|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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon, all.
**Press Conferences Today
At 12:45 p.m. in this room, there will be a press conference by the Permanent Representative of Sudan.
And at 3 p.m., Isatou Njie Saidy, the Vice-President of the Gambia, will be joined by other speakers to discuss the need for a gender perspective in addressing the economic, food and climate change crises in Africa. We have more information available upstairs.
**Secretary-General’s Statement -- International Criminal Court
We have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the ICC arrest warrant for President Al-Bashir.
The International Criminal Court has today issued a warrant for the arrest of President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir, President of the Republic of Sudan, for his alleged responsibility for crimes committed in Darfur.
The Secretary-General recognizes the authority of the International Criminal Court as an independent judicial institution.
The Secretary-General trusts that the Government of Sudan will address the issues of peace and justice in a manner consistent with Security Council resolution 1593 (2005). The United Nations will continue to conduct its vital peacekeeping, humanitarian, human rights and development operations and activities in Sudan. The Secretary-General calls on the Government of Sudan to continue to cooperate fully with all United Nations entities and their implementing partners, while fulfilling its obligation to ensure the safety and security of the civilian population, United Nations personnel and property, and that of its implementing partners.
The Secretary-General calls on all parties to work in good faith towards a political solution to end the conflict in Darfur. He also calls on the parties to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement to recommit themselves to the full and timely implementation of the Agreement, which remains the basis for long-term peace and security in Sudan.
**International Criminal Court
According to the ICC, the Sudanese President is suspected of being criminally responsible, as an indirect (co-)perpetrator, for intentionally directing attacks against an important part of the civilian population of Darfur, Sudan, murdering, exterminating, raping, torturing and forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians and pillaging their property.
This is the first warrant of arrest ever issued for a sitting Head of State by the ICC.
According to the judges, the above-mentioned crimes were allegedly committed during a five-year counter-insurgency campaign by the Government of Sudan against the Sudanese Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A), the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and other armed groups opposing the Government of Sudan in Darfur. According to the ICC, a core component of that campaign was the unlawful attack on that part of the civilian population of Darfur ‑‑ belonging largely to the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa groups ‑‑ perceived to be close to the organized armed groups opposing the Government of Sudan in Darfur.
The Court says that his status as a sitting Head of State does not grant him immunity against prosecution. If arrested, he will be tried on five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes. He has not been indicted on charges of genocide, the Pre-Trial Chamber said.
ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said at the press conference in The Hague a few hours ago that he has “strong evidence” to prove that President Bashir has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. There is a press release with more details from the ICC upstairs.
From the field, the security situation in Darfur today was reported as relatively calm. The Government of Sudan this morning conducted a ground and aerial show of force in El Fasher, North Darfur, and Nyala, South Darfur.
Peaceful demonstrations took place in El Fasher, Nyala and El Geneina, West Darfur, following the ICC announcement that it has issued an arrest warrant for the Sudanese President. More demonstrations have been scheduled tomorrow.
The United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) reports that UNAMID police and peacekeepers continue to carry out their normal patrolling activities and are closely monitoring developments throughout the region, particularly in and around the IDP camps.
And in response to questions we are getting, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) informs us that of 12 NGOs summoned by the Sudan Government Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC), six have already confirmed that their legal registrations have been revoked, a list of assets must be produced for seizure, and that they must leave North Sudan with immediate effect.
The United Nations was notified that officials from the Sudan Government have insisted on accompanying some NGO staff members into their offices and taking lists of assets and staff.
**Democratic Republic of Congo
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Alan Doss, has welcomed a new stabilization and reconstruction plan for the eastern DRC, which was agreed upon by local and international stakeholders under the auspices of the Congolese Prime Minister. Doss specifically pledged to support the plan in the areas of security and the restoration of State authority.
Meanwhile, the UN Mission in the DRC, known as MONUC, reports that a total of 880 children, including 41 girls, were rescued from the ranks of armed groups in North Kivu in February. The vast majority of these children were Congolese, but there were also smaller groups of Rwandans, Burundians and Ugandans. All of them were registered by MONUC’s Child Protection Unit and are now in the care of humanitarian agencies. They will soon be reunited with their families, MONUC says.
In related news, in the DRC’s Katanga Province, in the area of Ankoro, a joint mission led by UNICEF arrived today to address the issue of malnutrition. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that, between September 2008 and now, there have been nearly 1,200 cases of children suffering from acute malnutrition in Ankoro. That malnutrition is being compounded by population increases as well as malaria, OCHA adds.
