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P R E S S   R E L E A S E

For immediate release : 11 July, 1997

ICG Welcomes NATO Operation, Urges Public Information Campaign

The International Crisis Group (ICG) welcomes NATOs snatch operations in Prijedor and urges the alliance to follow them with a sustained public information campaign.

ICG considers the NATO action bold and professional. In one move, SFOR has reinvigorated the peace process and broken the cycle of impunity which had hitherto characterised the wars in the former Yugoslavia.

Simo Drljaca and Milan Kovacevic were not minor figures. They were as notorious as indicted war criminals come, second only in importance to Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. Moreover, their sealed indictments mean that all who have blood on their hands on all sides of the Bosnian conflict and genocide can no longer rest.

Despite the death of Simo Drljaca, the snatch operations must be considered a resounding success. However, to build on the momentum, it is critical to launch a sustained public information campaign explaining the significance of the action to all Bosnians, in particular to Bosnian Serbs.

RTV Srpska and the Republika Srpska leadership have reacted predictably describing the operations as criminal acts and Drljacas death as the murder of an innocent. It is critical that all Bosnians understand that SFORs operation was aimed against individuals indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity and not Serbs. Indeed, it should be made clear that SFOR has done a great service to Serbs by removing from their midst two war profiteers indicted for war crimes.

To this end, SFOR must communicate directly with ordinary Bosnians. Leaflets explaining the rationale behind the snatch operations as well as posters of the indicted (with captions translated into the local languages) should be dropped throughout both Republika Srpska and the Federation. And senior officers should publish articles in the local press and appear on local television and radio to spread the message wider.

The boldness and professionalism of the SFOR soldiers who carried out the operations have given the Dayton Peace Agreement a genuine chance of success. An effective information campaign will build on this breakthrough.

For further information contact ICG sarajevo on +38-7-71-447-845 or send e-mail here

The International Crisis Group is a private, multinational organisation created to reinforce the capacity and resolve of the international community to prevent crises arising from human causes. Members of the ICG board include former heads of state and government, foreign ministers, MPs and leading figures in business and the media. ICG is chaired by the former US Senate majority leader, George Mitchell.

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