9 April 2007
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon, everyone.


**Timor-Leste


We do expect, hopefully, to have a statement available for you concerning the elections in Timor-Leste.  Those elections are reportedly proceeding well today, with the UN Mission in that country providing assistance. Among other things, the Mission provided additional ballots today to meet the high turnout at polling centres.  The Secretary-General delivered a video message to the Timorese people prior to their first national elections since independence, telling them that they had reached a new milestone in their work to consolidate democracy.  He said, “I hope the elections will be free, fair, transparent and credible.  I hope they will be unmarred by violence and intimidation.  And I hope they will lead to results accepted by all.”


We have copies of that message upstairs.  And like I said, we do expect a further statement later this afternoon.


** Rwanda


Thirteen years ago, more than 800,000 innocent Rwandans were killed in an orchestrated criminal campaign now widely considered to be genocide under international law.  And the Secretary-General recalled in a message that the experience has had a profound and personal impact on him when he visited Rwanda last year, and he carries it with him every day that he has been serving as Secretary-General.  Two messages, he said, should be paramount as we remember the Rwandan genocide: “First, never forget” -- and “second, never stop working to prevent another genocide.”


The Secretary-General said the UN has learnt profound lessons from that tragedy and has appointed a Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide and established an Advisory Committee on Genocide Prevention.  But more remains to be done, and the Secretary-General has declared his intention to strengthen the existing UN mechanisms.  He also appealed for the creation of a global partnership against genocide.  We have copies of his remarks upstairs.


Later this afternoon, the Secretary-General will hand a signed copy of his message to the Permanent Representative of Rwanda at a planned meeting.  The Rwanda exhibition downstairs, meanwhile, has been postponed and we’ll let you know when that is rescheduled.


** Afghanistan


On Afghanistan, Tom Koenigs, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, yesterday condemned the murder of Afghan journalist Ajmal Naqshbandi, who had been abducted by Taliban extremists on March 5.  He called on the authorities to bring those responsible to justice. 


Koenigs said, “The perpetrators of this crime have shown absolute indifference to the value of human life,” and added that the rights of journalists to go about their work, free from interference or harm, should be recognized and respected by all.  We have his full statement upstairs.


On Saturday, a serious attack took place on a convoy of civilian demining and security personnel, in which seven Afghan deminers were killed and another two wounded.  The UN Mission in Afghanistan strongly condemned this attack on individuals who are actively working to improve the lives and safety of the Afghan community.


Meanwhile, also on Afghanistan, UNICEF, the World Food Programme (WFP), and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have responded to recent flooding in the country by providing food, shelter, and other vital assistance for hard-hit families.  For its part, WFP has pre-positioned 350,000 tonnes of food in five locations around Afghanistan for rapid deployment to the most vulnerable families.


**Disarmament


The Secretary-General this morning addressed the UN Disarmament Commission here at Headquarters.  He said the limited progress in addressing the dangers posed by weapons of mass destruction, as well as the excessive accumulation of conventional weapons, was disappointing and unacceptable.  He added that revitalizing the international disarmament agenda was a personal priority of his.  That is why he had proposed a new Office for Disarmament Affairs, led by a High Representative, which would better mobilize the political will necessary to overcome the current stalemate and re-energize action on both disarmament and non-proliferation.  And we have his full remarks upstairs.


**Climate Change


The Secretary-General, in a statement on Friday, welcomed the release that day of the findings of Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and he expressed his concern that the impacts of climate change are increasingly noticeable, and likely to become more so in the future as extreme weather events intensify.  The Secretary-General hopes that the parties to the Convention on Climate Change will avail themselves of the opportunity to make progress towards a comprehensive framework to replace the existing regime at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali in December this year.


We have the full statement upstairs, as well as a press release on the findings from the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.


** Solomon Islands


Turning to the Solomon Islands, the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination team is now working in both the capital, Honiara, and in Gizo.  Some 5,500 people remain displaced in the worst affected areas, according to the country’s Government.  Sanitation is a problem in the spontaneous camps that have been erected near the centre of Gizo, while water supply remains a concern in some remote villages, since the earthquake damaged pipes and valves.  The loss of the entire communication system in some remote areas is also hindering completion of a comprehensive damage assessment.


** Sudan


On Sudan, organized returns of internally displaced persons continue from South Darfur to parts of southern Sudan, reports the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).  OCHA also reports that UN agencies and NGOs, working in support of the Government of Southern Sudan, have completed a first round of National Immunization Days against polio.  An estimated 500,000 children under five were targeted by the campaign across Southern Sudan.


