribunal, De Standaard points out:
“In recent years most of the accused have done everything they could to cast doubt on the tribunal's legitimacy. They came up with endless delaying tactics, they complained about their physical and mental health. [Serbian ex-general] Mladić also put on a show as his sentence was handed down. He called the judges 'liars who should be ashamed of themselves'. Praljak will occupy a prominent place in Croatia's history books. Convicted war criminals are generally regarded as martyrs in Serbia and Croatia, and Praljak will doubtless become a national hero.”
Act of protest against the tribunal
The suicide is a dramatic testimony to the unresolved traumas of the Yugoslav wars, Die Welt concludes:
“Praljak's suicide is the most radical act of protest imaginable against the work of the UN tribunal that was established in 1993 to deal with the horrors of the Yugoslav wars. ... The court was inevitably overwhelmed with the task of administrating justice after the catastrophic impact of a complex multi-ethnic conflict which unfolded as all Europe looked on. Yet it was still right and important that the attempt was made to conduct a legal investigation into the collapse of civilisation that occurred a quarter of a century ago. Neither the people of the former Yugoslavia nor the rest of Europe have come to terms with this trauma yet. Praljak's deed is proof of that.”
The complex truth has gone unheard
General Praljak was ready to assume his share of the responsibility, but he could not and would not accept falsehoods about the war, Jutarnji list comments:
“Praljak never denied that crimes had been committed or feared going to prison. ... [But] he fought with all his might against a black-and-white interpretation of the Croatian-Bosnian conflict and Croatia's role in the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. ... Yes, the Croats committed crimes, but in the context of events at the time, evaluating them isn't as easy as people think. The truth about the war has gone unheard, in Zagreb and in Sarajevo, in Mostar and in The Hague. That was too much for Praljak to accept.”