THE HAGUE, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- War crimes convict Slobodan Praljak passed away in hospital here after he poisoned himself in the courtroom as the appeals ruling was being handed down, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) confirmed on Wednesday.

During the public pronouncement of the appeal judgement, the appeals chamber had upheld his conviction and 20-year prison sentence. Immediately thereafter, Praljak drank a liquid from a small glass. "I just drank poison," he said. "I am not a war criminal and protest against the verdict."

Judge Agius immediately suspended the session and Praljak was rushed to hospital.

"In accordance with standard procedures, at the request of the ICTY, the Dutch authorities have initiated an independent investigation which is currently ongoing," the ICTY stated in a press release. "The tribunal has extended its condolences to the next of kin."

Praljak was a former assistant defense minister of Croatia. During the Bosnian War, he was commander of the main staff of the Croatian Defense Council (HVO), the official military formation of the Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia, an unrecognized wartime entity that existed in Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1991 and 1994.