7 September 2011
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 Eduardo del Buey, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon, ladies — well, gentlemen.  Welcome to the 12 p.m. briefing.


**Secretary-General’s Statement


First on the agenda is a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the terror attack in India:


The Secretary-General strongly condemns the bomb attack at the Indian High Court in New Delhi which has killed and injured many today.  The Secretary-General reiterates his firm stance that there is no justification for indiscriminate violence against civilians.  He expresses his solidarity with the Government and people of India.  The Secretary-General extends his sincere condolences to the families of the victims and hopes that the perpetrators will be brought to justice.


**Secretary-General in Australia


Moving over to Australia, the Secretary-General is back in Australia on the last part of his visit to the Pacific region.


He flew to Sydney yesterday afternoon from Auckland, where he attended the opening of the Pacific Islands Forum Summit.


The Secretary-General also took part in an exchange with all the regional leaders attending the Summit in New Zealand, discussing climate change, education, sustainable development and women’s empowerment.  He told reporters he had been encouraged by the leaders’ commitment to improve their record on gender equality, but he said there was much work to be done.


In Sydney, the Secretary-General attended a reception hosted by the Governor of New South Wales.  He praised Australia for its role over many decades in women’s empowerment, and he urged the country to continue to reach out to partner States in the Pacific region to stamp out violence against women.


The Secretary-General will be speaking at Sydney University in a few hours and then heading to Canberra to meet the Governor-General.  He’s also going to join young school children to plant trees in the National Arboretum in Canberra.


** Somalia


With respect to Somalia, as you will have seen, we issued a statement yesterday evening on Somalia.


The Secretary-General strongly welcomed the outcome of the consultative meeting which wrapped up yesterday in the capital, Mogadishu, at which key Somali leaders agreed on a detailed road map for completing the current transitional period.


He is encouraged that such an important political meeting was held inside Somalia, noting that this marks another step forward in the implementation of the Djibouti Peace Process.


The full statement is available on our website.


**Security Council


The Security Council was briefed this morning by Ambassador Néstor Osorio of Colombia, who serves as the Chairman of the Security Council Committee on Iran sanctions.


This was followed by a closed meeting on Cyprus.


**Deputy Secretary-General


The Deputy Secretary-General spoke this morning at the opening of the fourth session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.


She noted that more than 100 States have ratified the Convention, which is a testament to the growing global understanding of how important it is to redress the many challenges faced by persons with disabilities.


But even today, almost five years after its adoption, the Deputy Secretary-General said, too many persons with disabilities do not even know this historic instrument exists.  Far too many are denied the rights it is supposed to guarantee, and as long as they are denied these rights, we cannot rest.


Her full remarks are available on her website.


**Questions from Yesterday


I have got a few responses to questions that were asked yesterday.  I was asked yesterday about the allegations of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers in Haiti.  I want to clarify that in mid-August, the UN Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, had not seen the video.  As the new evidence became available, the UN conducted a preliminary fact-finding process which determined that it was necessary to instigate a full and thorough investigation.  Under the procedures agreed between the UN and troop-contributing countries, it is now the responsibility of the Government of Uruguay to conduct the investigation, with the full support of the UN.


On the allegations of waste disposal, the Mission issued a press release in this regard on 25 of August.  The Mission has denied that it has disposed of waste in Hinche or elsewhere in the country.  MINUSTAH says that the Hinche camp is equipped with a waste-management site; waste is not transported out of the camp.  Furthermore, the Mission is planning to undertake reviews of military installations to ensure that waste-management practices are in order.


I was also asked about consensual relations with mission personnel.  Consensual sexual relations between United Nations personnel and beneficiaries of assistance is strongly discouraged.  Sexual relations with minors under 18 years old, whether consensual or not, are deemed to be sexual abuse and, therefore, prohibited.  Sexual relations, even if consensual, in exchange for money, goods or services is also prohibited.


I was also asked yesterday about a UN report on the mistreatment of detainees in Afghanistan.  The UN Mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, informs us that it is currently finalizing this report.  The Mission has shared the report’s findings with the Government of Afghanistan, including the National Directorate of Security.  They are taking the findings very seriously and are proposing a series of remedial actions, according to UNAMA.  The Mission also says that the findings indicate that the mistreatment of detainees is not an institutional or Government policy of the Government of Afghanistan.


**Press Conference


Tomorrow, there will be, in the Auditorium here, Joseph Deiss, President of the sixty-fifth session of the General Assembly, to give his final press conference.


Then at 12:30 p.m., there will be a press conference titled “Five Years in Captivity Incommunicado”.  The speaker will be Noam Shalit, the father of the Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit.  This event is sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations.


**General Assembly Press Kits


The Department of Public Information wishes to alert you that the press kit for the forthcoming session of the General Assembly is now available at the Media Documents Centre.  The kit contains a range of materials, including the General Assembly’s provisional agenda and a biography and photo of the President-Elect.  It is available in hard copy in Arabic, English and French, and on the General Assembly website in all six official languages.


**UNHCR


Finally, there will be a private viewing today of the photo exhibition titled:  The World’s Stateless, which is being co-hosted by the UN refugee agency.  The event takes place at 6 p.m. at the Visitors’ Lobby, and UN-accredited journalists are invited to cover it.


That’s all from me.  For you?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Pierre-Antoine Donnet from Agence France Presse.  Is there a meeting planned between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on 20 September?


Deputy Spokesperson:  We have no information yet on any meetings that the Secretary-General may be having during the General Assembly.  When we have that information we will make it available.


