|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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
So good afternoon and welcome to the briefing.
My guests today are Mark Bowden, who is the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, and Ms. Kiki Gbeho, who is Head of the Somalia Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
So I am going to turn the floor over to them for some introductory comments, and then we’ll be able to take some questions for about 10 minutes, I understand. And then I will have some other items for you. So, please.
[Press conference on Somalia by Mr. Bowden and Ms. Gbeho issued separately.]
So I have a few other items for you.
**Human Rights Day
Today is Human Rights Day, and the Secretary-General is speaking at a number of events, including one that will take place shortly on ending violence and criminal sanctions based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
He will say that, although many nations have modern constitutions that guarantee essential rights and liberties, homosexuality is considered a crime in more than 70 countries. This is not right. And he will talk about the need to decriminalize homosexuality. We have embargoed copies of his remarks in my office.
Yesterday, the Secretary-General attended an event at the Ford Foundation and took the occasion to praise the work of human rights defenders, whom he described as courageous women and men striving to protect their rights and the rights of others, determined to make human rights a reality for all. He called on Governments everywhere to uphold the rights of these brave individuals. And he called on every nation to embrace the freedoms that they stand for — in particular the freedoms of thought, expression and peaceful assembly. And that statement is posted online.
The Security Council has been receiving an update this morning on the latest developments in Haiti from the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Alain Le Roy.
Le Roy informed the Security Council that Haiti’s electoral commission yesterday proposed the establishment of a tripartite commission to review the tabulation process with regard to the votes garnered by the three leading presidential candidates. We are awaiting clarification about the commission’s terms of reference and membership.
Council members also received a briefing this morning on the work of the sanctions committee operating under resolution 1737 (2006), which concerns non-proliferation and Iran.
A press statement will be issued on Haiti by the Security Council President once this morning’s consultations have ended.
And in Haiti, despite the difficult conditions, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Edmond Mulet, and his team have been in close contact with all the stakeholders. In particular, Mulet has had regular meetings and consultations with President [René] Préval, Presidential candidates as well as with members of the international community.
During these exchanges, the Special Representative has reiterated the United Nations’ strong commitment to support free and fair elections that reflect the will of the Haitian people. He has underlined that the results announced on 7 December are not final and are subject to the provisions stipulated in the electoral law, and has urged all candidates to exhaust the formal remedies and legal procedures.
And in response to questions yesterday, the UN Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, reports that non-lethal means were used by uniformed personnel in the capital after a Mission patrol was targeted by stone-throwing protesters.
** Western Sahara
Delegations of the parties to the Western Sahara conflict — Morocco and the Frente Polisario, and the neighbouring States, Algeria and Mauritania — will gather again in Greentree, Long Island, for informal meetings from 16 to 18 December. These meetings will take place at the invitation of the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara, Mr. Christopher Ross, within the Security Council mandate for UN-led negotiations.
These next meetings were agreed by the parties during their last round of informal talks in early November. And at their last talks, each party continued to reject the proposal of the other as a basis for future negotiations. The parties agreed that, at the next meeting, they would explore innovative approaches to try to create a better environment for progress. Ross is expected to issue a communiqué at the end of these informal discussions.
** C ôte d’Ivoire
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, says that some 2,000 Ivorians have crossed into Liberia and Guinea following the post-electoral crisis in the country. The refugees fled from villages located in western Côte d’Ivoire and told UNHCR their movement was precautionary, prompted by fears of instability and violence as the political deadlock persists.
A first group of 300 refugees reached Liberia on 29 November, a day after the second round of Presidential elections. Guinea started registering arrivals on Wednesday. UNHCR teams are visiting the refugees in both countries.
The Secretary-General’s Panel on the Referenda in the Sudan notes that voter registration for the forthcoming Southern Sudan referendum concluded inside the country on Thursday, although an extension was granted to some out-of-country registration sites to accommodate the late start of registration there. The Panel said it welcomed the peaceful and orderly conduct of the registration and the timely organization of the process.
The UN Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) have published a new report on the human rights situation in eastern Chad over the last year-and-a-half. The report highlights the main challenges concerning human rights, such as problems linked to the administration of justice, sexual violence and the recruitment of child soldiers by armed groups. The report also makes a series of recommendations to the Government in order to improve the protection and promotion of human rights in Chad. And the report is available online.
** Lebanon Tribunal Appointment
The Secretary-General has appointed Herman von Hebel to the post of Registrar of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Mr. von Hebel is a Dutch national with decades of experience in international law at three tribunals, including the Special Tribunal, as well as for the Government of the Netherlands.
“Herman von Hebel has served international criminal justice for many years with competence and independence,” said the President of the Court, Judge Antonio Cassese. “I am sure that in his position he will continue to show great professionalism and integrity.” We have a press release from the Tribunal with more information on this.