Also in Katanga, the World Health Organization (WHO) is supporting local efforts to treat a cholera epidemic.
On Afghanistan, Kai Eide, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, today welcomed the statement by the Independent Election Commission reaffirming that the presidential and provincial council elections will be held on 20 August. That date, he said, would provide the time for the necessary preparations, campaigning and the provision of security.
Eide emphasized the need for broad consensus so that the election process can move forward in a way that ensures the political stability of the country and the legitimacy of its institutions. He said that the United Nations will do its utmost to contribute to the effort to ensure that the elections are transparent and credible. The full statement is upstairs.
On Myanmar, after 10 months of a successful joint humanitarian response, the mandate of the Tripartite Core Group for post-Nargis recovery efforts in Myanmar has been extended for another year.
With the extension, the Group ‑‑ comprising high-level representatives from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, the United Nations, and the Government of Myanmar ‑‑ will continue its joint work until July 2010.
On the Global Compact: tomorrow, the UN Global Compact and United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) will convene a joint event in the Delegates Dining Room to commemorate International Women’s Day, which is observed on 8 March. Called “Advancing Women in the Global Marketplace”, the event will bring together representatives of business, civil society, academia, labour, Governments and the UN to identify what business can and is doing to empower and advance women around the world, and how these efforts relate to corporate responsibility.
The participants will also discuss whether a set of women’s principles, a new business code of conduct designed to promote gender equality, might be useful to stimulate further progress.
The opening and closing sessions of the event are open to the media. Media seating may also be available for the day’s other sessions. More information is available from the Global Compact Office upstairs.
**United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
The UNESCO-L’Oréal International Fellowships for Women in Science will be presented today, at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. The two-year fellowships ‑‑ worth up to $40,000 each ‑‑ support 15 young post-doctoral students helping them to pursue research outside their countries of origin.
And tomorrow, the L’Oréal-UNESCO Awards for Women in Science will recognize five laureates ‑‑ one from each of the five continents. The $100,000 awards are presented each year since 1998 to five outstanding women researchers for their work in physical science. We have more on this upstairs.
In response to questions about the accuracy of a news story on reported missing art works at the United Nations, I’d like to report to you that the United Nations has an up-to-date inventory of the artwork gifted by Member States to the Organization in New York.
The electronic records were first established in the early ‘90s from paper records. They are now being digitalized to create a central digital record of the art at the UN Headquarters premises.
At any given moment, the art on the walls of the United Nations are a mix of Member States gifts to the Organization, gifts to individuals and loans by friends of the Organization and museums. About 240 works of art are normally on display.
The Organization’s records regarding the two pieces of artwork mentioned in the Financial Times article indicate that neither item was an official gift to the Organization from a Member State.
The only information available on the Rivera sculpture relates to a press release dated October 1961. On the oil painting “Evening” only a note exists dating back to March 1991, on its relocation from storage. The search for these two pieces of art, the whereabouts of which have been unknown since early 1990s, has not yielded results.
The items from China that were mentioned in the FT article were not official gifts, and, therefore, never included in the official record of gifts from Member States to the Organization. The UN is not aware of any missing gift from Mexico.
Two books have been printed that document the art in the United Nations. Neither book was an official UN publication and, therefore, the UN does not consider these art books a reliable source for establishing ownership. They only establish that certain art was on the walls that year. And that’s what I have on that topic.
**Press Conferences Tomorrow
At 12:30 p.m. tomorrow, Rachel Mayanja, UN Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, and Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, will be joined by other speakers to brief you on the UN’s commemoration of this year’s International Women’s Day and the Secretary-General’s “UNiTE to End Violence Against Women” campaign.
And at 2 p.m. tomorrow, the Inter-Parliamentary Union will hold a press conference here to present annual statistics on women in politics. And that’s all I have here. Any questions? Yes, Shaw.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Michèle, thank you. My question is about Darfur; two actually. Now that President Omar Bashir is a suspect from the ICC, do you think that the Secretary-General will have hesitations to meet him or to deal with him?
Spokesperson: Well, I can only tell you that UNMIS, UNAMID and the AU-UN Joint Chief Mediator will continue to deal with all parties in Sudan in pursuit of their mandates. President Al-Bashir is the Head of State of Sudan and United Nations officials will continue to deal with President Al-Bashir when they need to do so.
