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Slobodan Praljak, 72, shouted a declaration that he is not a war criminal before downing an unknown substance from a small bottle.

The war criminal former commander of Bosnian Croat forces died today after gulping back poison when he was told his appeal against his sentence had failed. During the hearing after he learned that his sentence would be upheld, he lifted a vial to his lips and drank the contents, announcing, "I have taken poison".

The judge presiding over the appeal quickly shut down the hearing, which took place at The Hague in the Netherlands, as the area was treated as a crime scene.

Praljak was one of six former Bosnian Croat political and military leaders appealing their cases in the court's final verdict for war crimes committed during the bloody 1990s break-up of Yugoslavia.

Some of his convictions for actions in the later years of the conflict were overturned, but his sentence was not.

Emergency rescue worker run to the court building in The Hague
AFP GETTY IMAGES

The former high-level politicians and defence officials were convicted in 2013 of participating in an "ethnic cleansing" campaign against Bosnian Muslims.

A convicted war criminal died at a hospital Wednesday after drinking from a vial he claimed to contain poison at a United Nations tribunal in The Hague.

It came a week after Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic was ejected from the courtroom after he was sentenced to life in prison for genocide.

Set up by mandate of the UN Security Council in 1993, the ICTY is due to close when its mandate expires at the end of the year.

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