**Human Security Appointment
And the Secretary-General has appointed Yukio Takasu of Japan as Special Adviser on Human Security. Mr. Takasu has played a pivotal role in advancing a greater understanding on the notion of human security, both within the United Nations and outside for more than 10 years.
On 16 July 2010, the General Assembly resolution on human security was adopted by consensus, recognizing the need to continue the discussion on human security and to achieve an agreement on a definition in the General Assembly.
Mr. Takasu has now been requested by the Secretary-General to conduct close consultations with Member States, UN system organizations and other stakeholders to help achievement of a common understanding on this.
That’s what I have for you. I am happy to take questions. Yes, Masood?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Can you give us any update on the talks in Cancún, which it seems there is no agreement in sight at this point in time?
Spokesperson: Well, as I understand it, the discussions, the negotiations, obviously continue. My colleagues on the ground, I know, would be able to give you more detail. What I can tell you is that the Secretary-General remains very closely in touch with key players. This is clearly an area of great interest for him and for the international community. It’s obvious also that while, as we’ve repeatedly said, an overall framework agreement is unlikely, progress on a number of fronts can and should be made. And that’s what the negotiators, I know right now, are working as hard as possible to agree. Yes?
Question: During his meeting yesterday with the Secretary-General, did Mr. Ehud Barak point out any timetable on the withdrawal, the Israeli withdrawal from Ghajar?
Spokesperson: Well, I think it would be more appropriate for the Israeli Mission, or for the Israeli authorities, to comment on what Mr. Ehud Barak did or did not say. I think he addressed it quite a lot at his meeting with reporters at the stakeout, as I understand it. You will have seen that the Secretary-General did raise the topic. I think that there will be further discussions on this matter in the days to come.
Question: But no timetable, nothing?
Spokesperson: As I say, I would refer you to the Israeli Mission for them to speak. As I say, I speak for the Secretary-General.
Question: Recently, scientists were attacked and a scientist was assassinated in Iran, under terrorist attacks. One of these scientists was named in a resolution issued by Security Council. The Iranian Mission has distributed a letter, has sent a letter to Mr. Ban Ki-moon asking that, why you are naming scientists which are working in peaceful nuclear activities on your resolution and targeting them on the assassinations? Does he have any answer for this letter?
Spokesperson: I would need to check whether we have received a letter like that. I am not aware of such a letter at the moment. Okay. Yeah, other questions? Yes, Matthew?
Question: Sure. I have questions on Sudan and other things, but just a follow-up first on this, on Sylviane’s question about… I guess it concerns Israel. I wanted you to confirm if you can that the Israeli acting, I guess, Chargé d’Affaires, told me that Mr. Ban’s Panel has agreed to a late submission by Israel of its flotilla report; that hasn’t been submitted, it won’t be submitted until… is there any deadline for Israel to submit it and is it expected to be submitted already translated or could it be submitted in Hebrew?
Spokesperson: Well, on the technicalities, I would need to check. We have repeatedly said that we would like to see the findings submitted as soon as possible, so that the Panel can complete its work.
Question: But it hasn’t been submitted yet?
Spokesperson: No, it hasn’t been submitted yet.
Question: [inaudible] have agreed that it be, he said that the parties have agreed that it be submitted some time in 2011, and I just wanted to know: has the UN, this implied that the UN, the Panel, has somehow agreed to this. Are you aware of that?
Spokesperson: Well, what I can tell you is that we know, and it has been publicly said, that the findings have not yet been delivered and that they cannot be delivered immediately. And what I am saying is that we continue to ask that the findings be submitted as soon as possible. We understand that there have been some constraints on providing those findings, completing their national investigation inquiry. We’re simply saying that the sooner the better.
Question: And I also just wanted to know, has the — I call him the chargé d’affaires — Meron Reuben, has he presented credentials? Is he viewed as the… there is some dispute about his appointment here; it’s within Israel, but are you aware of him meeting with the Secretary-General Ban and that one of those formal things; and what’s the significance of those presentation of credentials? How long could a Mission go without having a Permanent Representative, I guess?
Spokesperson: Let me check on that with our colleagues in Protocol.
Question: On Sudan, this is… Yesterday at the open… ICC [International Criminal Court], Prosecutor Ocampo, [Luis] Moreno-Ocampo, presented a report to the Security Council about the Sudan file and he included a number of paragraphs about killings by the Government in Darfur — same things that we discussed in this room, but he says that actually, 14 villages in Jebel Marra have been destroyed; he said…he talks about the terror, tabarat, as he calls it, killings. And I guess what I wonder is, these are all things that UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] has not reported on. For example, tabarat, how many people were killed, what was done? I just wanted you…he said — this is the point in my question — Ocampo, when asked, said UNAMID is under threat; that’s why they don’t report these things. And I wanted your response to this — the ICC Prosecutor saying that UNAMID is not reporting on deaths in Darfur and that it’s because of threats by the Government?
