Updated at 9:40 a.m. ET
The final judgment of the long-running International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was dramatically halted on Wednesday when a former Bosnian Serb commander appearing for sentencing abruptly made a declaration to the courtroom.
“Judges, Slobodan Praljak is not a war criminal,” Praljak, 72, said moments after the U.N. appeals judges upheld his 20-year prison sentence. “I reject this verdict.”
Then, as the presiding judge asked him urgently to stop and sit down, Praljak tilted his head back and drank a small vial of liquid. Moments later, he explained.
“I just drank poison.”
The hearing was suspended shortly afterward, as the other people in the room sought to make sense of the situation. “Please,” the presiding judge asked, “the curtains.”
Reuters reports “an ambulance was at the building and paramedics raced up to the courtroom.”
It was not immediately clear whether Praljak did in fact drink poison. His condition was also not known.
The Associated Press adds: “Wednesday’s hearing was the final case at the groundbreaking tribunal before it closes its doors next month. The tribunal, which last week convicted former Bosnian Serb military chief Gen. Ratko Mladic of genocide and other crimes, was set up in 1993, while fighting still raged in the former Yugoslavia. It indicted 161 suspects and convicted 90 of them.”