Question: Does the Secretary-General or you have a reaction to what happened to these NGOs today?
Spokesperson: At this point we’re still trying to gather information. Yes, Mr. Abbadi.
Question: Michèle, thank you. While on the issuance of the mandate of the warrant of arrest of the President of Sudan, has the Secretary-General contacted in any way the Sudanese authorities, or have they attempted to talk to the Secretary-General at this stage?
Question: Good afternoon, Michèle. Does the Secretary-General anticipate giving a statement on camera any time soon?
Spokesperson: No, not today, no.
Question: Any time soon?
Spokesperson: What you have is a statement that I read, which is a statement from the Spokesperson. Yes, Matthew.
Question: Sure. Just two questions; one, in Sri Lanka there are these reports by Médecins sans Frontières that the camps that have been set up for people fleeing the zone of conflict don’t allow for anyone to leave them and says MSF were very concerned about the lack of freedom of movement. What has the UN been doing since this issue has been brewing for some time of camps from which IDPs cannot leave? What is the UN doing about that?
Spokesperson: Well, I don’t have any additional information from what we gave you last week. We’ve been insisting that civilians be protected. In the case of the camps, we have also said that we want as much protection as possible and that’s where we stand. I don’t have any additional information and I will try to get more for you, of course.
Question: I want to ask, while you were on this trip, this issue arose of the change from Anna Tibaijuka to Achim Steiner in Nairobi. I know that the Staff Union here tried to give the Secretary-General a letter and I wanted to know, I think there is also a letter from Mozambique’s Ambassador to UNEP and UNON protesting the change. Did he receive those letters and what’s his response to the growing, I guess, concerns raised even though he said rotation? It seems like the head of the Geneva Office has been in place for seven years. Why did that Office rotate from an African woman to a German man at this time?
Spokesperson: Well, it’s not “an African woman to a German man”. The head of UN-Habitat was succeeded by the head of the United Nations environment agency. So it’s simply heads of agencies moving. It has nothing to do with the nationality of either one of them.
Question: But the protests seem to say that at this time, particularly in the case of, you know, gender balance. Is he comfortable with that change or are there going to be other changes where women will be promoted?
Spokesperson: The Secretary-General is perfectly comfortable with that change. As you know, Mrs. Tibaijuka is staying as head of UN-Habitat. Yes, Dennis.
Question: Thank you, Michèle. You said that there was a show of force by the Government of Sudan earlier. What constitutes a show of force? Are there any details on that?
Spokesperson: Well, all I know is there were tanks being put in place. There is obvious protection of UN premises and other premises of international embassies. That’s what we have so far.
Question: May I ask one more question?
Spokesperson: Yes, sure, Dennis.
Question: On the issue of the artwork, is that the two pieces that are missing are not official gifts? So what are they categorized as? Are there different categories for…?
Spokesperson: What happened is that before, from what I gather, before the administration of Kofi Annan the gifts that were given to the Secretary-General or to high officials were not actually registered. It’s under the previous administration that they started having a roster of all gifts being given to the UN; whether it be from Member States or being given to officials in their official capacities. So we had no register before that.
Question: So there is no registry…?
Spokesperson: There is one now.
Question: There was none, there was not one before Kofi Annan’s, I don’t know how many years that was? That means that there are a lot of pieces of art who are not, only are not catalogued…
Spokesperson: The ones from Member States have always been catalogued. The ones from Member States…
Question: The OIOS report, my count, I think they were 18 pieces of art who were… There is no catalogue, there is no record that they even exist. There’s no… They don’t know where they are…
Spokesperson: That’s why I mentioned the two books. The OIOS based itself on those two books, which were not official records, and we don’t know whether these gifts were given by Member States because they were not registered as gifts from Member States, or were given as different gifts to high-level officials.
Question: Well, what in the case of something that is still on display? I guess there are two inventory lists: there is one called [inaudible] and one called [inaudible]. And there is a list on the report of some artworks that are neither of these and some of these artworks are on display now. So does the UN even have…?
Spokesperson: I have to say I added that there are a number of works on display which do not belong to the UN. You have the example here of the tapestry, the Guernica tapestry, which is a loan, and it’s going to be [inaudible] in the Capital Master Plan returned to the Rockefeller family. So there are a number of artworks which are not gifts. They are loans and they are going to be returned to their owners during the CMP process.