Also on Sudan, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Friday released two reports, documenting incidents of widespread sexual violence during attacks by Sudanese Government forces and allied militia in Darfur last December and the disappearance last September of at least 19 men, allegedly at the hands of the former insurgent forces headed by Minni Minnawi.  High Commissioner Louise Arbour called for prompt and impartial investigations into the reported human rights violations. 


The report on the December incidents said that at least 15 cases of sexual assault, including rape, had occurred, and that, based on testimony gathered, it appears that rape during the December 2006 attacks was used as a weapon of war to cause humiliation and instill fear into the local population.  And the reports can be found on the High Commissioner’s web site.


**Security Council


There are no meetings or consultations of the Security Council scheduled for today.  Tomorrow, consultations on the UN Observer Mission in Georgia are scheduled.


** Somalia


The World Food Programme is welcoming the release of a vessel it had contracted for food deliveries to Somalia, along with its 12-person crew, some 40 days after it was seized by pirates.  The MV Rozen was hijacked near Puntland, in northeastern Somalia, on February 25th, and released in the same area last Thursday.  WFP thanked elders in Puntland for mediating the release, but urged regional authorities, as well as Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, to curb piracy in Somali waters.  It says the hijacking has caused delays in food aid shipments to Somalia and made shippers reluctant to carry cargoes there.  And we have more in a press release upstairs.


** Madagascar


Turning to Madagascar, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has dispatched a five-member Disaster Assessment and Coordination team there.  The team will help coordinate international assistance and urgent needs assessments in the wake of the recent series of cyclones that have struck the island nation.


**Democracy Fund


And last, the Secretary-General’s Advisory Board for the UN Democracy Fund will hold its fourth meeting tomorrow, to review progress on the work of the Fund after the inaugural year of activities and decide on priorities and policies for the future.  The Secretary-General will address the Board, which meets in a closed session in Conference Room 7 at 10 a.m. tomorrow.  And we have a press release with more details upstairs.


Do you have any questions?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Does the Secretary-General have any comment on the reported violation by the United States of a ruling for North Korea not to sell arms to Ethiopia?


Associate Spokesperson:  We don’t have any comment on that.  Since North Korea is under Security Council sanctions, it would be up to the members of the Security Council to decide if and how to proceed on that matter.


Question:  Since so much was made out of UNDP spending United States dollars in North Korea, will the United Nations be investigated whether Ethiopia paid in United States dollars, too?


Associate Spokesperson:  Again, any issues concerning the relevant sanctions – whether they are sanctions on Somalia, sanctions on the DPRK – would be issues for the Security Council and its respective Sanctions Committees to consider.


Question:  Can you confirm that the opening of the exhibition was postponed because of a complaint by the Turkish Mission about the contents of the exhibition?


Associate Spokesperson:  No, that was not the sole issue.  The basic concern is that the normal process that we have to review exhibitions was not followed in this instance.  We’ll now follow the regular process, taking into account all positions, as we do with any exhibition.  And the exhibition has been postponed until the regular review process is completed.  There was concern expressed. 


Question:  What exhibition?


Associate Spokesperson:  This is the exhibition concerning Rwanda, the Rwanda genocide, in the Visitors’ Lobby. 


Question:  That doesn’t make any sense to me, because the organizers said that the Department of Public Information signed off on that exhibition.


Associate Spokesperson:  Like I said, the normal process had not been followed.  There is a process:  before people sign off on an exhibition, any exhibition… Every exhibition in the Visitors’ Lobby goes through an approval process by relevant UN departments.  That process was not completely followed and the sort of people who review exhibitions did not see all the items that were being exhibited in this case.  That process will now take place, and once it is completed, the exhibition will be installed downstairs.


Question:  Is it not the case that Turkey complained about a specific item that had to do with the Armenian genocide, or so-called genocide?


Associate Spokesperson:  Yes, that did come up.  That wasn’t the sole issue, that wasn’t the sole reason for…


Question:  What other reasons were there?


Associate Spokesperson:  There were other concerns about other contents.  You know, there were a number of contents that needed to be reviewed.  But there were other concerns about other things.  As for Armenia, in any case, the UN hasn’t expressed any position on incidents that took place long before the United Nations was established.  In any case, the focus during the anniversary of the Rwandan genocide should remain on Rwanda itself.


Question:  Another massacre story.  The Sudanese Government in its latest style -– yes-no-yes-no -– is currently no, I think…  I am just utterly confused, where we are, what’s going on?  What agreement there is?  What is the current understanding of the Secretary-General as to what agreement he has with Sudan?


