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Statement on the independent review regarding the passing of Slobodan Praljak

Registry | | The Hague |

On 1 December 2017, the ICTY initiated an independent expert review regarding the passing of Mr. Slobodan Praljak, led by Justice Hassan B. Jallow, Chief Justice of The Gambia and the former Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals.

The review concluded on 29 December 2017 and was received by the Registrar who transmitted it to relevant United Nations departments. Complementing the on-going Dutch investigation which aims to identify any criminal activity, Justice Jallow’s administrative review focuses on the adequacy of the ICTY legal and policy framework and the extent to which relevant procedures were followed.

The outcome of Justice Jallow’s review is as follows:

“My Review has not exposed any gaps or flaws in the ICTY legal framework with regard to the treatment of detainees at the UNDU [United Nations Detention Unit] and the ICTY premises and I am therefore not proposing any changes to ICTY rules and regulations.

Further, the Review shows that the legal framework was complied with by UNDU Officers, Security Officers, and other ICTY staff with regard to the treatment of Mr. Praljak.

As set out in my Conclusions, without specific intelligence (which there was none), and remaining within the limits of the Nelson Mandela Rules, there are no measures that would have guaranteed detection of the poison at any stage.

Notwithstanding this, the Review has pointed to some measures that could be taken in order to increase the likelihood of detection in future cases.”

In this respect, Justice Jallow issued recommendations related to search regimes, including for visitors and detainees cells, as well as training courses for security personnel which will be shared with other relevant courts. Additionally, he recommended the introduction of a 30-minute delay for broadcasting of the pronouncement of judgments. Welcoming the steps taken so far, he further recommended continuing the provision of medical and psychological assistance to UNDU detainees and staff involved in the events of 29 November, as necessary. Lastly, Justice Jallow commended the ICTY Security and medical personnel for their execution of the emergency response.

Regarding the poison in Mr. Praljak’s possession, Justice Jallow indicated that:

“The substance taken by Mr. Praljak was analysed and discovered to be potassium cyanide. It is not possible to acquire potassium cyanide legally inside the prison or from illicitly manufacturing it from items available inside prison. Potassium cyanide can be transported as a powder or dissolved in water. The amount of potassium cyanide required to make up a lethal dose is 200-300 mg (this equates in size to a single tablet).”

Regarding how this substance may have come into Mr. Praljak’s possession, Justice Jallow continued:

“It is not possible to conclusively state when and how the poison came into Mr. Praljak’s possession. The on-going criminal investigation before Dutch authorities might shed light on this. It is important to note at the outset that there was no intelligence available to UNDU staff or ICTY staff in general, indicating that Mr. Praljak was in possession of the poison. Had such intelligence been available, further intrusive measures (with regard to searches of cells and of Mr. Praljak) could have been taken. However, even if such intelligence had been available, the nature and quantity of poison was such that it could easily have remained undetected even through the most intrusive searches of persons, cells, and other areas. The small size of the object, the limitations in the rules on intrusive searches, and the nature of the screening equipment available at both the UNDU and the ICTY premises all contributed to making it difficult to detect the contraband.”

In examining the international and ICTY-specific rules on the management of detainees, including searches, Justice Jallow recalled in particular the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, or the Nelson Mandela Rules, adopted unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly, which set out the inalienable standards in the treatment of prisoners and, in the words of Justice Jallow, “must always be the overriding consideration in the management of places of detention.” Among its basic principles, the Nelson Mandela Rules state that “All prisoners shall be treated with the respect due to their inherent dignity and value as human beings”. With regard to searches of persons and cells, Rules 50-52 of the Nelson Mandela Rules state, in relevant part:

Searches shall be conducted in a manner that is respectful of the inherent human dignity and privacy of the individual being searched, as well as the principles of proportionality, legality and necessity.

Searches shall not be used to harass, intimidate or unnecessarily intrude upon a prisoner’s privacy.

Intrusive searches, including strip and body cavity searches, should be undertaken only if absolutely necessary. Prison administrations shall be encouraged to develop and use appropriate alternatives to intrusive searches.

In this review, Justice Jallow was assisted by independent experts with extensive national and international experience in detention matters and security policies and procedures.

The review included an inventory and analysis of relevant international and ICTY-specific rules on detention and the internal security procedures surrounding transport and holding detainees at the ICTY premises. The review further included interviews with 23 staff members of the ICTY and the Mechanism, including UNDU and Security Officers, in order to establish the facts of the events on 29 November 2017. It also included a review of video footage from the UNDU and the premises of the ICTY, including the courtrooms, and of documentation concerning Mr. Praljak and relevant events. The review further included a visit to the UNDU and sites at the ICTY premises, including Courtroom 1 and the holding cells. In addition, Justice Jallow was briefed about the progress of the Dutch criminal investigation and he met with representatives of the Croatian Embassy in The Hague. The review also references confidential information including medical matters, internal security and detention operations that may be shared by other courts, and material provided on a confidential basis or currently subject to the on-going Dutch investigation.

The review has been transmitted to the relevant departments at the United Nations as appropriate with respect to the outcome of the review.

The ICTY extends its profound gratitude to Justice Jallow, his team of experts and to all those who cooperated in this process with the utmost professionalism. Their dedication enabled the expeditious and thorough completion of this review.

On 29 November 2017, Mr. Praljak committed suicide in Courtroom 1, ICTY. During the public pronouncement of the appeal judgement, the Appeals Chamber confirmed his conviction and affirmed his sentence of 20 years of imprisonment. Immediately thereafter, Mr. Praljak drank a liquid while in court, and quickly fell ill. Mr. Praljak was immediately assisted by the ICTY Security and medical staff. Simultaneously an ambulance was summoned. Mr. Praljak was transported to HMC Hospital in The Hague to receive further medical assistance. Soon thereafter, Mr. Praljak passed away. In accordance with standard procedures, at the request of the ICTY, the Dutch Authorities initiated an independent investigation which is currently on-going.