Question: But for some of these, there is no record of that. That’s why I am saying there is no written record of these.
Spokesperson: Of the loans? Yes, of course there is a record of the loans.
Question: Well, that’s not, the report says something else…
Spokesperson: Well, I’m sorry but we have a record of the loans and some of the loans are from museums; some of the loans are from different foundations and some are from individuals. But they’re not gifts to the UN.
Question: Thank you, Michèle. I wanted to follow up on an earlier question about the NGOs. In the statement that you read to us at the beginning of the briefing today, it said that the Secretary-General urged the Government of Sudan to ensure the protection and normal operations of all UN entities and implementing parties, I think was the word. These implementing parties include aid organizations and NGOs such as the six who are out there. So, in a certain sense, the Sudanese Government has already officially confirmed the withdrawal of the licences for these six agencies. It’s a slap in the face to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Isn’t there anything that you would want to say or the Secretary-General would want to say on…?
Spokesperson: No. At this point I said we’re trying to get more information. I don’t have that information yet. I don’t have enough of it to really be able to respond. Yes, Masood?
Question: Michèle, two questions. Number one, there is this [inaudible]. What is happening is that Mr. Karzai has called for elections in April. The United States has called for elections in August. Now, which process will the United Nations support?
Spokesperson: We already read that. I just read it.
Question: What about the elections which are going to be held under United Nations supervision in August?
Spokesperson: Well, the election in August, the UN already took a position for the elections in August for technical reasons to get time to prepare for them. We said that last week.
Question: But what Mr. Karzai is saying; he is saying now again that he wants it in April? That position is not acceptable to the United Nations?
Spokesperson: We don’t think it’s feasible; that’s the question. It’s a technical question.
Question: It’s not feasible immediately…?
Spokesperson: It’s not feasible in April.
Question: Okay. And the other question, of course, I want to ask: is there any progress on appointing the commission for Benazir Bhutto as yet?
Spokesperson: Well, thank you, Masood, for reiterating the same question for the tenth time. The answer is the same: I still don’t have the additional members.
Question: Do you think that there will be at any point in time some progress being made on this?
Spokesperson: I am sure there will be. Yes, Tarek?
Question: Just a follow-up on the ICC issue. Before this indictment was released today, Mr. Ban Ki-moon used to call so many times on President Bashir to deliver the two Sudanese suspects, Haroun and [inaudible]. So the question now, what does he expect? What does Mr. Ban Ki-moon expect the Sudanese President to do with this arrest warrant and who is supposed to implement it? Is there an international mechanism to follow up the indictment and to make sure that it is already achieved?
Spokesperson: The first thing I would say, which I have been saying over and over again: the arrest warrant is issued by the ICC. The ICC is an independent judiciary organization. So we, the Secretariat, have nothing to say about the indictment itself.
Question: But in the past we used to call on Al-Bashir to deliver Haroun and [inaudible] to ICC to be tried there. So how about this warrant of arrest?
Spokesperson: Well, there is nothing we can add. The ICC has come out with the warrant today. So we’ll see what happens after that.
Question: [inaudible] … support a delay by the Security Council in the implementation of the warrant of arrest?
Spokesperson: The Secretary-General will not interfere on this matter.
Question: [inaudible] … is the Secretary-General calling for the Sudanese Government to hand over the President as he has for the past arrest warrants from the Court? I think that’s the bottom line of the question.
Spokesperson: He is not going to say one way or the other. It is a matter for the ICC and the Sudanese.
Question: Back to the Secretary-General’s schedule again. Do you have any late information when he might be holding his monthly press conference?
Spokesperson: Because of scheduling problems, it probably will be when he comes back from Haiti, which will be next week. We’re hoping for next Thursday.
Question: A week from tomorrow.
Question: Michèle, I just wanted to raise the issue of Roxana Saberi, who is a US citizen and journalist who has been under detention in Iran now for about a month. First of all, does the UN know about it and what are they doing about it because the State Department in Washington indicates that the UN might be involved. We’ve had a letter from the Minnesota Senator to the Secretary-General. Is the Secretary-General aware for the case? Is he in contact with Iranian officials? Is anyone in the Secretariat involved? What do you know?
Spokesperson: We have not received that letter. I confirmed that earlier today. We have not received that letter, so the Secretary-General has not been formally seized of the matter. Of course, he is aware of it, he has been aware of it through the media. That’s really all I can say at this point.