Spokesperson: Well, UNAMID regularly reports on security incidents, including reporting to Headquarters and frequent press briefings.
And just as an example, on 8 December, the day before yesterday, the Mission stated that clashes were reported by the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Sudan Liberation Army-Minni Minawi in southern Darfur, southern South Darfur, I should say. And today, UNAMID reported on fighting between the same parties in the village of Khor Abeche, which is about 80 kilometres south-east of Nyala.
Question: Just one follow-up, because it seems like these are both incidents where the Government of Sudan itself has sort of bragged that it’s confronted the Minni Minawi forces. What I wanted to know is, maybe I will just use this as the example; there was this dispute about villages destroyed in September in Jebel Marra. There was an OCHA document saying five were destroyed. Now Ocampo says 14 villages were destroyed. What is UNAMID’s count, given that they are there on the ground? How many villages were destroyed in this time period?
Spokesperson: Well, obviously I can check again with our colleagues in UNAMID. The fact remains that UNAMID reports regularly on what’s happening — first point. Second, that in doing so, they are not relying on information from one side or the other. They obviously hear reports and then it’s for them to try to investigate to find out and to corroborate the reports that they receive. Okay, other questions?
Question: I had a couple more.
Spokesperson: Right. Okay, two more questions, then. You said a couple; let’s go for it.
Question: All right, all right. Well, then I won’t ask about Haiti. I wanted to ask you about Mr. Takasu and Jack Lang. How is Mr. Takasu going to be — you’ve announced him as Special Adviser — there is some controversy around the human security topic. Is he an Under-Secretary-General? How is he paid and how is Mr. Lang paid? Before I asked you about the letter that he wrote to [Laurent] Gbagbo as a French political official, was that permissible, and…?
Spokesperson: He is a Special Adviser; Mr. Takasu is a Special Adviser. And I think we have some more information on this in my office. As I have said very clearly, there is a General Assembly resolution and in that resolution, which was adopted by consensus, there was recognition of the need to continue the discussion on human security, and not least to achieve an agreement on the definition. And Mr. Takasu has been asked by the Secretary-General to consult with Member States and within the UN system organizations and others precisely on this point — to help come to a common understanding on this.
Question: And is there… is this a UN post and is it UN-paid? I guess that’s… the Fifth Committee sometimes wonders about Mr. [Ed] Luck, all these Special Advisers, whether this was a post?
Spokesperson: Well, let me find out. And maybe it says in the other information that there is in my office — I haven’t seen all of it yet myself — but he is a Special Adviser on Human Security, appointed by the Secretary-General. That means it’s within the UN. On the precise details that you’ve mentioned, let me have a look.
Question: And did you find out on the Jack Lang thing, whether it was permissible for a Special Adviser on Piracy to write a letter to Gbagbo as a Deputy Socialist Party official in France?
Spokesperson: Well, if such a letter was written, then he would not have obviously been wearing his hat as a Special Adviser on Piracy — that’s fairly clear.
Question: But isn’t it confusing to a world leader to receive a letter from a Special Adviser to Secretary-General Ban, even if in another capacity? I just wonder what the rules are. Are there any rules?
Spokesperson: On the assumption that such a letter was received, I am pretty sure that the recipient would have known who the person was and understood the context. I think that’s pretty clear.
Question: Okay. The other one was just… I wish I could ask about Haiti, but I would rather ask about [Inga-Britt] Ahlenius.
Spokesperson: Well, you can ask about Haiti, by all means.
Question: Sure. There was a letter that came out from Ahlenius that, a response to Vijay Nambiar’s letter, that was widely put on iSeek here. And she’s pretty… I’ll just say one thing, an example, she says that you’re shooting the messenger, she calls the tone vicious, and as one particular example she says, in terms of transparency, “The [Guido] Bertucci case is an interesting example” or the lack of transparency by the Secretary-General himself will cost the Organization $600,000. I just wanted to know, is there going to be, first — if you could respond to that one thing, it would be great — but is there going to be a UN response to this or to the book she is publishing? How does the UN view this critique by Ahlenius and the specific dollar figure she puts on the Bertucci case?
Spokesperson: We’ve obviously seen that report, Matthew, but really don’t have anything to say on this at this point. At this point, I don’t have anything to say on it. And what is your question on Haiti?
Question: Okay, great. Thanks a lot. And this is a factual one, giving… the head of, the President of the electoral council there said yesterday, in light of all these, the swirling fraud allegations, et cetera, he said that… he read a statement saying that the ballots will be recounted with international observers and electoral officials watching. So I wanted to know, will the UN be playing any role in this; will they be observing a recount? Will they certify the results?
Spokesperson: As I said to you, Mr. Le Roy is briefing the Council, and as part of that briefing he said that they are awaiting clarification about the Commission’s terms of reference and membership. So that’s still not clear.
Spokesperson: All right, thanks very much. Have a great weekend.
* *** *For information media • not an official record