Associate Spokesperson:  We did come out with an agreement, the text of which we put out after the Secretary-General’s meeting in Riyadh with President [Omer Hassan al-]Bashir, with Mr. [Alpha Oumar] Konaré from the African Union, and in a meeting that was convened by the King of Saudi Arabia.  Building on that understanding, we are going to have a technical…


Question:  But can you just explain what you think the understanding is?


Associate Spokesperson:  The understanding is to proceed, first of all, with the heavy package and then beyond that, with the hybrid operation. 


Question:  But that doesn’t seem to be the understanding today, based on what the Foreign Minister said.


Associate Spokesperson:  Well, but there are a number of events in the coming week and a half in which we’ll iron some of this out.  First of all, later this week, in Addis Ababa, you are having a technical-level meeting involving the United Nations, the African Union and the Government of Sudan, at which we can clear up any of the last outstanding issues having to do with the heavy support package.  Then next week, on 16 and 17 April, Alpha Oumar Konaré, the AU Chairman, will be here for high-level talks to discuss ways on moving forward with the hybrid force.  So, hopefully, within the next week or so, you’ll have more clarity on all these issues, and we can actually get these next phases of our support for the African Union mission and eventually for the AU-UN hybrid force, to move ahead. 


Question:  Going back to a previous question on North Korea and US -– you said that on things to do with the Security Council resolution, the Secretary-General has no comment…


Associate Spokesperson:  I didn’t say the Secretary-General never has a comment on issues having to do with Security Council resolutions.  The question is, in terms of whether or not any resolutions were affected or violated by what was reported in the papers over the weekend, having to do with Ethiopia and North Korea.  It is up to the Security Council and its Sanctions Committees to decide on how those sanctions resolutions are implemented.  So…


Question:  However, the Secretary-General has been very outspoken about allegations of weapons being smuggled from Syria to Lebanon.  Why does he choose to comment on that one, but not on this one?


Associate Spokesperson:  He had been receiving information about his recent Middle East tour, you are right.  Although, you will remember, the Secretary-General in his comments… [talkover] – Can you please… What?


Question:  On a point of order… You have a private conversation between yourselves.  We have been waiting here to ask our questions. 


Associate Spokesperson:  I beg your pardon… [talkover] Everyone will be called on, in turn. 


Question:  [inaudible] on these subjects here…


Associate Spokesperson:  I beg your pardon.  Everyone will be called on, in turn, but kindly, do not interrupt me while I am in the process of answering a question.  If you are interested in having questions answered, you really ought not interrupt.  Once I am done with answering this question, I will take further questions.


Now, having said that, where was I?  So, it is up to the Security Council to determine on how sanctions resolutions are followed.  And as for the Secretary-General’s comments, yes, you are right that he commented about the allegations concerning weapon-smuggling into Lebanon.  That has to do with his own follow-up and the fact that he was in the Middle East at the time and received some information.  Although you will appreciate the fact that the Secretary-General also said that those reports would need to be independently confirmed. 


Now, as for further questions, thank you for waiting patiently.


Question:  Do you have more news about Turkey and the Turks?


Associate Spokesperson:  On…?


Question:  [inaudible] killed Turkish soldiers, almost 8 of them in…


Associate Spokesperson:  In?


Question:  In the north of the country.


Associate Spokesperson:  In northern Iraq?  I would need to check up on that.


[The Associate Spokesperson later said that the United Nations did not have a presence in the area and did not have first-hand information.]


Question:  I heard what you said about Sudan.  Recent news is that Oumar Konaré of the African Union and President Beshir have agreed that there would be no international troops and they would ask only for logistical and financial and technical support.  Is this confirmed news?


Associate Spokesperson:  I wouldn’t be able to confirm that just yet.  Ultimately, we are waiting for Mr. Konaré to come here for discussions to flesh out disagreements and see precisely what kind of support we have.  We do believe we have moved forward in terms of agreement on the number of troops that would be deployed in Darfur.  And as for what precisely the hybrid force will look like, we would have more clarity on that in the coming week.


Question:  Again on Sudan.  Mr. Konaré is now in Sudan.  You didn’t get any report from that.  And what happened to the 14 pages of objections on the heavy support package that President Beshir delivered?  Have they disappeared?  Are they down to one page, or what?