Question: No contacts with Iranian officials…?
Spokesperson: As far as I know, no. Yes, Benny?
Question: I don’t know if you have addressed this already, but a couple of days ago the Israeli Ambassador wrote a letter to the Secretary-General about the escalation of missiles from Gaza into Israel over the weekend, at the time that the Secretary-General and other international donors were gathering to help Gaza. Is there any connect there? Do you see any connect; does the Secretary-General see any connect there between the gathering in Sharm el-Sheikh and that escalation of missiles or…? Has he received the letter, first of all?
Spokesperson: No, he has not. Or, if he has, I am not aware of it. I will try to find out whether, between the last time I asked and today, he has received it. As far as I know, there is no connection between the two events.
Question: Okay, a follow up on the ICC…
Spokesperson: …And you know that the Secretary-General has steadily protested all those missile strikes against Israel.
Question: A follow-up on the ICC question. Is there any possibility that the Security Council will ask the UN forces on the ground to execute the arrest warrant?
Spokesperson: For the time being there is no such mandate for the UN forces on the ground. They cannot execute any arrest warrant ‑‑ that’s one thing. The second thing: what the Security Council will do I cannot speculate on that. You’ll have to ask the question to the Security Council.
Question: But can it do it procedurally? I mean, is there…
Spokesperson: No, they cannot unless they change the mandate.
Question: Right. They have to sort of… In order to do that they’d have to change the mandate of the forces on the ground?
Spokesperson: Yes, exactly.
Question: Back to the art [inaudible]… Was the internal audit accurate, in your view? How many pieces of art are still being sought and what measures are in place to prevent art from disappearing in the future?
Spokesperson: If you heard what I said, there are only two pieces of work that are still considered missing; and those were registered. And you had the information there and there is nothing more I can say about it. The OIOS had the investigation done. It was based on two unofficial books that were published with pictures and we don’t know where those artworks were coming from. Whether they were loans, whether they were gifts, what they were. All we know is that they were not registered. So really, that’s the only way. Of course, if you want to have more additional information on this, I can refer you, of course, to the Department of Management.
Question: But the general audit ‑‑ and I do not have it in front of me ‑‑ as I recall, detailed more than two pieces. There’s a Mexican piece, there is a sculpture and a third piece at least that come to mind. So have these been found? Or is that report inaccurate?
Spokesperson: No, I said they have not been found; I just said it, that they have not been found.
Question: But the report had more than two pieces of art that were missing. So was the report inaccurate in saying that or was there a piece, at least one piece located?
Spokesperson: I’ve already told you everything I know about this subject. If you want more information, I will refer you to the Department of Management. Yes, Mr. Abbadi?
Question: Michèle, still on the ICC decision. As you indicated, the Secretary-General and the Secretariat have nothing to do with that decision, but it could conceivably impact on the Secretariat. Has the Secretary-General taken any precautionary measures for example, with respect to the security of the staff?
Spokesperson: I’d like to say first that the announcement by the ICC does not affect the existing commitment and obligation of the UN to support peace in Sudan. So this is continuing. The UN will continue to work with the Sudanese authorities to further the full implementation of UNAMID and UNMIS mandates. So that is really all I can tell you at this point.
Question: What about unforeseen events in Sudan? Has the Secretary-General taken any precautionary measures?
Spokesperson: I cannot predict any unforeseen event, and I will not comment on them.
Question: I might have missed the… maybe you answered it. I am wondering if the ICC resolutions are binding.
Spokesperson: ICC resolutions are binding for the Member States that have signed the Rome Statute. In the case of Sudan, they have not.
Question: Is it something like Security Council resolutions?
Spokesperson: No, it’s a different thing. It is binding for the States parties, the people who signed actually the Statute that created the ICC in the first place. So it’s not the same thing as the Security Council resolution, which is binding for all Member States of the United Nations.
Question: How about Sudan, is it party of the…?
Spokesperson: No, Sudan is not.
Question: But it is binding because it was the Security Council who initiated the process.
Question: Michèle, sorry I need to follow up. If the Secretary-General says the ICC is an independent judiciary, yes, we understand that. But he’s been keeping on asking for countries that have cases from the ICC to collaborate with the ICC. Why this time is he not using the same language that he was targeting for the people like in the DRC case; the Lubanga case, when it comes to President Bashir?
