Slobodan Praljak was born on 2 January 1945, in the town of Capljina, in Capljina Municipality, Bosnia-Herzegovina. As an electrical engineer in Zagreb, he worked as a theatre, cinema and television producer, but also lectured in philosophy and psychology. In the early summer of 1991, he joined the Army of the Republic of Croatia and, by 3 April 1992, held the rank of major general.
On or about 14 March 1992, he became Deputy Minister of Defence of the Republic of Croatia. On 10 September 1992, he was appointed member of the Republic of Croatia’s Council of National Defence, and he remained in this position at least until15 June 1993. On 13 May 1993, he was assigned to the Republic of Croatia’s State Commission for relations with the United Nations Protection Force (“UNPROFOR”).
According to the indictment, on or before 18 November 1991, and until around April 1994, Slobodan Praljak established and participated in a joint criminal enterprise whose aim was to recreate within the boundaries of Croatian Banovina, an ethnically pure “Greater Croatia”. In pursuing this aim, during the siege of Mostar, he was reported to have incited political, ethnic and religious hatred and to have had recourse to force, intimidation and terror, notably by mass arrests during which people were killed. He reportedly participated in the establishment and expansion of a system of concentration camps and other detention centres. He also was said to have inflicted cruel treatment on Bosnian Muslims, by arranging for their expulsion and forced transfer and by submitting those imprisoned to forced labour.
The same indictment alleged that, from May 1992 as head of the HVO, he participated in the ethnic cleansing of the town and municipality of Prozor, of the municipality of Gorjni Vakif, of the towns of Sovici and Doljani, and of the municipality of Mostar, notably by attacking Bosnian Muslims, by the pillage and theft of their property, by massive arrests and by inflicting upon them cruel treatment, sexual violence, killings and other forms of persecution.
Between September 1992 and April 1994, the HVO used the Heliodrom Camp, just south of Mostar, as a detention centre where the Bosnian Muslims arrested in Mostar were detained. The prison population was estimated at up to a maximum of about 6’000 at any one time, with detainees being held in inhumane conditions. Between April 1993 and March 1994, the Vojno and Ljubuski Camps, north of Mostar, were also used to hold Bosnian Muslims in detention. Detainees were often subjected to particularly severe mistreatment and used as forced labour, before being deported.
Throughout the year 1993, most of the Bosnian Muslim men in the municipalities of Stolac and Capljina, were arrested and detained in harsh conditions with most of them being killed, whilst the Bosnian Muslim women, children and elderly were systematically forced from their homes which were subsequently destroyed.
From April to September 1993, the HVO used the Dretelj District Military Prison to hold arrested and captured Serbs and about 2’700 Bosnian Muslim men. The detainees were subjected to beatings and cruel treatment; the HVO acts and practices resulted in the serious injury and occasional death of many Bosnian Muslim detainees. The Gabela District Military Prison was used in the same way, from 8 June 1993 to April 1994. During the principal time of its use, the HVO, at any one time, confined there about 1’200 Muslim men, including boys younger than age sixteen and men older than sixty, irrespective of their civilian or military status. Detainees were subjected to beatings and cruel treatment. The HVO acts and practices resulted in the death or serious injury of many Bosnian Muslim detainees. Then, many Bosnian Muslims detained at Gabela Prison were deported by the HVO authorities to other countries. In the municipality of Vares, the HVO used two schools as detention centres, where Bosnian Muslim men were detained in comparable conditions.
Slobodan Praljak voluntarily surrendered to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) on 5 April 2004.