Updated: 26-Feb-2001 NATO Press Releases


23 Feb. 2001

by the Secretary General

I welcome the formation of the new government of Bosnia & Herzegovina, which was voted into office yesterday by the Bosnia and Herzegovina House of Representatives. This is a watershed event. It is the first time that the state government has been formed from moderate parties, rather than the nationalist parties that led the factions of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the war.

Now that the government has been established, it should act swiftly to promote multi-ethnic cooperation, and to remove the residual political, economic and social barriers to progress. It should move forward with implementation of policies to support the priorities set out in the Brussels Declaration of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) of May 2000: economic reform; refugee return and property repossession; and strengthening of state institutions, including the development of a common defence policy and the reduction of defence expenditures. I also call upon all parties not represented in the new Council of Ministers to support the new government as it engages in its efforts to improve the welfare of all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina and lead the country closer to modern Europe.

The situation in the region has dramatically improved with the democratic changes in Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, who are making a clear break with the violent and nationalist policies of the past. I urge the new government in Bosnia and Herzegovina to take advantage of these changes and work toward a stronger and more stable basis for security in the wider region.

In another positive development, I would also like to welcome the first convictions ever by the ICTY of rape as a crime against humanity, after the Trial Chamber II found that rape was "used by members of the Bosnian Serb armed forces as an instrument of terror."

This decision is good news for justice, and good news for the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Each sentence handed down by the ICTY strengthens the rule of law and so will make it easier to build a lasting peace in the Balkans. And to those individuals who remain at large I will repeat what I have said many times before: The net is closing. It is time to turn yourselves in. There will be no hiding place for anyone accused by the ICTY of these horrific crimes.

Although the parties to the Dayton Peace Agreement remain responsible for co-operating in the investigation and prosecution of war crimes and other violations of international/humanitarian law, NATO will continue to do its part and SFOR will continue to carry out its mandate.

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B-1110 Brussels/Bruxelles

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