Spokesperson: Well, the difference is the countries that are signatories or not to the Rome Statute. In the case of the Congo, they are.
Question: But Michèle, even so, [cross-talk among correspondents] … that the Secretary-General had called for those indicted previously in the Sudan over Darfur to be turned up to Court.
Spokesperson: He has called on it. But it’s not a binding thing in the sense that…
Question: Why? What will they call it this time? [Inaudible, several correspondents speaking at the same time] … an accurate statement of the law … referral of Darfur to the ICC by the Security Council. In that situation the people subject to referral are bound by the requirements of the Court, aren’t they?
Spokesperson: What I am getting from the Legal Office is that Sudan has not signed the Statute.
Question: It’s clear that Sudan has not signed the Statute. We all agree about that. We all agree that Sudan has not signed the Statute. What we’re saying is that in these circumstances Sudan was bound because jurisdiction was imposed on it by the Security Council.
Spokesperson: Yes, let’s get OLA on this.
Question: You know, we really can’t have a situation where from the podium of the UN, you misstate something as serious as the obligation of a country to turn over somebody to the Criminal Court, which you just did. I had to come down here to correct you on that.
Spokesperson: I would like to ask OLA’s opinion on this.
OLA Representative: Surely, resolution 1593 (2005) at the Security Council was adopted under Article 93 of the Charter…
[The OLA representative was asked to take a seat at the podium, which he did.]
As the questioner recalls, indeed Sudan is not a party to the Rome Statute. At the same time, it is necessary to bear in mind that the Security Council, when it referred the situation in Darfur to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, in its resolution 1593 (2005), decided, acting under Chapter VII of the Charter, “that the Government of Sudan and all other parties to the conflict in Darfur shall cooperate fully with and provide any necessary assistance to the Court and the Prosecutor pursuant to this resolution….” And I suppose I could carry on to the end of the sentence. “…and, while recognizing that States not party to the Rome Statute have no obligation under the Statute, urges all States and concerned regional and other international organizations to cooperate fully”.
The first part of that paragraph ‑‑ that’s operative paragraph 2 of resolution 1593 (2005) ‑‑ the Legal Office is, of course, studying the judgment, which we received only a couple of hours ago. But we already note that the Pre-Trial Chamber has referred to this operative paragraph of the resolution, has taken note of the fact that the resolution was adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter, has recalled Articles 24 and 25 of the Charter, which require the Member States of the United Nations to carry out the decisions of the Security Council, and has then drawn the conclusion that the Government of Sudan, because of resolution 1593 (2005), is under an obligation to cooperate fully with and provide any necessary assistance to the Court. And, therefore, has to execute or to carry out the warrant. That’s what the Court says.
Question: Can we ask the question ‑‑ the original question ‑‑ again, which is: Does the Secretary-General, therefore, call on Sudan to surrender President Bashir for trial in The Hague, as is the obligation just spelled out by his own Legal Department? Is that the position? Will the Secretary-General call on Sudan to surrender President Bashir for trial?
Spokesperson: You have what he said. It’s right there.
Question: I mean in his statement that you read at the beginning it says that the Secretary-General trusts that the Government of Sudan will address the issues of peace and justice, consistent ‑‑
Spokesperson: Consistent with the Security Council resolution, yes.
Question: Is that wording not saying that he expects Sudan will comply with the ICC or is it not?
Spokesperson: He does say that.
Question: So that’s what we should infer from that statement, that he actually is asking for the Sudanese Government to turn over its sitting President because of the Security Council resolution and the binding nature of that resolution?
Spokesperson: I would say so, yes.
Question: Just to make it clear to myself, what you have just said: Mr. Ban Ki-moon, he called on the Sudanese Government to deliver the President of Sudan?
Spokesperson: No, I didn’t say that. You have read the statement. Don’t attribute to me anything that is beyond the statement. You are inferring something from the statement. Now if you want to go beyond what the statement said, you cannot quote me as saying what the statement did not specifically say. The statement specifically referred to Security Council resolution 1593 (2005), which was read to you right now, okay? So the inferences from that statement, of course, it’s up to you to infer.
Question: The question, Michèle, is why the Secretary-General of the United Nations is not explicitly calling on Sudan to fulfil its legal obligation under a mandatory Chapter VII Security Council resolution to turn over President Bashir for trial? Why is the Secretary-General of the UN scared to say that?