Associate Spokesperson:  They haven’t disappeared, but any of the concerns of views about the heavy support package can be brought up at the technical level meetings that will be taking place in Addis Ababa and hopefully, we’ll be able to resolve these over the course of this week. 


Question:  I am not going to ask you what Benny maybe missed to ask you whether Serbia complained about that exhibition, because of the genocide in Srebrenica.  However, do you have any knowledge -- since the International Court of Justice is the UN body –- why, according to the press reports, judges did not issue subpoenas for the documents that were kept by the military archives in Belgrade in the case of suing Serbia for the crimes of genocide from Bosnia and Herzegovina?  Do you have any knowledge of that?


Associate Spokesperson:  I do not.  Ultimately, that is a question to be asked to the International Court of Justice.  The Chief Justice, Rosalyn Higgins, said that the decision had been taken and she said that the decision that was reached by the court speaks for itself.  Beyond that, I would suggest that you take it up with the ICJ officials in The Hague.


Question:  Can I follow up on this?  I can follow up with the ICJ in The Hague.  However, ICJ is a UN body, and I am wondering what is your opinion on that.  Whether the UN is going to take any action?  This is a huge moral opinion, because the UN accepted guilt somehow – not guilt, but mistake -- for the genocide in Srebrenica.  And I am wondering whether you are going to intervene or to look into that.


Associate Spokesperson:  Well, in terms of the UN system, there is a number of things there.  Yes, the UN did acknowledge, and the previous Secretary-General did acknowledge remorse, for what happened in Srebrenica.  The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, for its part, had deemed that some of the killings that took place in Srebrenica could be considered to be genocide.  So they did rule on that a few years back.  But as for the International Court of Justice, that is a separate judicial body, and we do respect the principle of judicial independence.  We don’t second-guess the judgements done by the courts, and so they are entitled to their procedures. 


Question:  The last thing Mr. Ban Ki-moon was talking about sending Nicolas Michel to Saudi Arabia for negotiations regarding the International Tribunal, what is the latest after the rejection of Mr. [Saad] Hariri for such negotiations?  And he said he would go to Saudi Arabia only after a deal is struck.  What is the situation regarding this?


Associate Spokesperson:  As far as that goes, what we are doing, we are monitoring to see how the process goes forward in terms of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to organize talks among the various political leaders in Lebanon and our position remains that, if the parties are agreeable, the Secretary-General would then dispatch his Legal Counsel, Nicolas Michel, to those talks.


Question:  Saudi Arabia said they don’t want to host that...  as long as the Lebanese agreed beforehand.


Associate Spokesperson:  Well, let’s see how the process plays itself out.  Saudi Arabia is still talking with various different Lebanese leaders.


Question:  On Somalia, it has been reported that a security expert of the EU has said that some of those who support the Transitional Federal Government may be complicit in war crimes, given the firing at civilian neighbourhoods last week.  So I am wondering, since the UN is supporting all the way with the Transitional Federal Government and the WFP is just calling on them to take more action...  if the UN has any response to that.  That was an AP report on Friday.


Associate Spokesperson:  Well, I can check whether we have any response.  At this stage, no we haven’t responded to that.  The UN support, by the way, is one in which a number of bodies including the Security Council, have recognized the Transitional Federal Government.


Question:  So, the quote actually by the President of the TFG:  “We will bomb civilian neighbourhoods.” He said that last week while they were doing that.  So I guess, I am just saying...


Associate Spokesperson:  Well, like I said, we have no specific comment on the EU report, but certainly, the United Nations is against the bombing or attacking of civilian areas.  We have been against that across the board.


Question:  On these exhibits.  You have said there is this process for, I guess, the Visitors’ Lobby?  There is an exhibit right now at the Vienna Café in that hallway.  It is pretty graphic, and I just wonder if you can say or find out what is the review process for the exhibits, both in that space and for that exhibit in particular. 


Associate Spokesperson:  I believe that also in the Viennese Café and throughout the building, any exhibitions that are put up for display go through a process of being reviewed.  And so the exhibitions that are installed have gone through the approval process. 


Question:  Does the Secretary-General have any plans or any outstanding invitations to visit either Syria or Iran?


Associate Spokesperson:  As for Syria, I believe my colleague Michele said last week that he does intend to visit.  We should have some more information for you, not immediately, but possibly we might have some more information in the coming days to provide about that.  But nothing to say about Iran thus far.


Question:  But the Secretary-General said that it had not been completed and the announcement has yet to be made.  Does that mean he is taking back from the Spokeswoman?