Spokesperson: He is not scared to say that. What he’s saying is that ‑‑ he has said it in a very precise way. You know.
Question: To somebody who has asked you that question, you said you cannot go beyond the statement and that statement doesn’t do it. Are you willing explicitly to say the Secretary-General wants Sudan to turn over President Bashir?
Spokesperson: He hasn’t asked it specifically because he feels this is a matter for the ICC. The ICC just came out with this. The follow-up to what the ICC decided is going to come in the next few days. We cannot really say right now.
Question: A follow-up question. Another thing you said earlier in the briefing was he wasn’t going to restrict his own contacts with President Bashir at all. That’s not the normal practice.
Spokesperson: No, I said the contacts of UNAMID and UNMIS on the ground with Mr. Bashir.
Question: No, you also said he would continue to meet with President Bashir. So why ‑‑ the Secretary-General of the UN ‑‑ why is he not restricting his own contacts with somebody who’s now an indicted war criminal?
Spokesperson: Right now there are two issues at stake here. There is the issue of moving forward with the peace issue and the ongoing peace agreements. And having the mandates of UNMIS and UNAMID being carried on. So that’s one issue where contacts with the Sudanese authorities will have to continue.
Question: But they don’t have to continue at the level of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Spokesperson: I’m not saying they will continue at that level.
Question: You said --
Spokesperson: I did not say that.
Question: We can replay the tape of the briefing if we want.
Spokesperson: Yes, we can replay the tape of the briefing.
Question: You said he would continue to meet with President Bashir. Will he not meet with President Bashir then?
Spokesperson: I said earlier that the UN-AU Joint Chief Mediator will continue to work with the parties. That’s what I said earlier.
Question: You said earlier, also, that Ban Ki-moon himself would continue to meet with President Bashir. Is that the case or is that not the case? Let me ask it simply, will Ban Ki-moon in future continue to have personal contacts, either by telephone or face-to-face, with President Bashir now that he’s been indicted by the ICC?
Spokesperson: I cannot answer that question at this point. Yes, Mr. Abbadi?
Question: Thank you, Michèle. I would like to ask the gentleman from the Legal Department. You have read the resolution, it’s very clear it’s under Chapter VII. In the event that that resolution is put into effect, how would that be difficult to carry out in view of the fact that the Arab League and other African countries are opposed to the arrest of President Bashir?
OLA representative: The part of the resolution that I read out that imposes a Chapter VII binding obligation ‑‑ binding on Member States by virtue of Articles 24 and 25 of the Charter ‑‑ is the first half: “The Security Council decides that the Government of Sudan and all other parties to the conflict in Darfur shall cooperate fully with … the Court and the Prosecutor.”
I then went on to read the second part of the sentence, which is worded rather differently: “… And, while recognizing that States not party to the Rome Statute have no obligation under the Statute, urges all States and concerned regional and other international organizations to cooperate fully.” There’s an obvious difference in the language. It’s obviously a matter for the Security Council to interpret its own resolutions and for Member States to read them and interpret them. I can see a difference myself between the two halves. Of course, the position countries may take vis-à-vis that second half of the resolution is a matter for them, particularly those that are States not party to the Rome Statute. For States that are party to the Rome Statute, it’s for them to decide what to do. I would assume that they will be complying with their obligations under the Rome Statute, whatever they may be. That may be a matter of interpretation, that’s for them to decide. I hope that answers your questions.
Question: So just to follow-up. In your opinion, in your legal opinion, does Sudan have a point here?
OLA representative: I don’t understand your question, so I can’t answer it.
Question: Let me phrase it a little better then. In your opinion, given that there is wording that is different in two different paragraphs of the resolution.
OLA representative: It’s the same paragraph in two halves.
Question: Then is there a contradiction that you think could lead Member States to question whether they have to fully comply?
OLA representative: I’m almost tempted to flippantly remark, so many ‑‑ what Cicero said, I think ‑‑ “so many humans, so many opinions”. But there is clearly a difference between the first half and the second half of that paragraph. The first half is directed at Sudan and to the parties to the conflict. The second is directed to all States and other concerned regional and international organizations. There is, at the same time ‑‑ and the second half of the sentence recalls this ‑‑ it recognizes that States not party to the Rome Statute have no obligation under the Statute. For what it’s worth, I think one can obviously see there’s some type of implication there by a kind of a backhand reference, if you’ll allow the metaphor, to those States that are party to the Rome Statute. Of course, for them, they have obligations under the Rome Statute. The Council has made no comment about those that I can see in that operative paragraph. Other than to recall, of course, that States that are not party to the Rome Statute don’t have obligations under the Rome Statute. That’s a rather serpentine and Byzantine answer, but I think, for a lawyer, the conclusions are clear.