Associate Spokesperson:  No, the announcement has yet to be made.  Like I said, I don’t have anything to say about that just yet.  He did announce his intention to go, but I don’t have any specifics to give you now.  Possibly, in the coming days, I’ll have some more information for you. 


Question:  On the former issue, you said that the Addis Ababa expert meeting to be held further in this week.  But I think it was scheduled to be held this day.  Was it postponed, or…


Associate Spokesperson:  I believe it begins today and will continue.  We will need to get some details about what the results of that meeting were as it proceeds, though.


Question:  Does the Secretary-General have any comment on the Iranian announcement today, that it has gone to industrial production of uranium enrichment?


Associate Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General did talk to a few reporters earlier today as he was leaving the Disarmament Commission meeting, and he was asked about the announcement that Iran has reached an industrial scale of enrichment.  He said, “I sincerely hope that even at this time, when the Iranian Government is undergoing Security Council sanctions, that they should engage in dialogue, with the intention of communicating.  It is very important for any member country to fully comply with a Security Council resolution.  I urge the Iranian Government to do so.”  That is what he said, and we will put that out upstairs.


Question:  You announced that journalist Ajmal Naqshbandi was murdered.  Alan Johnson, the BBC correspondent has been abducted in Gaza for almost a month.  Has the BBC or any organization contacted the UN for help in his release, and is there a policy that the UN has when dealing with abducted journalists, if anybody does ask for help?


Associate Spokesperson:  We have, from time to time, put out statements if we believe that it is helpful.  Obviously, there are security considerations on the ground in any abduction to study before we come out with a statement, in case it may adversely affect the conditions that the abductee faces.  In the case of the journalist you mentioned, I believe that the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, has also come out with a statement asking for his release.


Question:  But has anyone contacted the UN asking for help in his release?


Associate Spokesperson:  I don’t believe that we are involved in any talks having to do with his release, no.


Question:  You had indicated that the Secretary-General, on the occasion of the genocide of Rwanda has called for “global partnership”.  Specifically, what is this call directed to, the Security Council, the General Assembly, the international community?  And what form would that take?


Associate Spokesperson:  That call is directed to all Member States, particularly those who have the ability to influence the course of potential genocides.  Not obviously just the historical ones, but the ones that may still be taking place or incipient.  And of course we have the Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide who is entrusted with trying to deal with situations as they arise before they rise to that level.  As for further details, by the way, you can find more in the full speech, which is available upstairs. 


Question:  Is there a plan to reassess what is taking place in Sudan.  Is it genocide, as the United States has said?  Is there any effort by the UN, I mean?


Associate Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, the UN has made efforts to determine whether what was happening was genocide.  There was an expert panel that went there and made its own assessment and the information that they had, they have then passed on for further work.  Now, the matter is in the hands, a lot of the question of Darfur, is in the hands of the International Criminal Court.  We are waiting to see how the Criminal Court follows up on this and it will be up to them to make any determinations.  They, of course, can investigate genocide, as well as crimes against humanity and war crimes alike. 


Question:  Are you saying again that the International Criminal Court is totally independent and that you are just waiting to see what they are going to do, bearing in mind that the UN failed two times to prevent, or to involve or to engage the international community to prevent Rwanda and Srebrenica?  Do you feel that more engagement is needed, or anybody else at the UN?


Associate Spokesperson:  More engagement is needed.  On issues like Darfur, certainly, there needs to be more engagement.  And the sort of engagement that bodies like the Security Council in terms of the threats to peace and security side, and the Human Rights Council in terms of other violations that are taking place –- that involvement is needed and is encouraged by us.  But in terms of what is happening on the prosecutorial front, right now, the International Criminal Court does have the necessary information, and it has started its work.  And yes, like other bodies, it does have prosecutorial independence as it goes about how it proceeds with its work.


Question:  But if turns out that again not enough documents are transferred to the International Criminal Court, what would be the role of the UN?  Does the UN have any moral or any other legal alternative to push forward, to ask for all documents to be transferred to the prosecution?


Associate Spokesperson:  Well, as with Yugoslavia and Rwanda Tribunals, yes, nations are enjoined to provide all the documentation that they have at their disposal in order for those cases to be resolved.  And we do encourage nations to do that.  And you might also recall that in transferring the matter of Darfur to the International Criminal Court, the Security Council has issued resolutions on this.  And of course, all Member States have to comply with resolutions of the Security Council. 


Question:  You started the briefing by saying that the UN has learned from what happened in Rwanda genocide, from the mistakes made.  Do you really think, in the light of what is going on in Darfur, that the UN has learned anything?


Associate Spokesperson:  Yes.  Yes, I do.  And I don’t think that it’s naïve to say that.  Frankly, when I was a child, there were so many cases around the world of so much mass atrocity where a lot of times the international community did little to nothing.  Nowadays, the international community – however slowly at times, however tentatively – does act, and the United Nations is one of the main engines trying to prod the rest of the international community to act, so that things are responded to.  And yes, it’s imperfect.  The very fact that decades after the Holocaust, here we are on one of these days, acknowledging an anniversary of yet another, more recent genocide, shows you how slowly the international community has acted, and yes, that is a very painful sort of failing.  But have we moved forward over the decades?  I believe so.  And I believe the amount of attention that all of you have been paying -– even just now, on Darfur -– is a sign that people do care about things spinning out of control.


Question:  This is not necessarily a follow-up to that.  On the DRC, the forces for Peter Karium are being integrated into the army.  Who in the UN system is going to actually make sure that these 370 soldiers -- how many are child soldiers and how many are not?  And also, what is the UN system going to do, that this is clearly an individual who recruited child soldiers and is now offered a Government post?


Associate Spokesperson:  As for any sort of monitoring on the ground, the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is capable of monitoring the situation and trying to monitor such things as whether or not child soldiers are used.  As to the question of Peter Karim’s integration into the army, we are following that.  The Mission on the ground is following that.  But, this is a decision that is taken by the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and we leave it up to the DRC Government to make decisions about such things as integration of its forces. 


Question:  I am sorry -– I just want to understand this better.  Does the UN have any duty?  If it verifies that there are child soldiers, that they have been recruited -– what do they do with that kind of report?  Do they give it to the national Government to act?  Do they ask them to act?  Do they send it to..?


Associate Spokesperson:  The general rule is that, whenever we have information about the use of child soldiers or any such violations, we inform the responsible Governments and responsible parties of both the violations and what their responsibilities are.


Question:  One more try about Bosnia’s case.  The New York Times report suggested that the whole process became flawed in the absence of documents.  So I would like to know if the Secretary-General would ask at least for a report or an inquiry from the ICJ?


Associate Spokesperson:  I could check whether that would happen.  However, like I said, one of the principles of the United Nations is our respect for judicial independence.  We don’t tell the various judicial bodies, whether they are the judges or prosecutors, how to go about their work.  And in this case, these were the decisions that were taken by the ICJ and, again, I would enjoin you to ask the officials there about any further details concerning that decision-making process.


Question:  With all due respect, what about moral responsibility?  We were just talking about the lessons learnt.  Did we really learn a lesson?  And if nobody asks why these documents were not subpoenaed, then the lessons were not learnt. 


Associate Spokesperson:  I don’t quite agree, because the moral responsibility having to do with Bosnian war, I think, has been underscored by a number of bodies.  By the Secretary-General, by the Security Council, by our various human rights bodies.  The ruling you are talking about is a judicial ruling that took place in a case between two States, Serbia and Bosnia.  And the ICJ followed its procedures in terms of making its judgements.  Whatever problems you may have with that decision, I would suggest you take it up with them.  But certainly, we do not second-guess what the ICJ as a body does in terms of its procedures. 


And luckily for us, because this briefing has gone on as long as it has, we now have the statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General concerning the elections in Timor-Leste, which is available upstairs  and which I’ll read into the record.


**Statement on Timor-Leste


The Secretary-General congratulates the many Timorese who showed their commitment to democracy and peace by participating in today’s voting -- the country’s first Presidential elections since independence in 2002.  The Secretary-General commends the national authorities, particularly the Technical Secretariat for Electoral Administration and the National Electoral Commission, for organizing the polling -- the first time the people of Timor-Leste have had the opportunity to administer their own elections at the national level.  He also expresses his appreciation for the work done by the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) in support of the Timorese efforts.


The Secretary-General is heartened that the election was conducted in a general atmosphere of order and calm, and that the initial indications show high voter turn-out.  He hopes that calm will prevail while the counting proceeds and when results are announced.  The Secretary-General considers the 2007 electoral process to be an important step on the path to peace and stability in Timor-Leste, and hopes that the subsequent steps in the process -- including the legislative elections -- take place in an equally peaceful atmosphere. 


The Secretary-General calls on the international community to continue providing assistance as Timor-Leste works to complete this year’s electoral process and to address challenges related to the security sector, the rule of law, governance and development.


And again, that statement is available upstairs. 


And with that, I wish you all a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record