Spokesperson: Yes, Neil?
Question: There are some reports out of Sudan that the Government has revoked the operating licences of at least six foreign aid agencies. Do you know anything about that?
Spokesperson: We are trying to get more information. I said it earlier, that’s what we had heard also. We don’t have ‑‑ we are waiting for more information on the ground on that.
Question: Also, is there any reaction ‑‑ also one of the rebel groups has announced ‑‑ I’m sorry if I missed this ‑‑ that they are not going to negotiate with the Government any more because of the warrant. Do you have any reaction?
Spokesperson: I am not aware of that. Yes?
Question: Sorry. Now I understand that message that you have been giving to the previous cases that were referred to the ICC. And this case is the same. You are asking for full cooperation from countries. Now, please tell us, why do you think there is a nuance here and that you felt that you needed to change the language? Whereas in previous cases asking directly that they should surrender the indictees and this time you’re not explicitly asking. Why do you think we need the subtleness or diplomacy? You can brief us on this diplomatic nuance?
Spokesperson: Well, that request was addressed to the authorities of Sudan earlier. To the President of Sudan, as you will recall. In the case of this specific case, the Secretary-General is not specifically asking Mr. Bashir to surrender himself. From what I gather, the ICC warrant was communicated to the Sudanese Government, to the Sudanese authorities as they were to the Member States parties to the Rome Statute, and they were communicated to the members of the Security Council. What will follow, we’ll have to see. And as you can see from our OLA colleague here, it is not a very clear-cut situation. Yes, Tarek?
Question: Just a little clarification, Michèle. Does Mr. Ban Ki-moon believe this indictment is for the interest of the political process in Darfur and [inaudible]?
Spokesperson: He has several times said that it is a matter for an independent ICC to decide. An independent ICC judiciary body that is completely separated from the United Nations has taken a decision. The Secretary-General respects that.
Question: Right, we know that. But does he think it will help stabilize the country at this moment or not?
Spokesperson: Well, there is no doubt that he has expressed his concern about the impact it might have on the peace process. And in his statement, in the statement I read earlier, he does mention that he trusts that the Government of Sudan will address the issues of peace and justice in a manner consistent with Security Council resolution 1593 (2005). So, he has said the UN will continue its vital peacekeeping action, its vital humanitarian assistance and development assistance to Sudan.
Yes? I’m sorry we have another press conference, which was scheduled for 15 minutes ago.
Question: The human rights organizations have been calling on the Secretary-General to ask Israel to open all these border crossings to Gaza. Has the Secretary-General taken it up with the Israeli authorities lately? Now?
Spokesperson: Yes, he has. Consistently.
Question: As of now?
Spokesperson: Yes, consistently. This had been done on a regular basis. This was confirmed by Karen AbuZayd, who was with us when the Secretary-General went to Sharm el-Sheikh.
Thank you all so very much.
[Regarding the questions about the reported expulsion of non-governmental organizations by Sudan, the Spokesperson later said the Secretary-General is concerned to hear that between 6 and 10 humanitarian non-governmental organizations have had their registrations revoked, and some of their assets seized. The Secretary-General notes that this represents a serious setback to lifesaving operations in Darfur, and urges the Government of Sudan to act urgently to restore these non-governmental organizations to their full operational status. She added that non-governmental organizations affected include Oxfam, Solidarités, and Mercy Corps. They were informed today by the Sudan Government Humanitarian Aid Commission that their legal registrations have been revoked, that they must produce a list of assets for seizure, and that they must leave North Sudan with immediate effect. The United Nations was notified that officials from the Sudan Government Humanitarian Aid Commission have insisted on accompanying some international non-governmental organization staff members into their offices and taking lists of assets and staff.
The Spokesperson noted that affected non-governmental organizations are the main providers of lifesaving humanitarian services, such as water, food, health and sanitation. Their departure will have an immediate and serious on the humanitarian and security situation in North Sudan, especially in Darfur, she said.]
* *** *For information media • not an official record