Question:  I had also asked yesterday if you knew when the Quartet will hold its next meeting?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I am sorry, we will have to find that out.  I’ll try and get that information to you.  Matthew?


Question:  Sure, thanks a lot.  Thanks for those, those responses from yesterday.  I wanted to ask you something on, on Haiti.  I guess first is that there is an editorial in today’s New York Times about cholera in Haiti, which says, you know, that, that this was apparently caused by sewage from UN peacekeepers.  And I just wonder, what is now the UN’s position on how the cholera in Haiti occurred?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we are in the process of investigating and when we have a response we will get back to you on it.


[The Deputy Spokesperson later noted that an Independent Panel of Experts to investigate the source of the cholera outbreak in Haiti had been established in January and that the Panel submitted its report to the Secretary-General in May.  Following the submission of the report, the Secretary-General convened a task force within the UN system which is studying the findings and recommendations made by the Independent Panel of Experts to ensure prompt and appropriate follow-up.  The Deputy Spokesperson also noted that the Panel concluded that the Haiti cholera outbreak was caused “by the confluence of circumstances and was not the fault of, or deliberate action of, a group or individual person”.  He also said the Secretary-General had expressed the continuing commitment of the United Nations to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Government and people of Haiti in the ongoing fight against the cholera epidemic, which caused significant loss of life.]


Question:  And I just, the, the Uruguayans, at very high levels, have actually now offered their apologies to Haiti for the incident, whether it’s the incident of sexual abuse, whether it is called rape of otherwise, and I wondered, is that, I mean that’s obviously up to them to do it.  Is that something that the UN either joins them in?  Do you see that as a positive step?  What’s the UN’s current position as to that incident, filmed incident?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we see the Uruguayan response as being extremely positive and responsible as a troop-contributing country, and we welcome their participation, active as it has been in the investigation, and their commitment to see the investigation through to fruition.


Question:  Yesterday I had also asked you, sir, about this Libya on which you probably [inaudible], about the whereabouts of Colonel Muammar Qadhafi.  Do you have, does anybody in the United Nations have any idea where is he… or is there any, I mean, inkling that the United Nations has where he could be, or has he contacted the United Nations because rumoured that he is trying to make a deal with the rebels to be…?


Deputy Spokesperson:  To the best of my knowledge we have no information as to Colonel Qadhafi’s whereabouts.


Correspondent:  [inaudible] a few minutes ago that the Arab representative of the Transition Council said that Qadhafi is in Bani Walid, and that he appeared yesterday?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, you have good information, and I am sure that our people on the ground in Tripoli are in contact with the Council, and if we find anything out we will be very glad to share it with you.  Matthew?


Question:  Sure, okay.  A couple of questions about the Secretary-General’s visit, I guess, to New Zealand, to the… to the conference there.  One was that there, there were various reports of… of what his position is on the continued use of Fijian peacekeepers, given that it is a country that has had a coup.  Kofi Annan, actually as he left, said that maybe the UN shouldn’t be taking peacekeepers that are… that are… have just suffered a military coup.  What is… it is now viewed as sort of the Secretary-General, you know, defending the use of Fijian peacekeepers.  Is that… is that accurate?  I have seen that headline, but what is the position of the UN with regard to Fijian peacekeepers?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I will have to find out and get back to you on that.


[The Deputy Spokesperson later clarified that the UN has reviewed the offers of troop contributions from Fiji on a case-by-case basis since 2006.  The UN has not deployed and will not deploy any known or suspected human rights violators, he added.]


Question:  Okay.  And there is also one… one of the other controversies there had to do with French Polynesia, move by French Polynesia, to become listed on the UN decolonization list taken up by the Fourth Committee.  And since the UN has historically had such a big role in decolonization, I wondered, did he… did he hear about that while he was there?  Does he have any view whether… whether the President of that… that territory wants to be put on the decolonization list as made [inaudible]?


[The Deputy Spokesperson later said that in his press conference in Auckland, New Zealand, yesterday, the Secretary-General said that he had listened to the concerns of some leaders, including French Polynesia, concerning the right of self-determination.  The Secretary-General noted that it is up to Member States voting in the General Assembly to decide on the re-listing or delisting of any territory as Non-Self-Governing Territory.]


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we will have to check with his delegation to find out when, in fact, he, you know, what his meetings since [inaudible].  Yes?


Question:  On, I think it was on last Monday or Tuesday, we’d asked questions about this; you said you’d get back to us about the, India’s killing of Pakistani soldiers on the border between India and Pakistan and Kashmir.  And you said you’d get back to us.  Do you know what   this, that anything UNMOGIP [United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan] has said or anything about that?


Deputy Spokesperson:  We have no further information on that.  When we have something we will be in a position to discuss it.


Question:  So you have not had any information from UNMOGIP?


Deputy Spokesperson:  To the best of my knowledge we have nothing on that, no.  Yes?


Question:  When will the Secretary-General actually return to New York?


Deputy Spokesperson: I believe he returns this weekend. Yes?


Question:  And… and I wanted to ask you, there was this… there was an incident in South Sudan — and Ambassador Rice of the United States just spoke about it at the stakeout — in which the UN’s highest human rights official in South Sudan, Benedict Sannoh, was beaten by South Sudanese police, apparently was taken to the hospital, and I just wanted to, she seemed to indicate that the UN, she said, the UN is investigating, I guess, why he was beaten.  Do you have anything?  Is there any reason that it might somehow be other than what it appears, which is just the beating up of a human rights official?


Deputy Spokesperson:  No, I really have no other information on that.  We’ll try and find something out for you on that.


[The Deputy Spokesperson later said that the UN Mission in South Sudan was aware of this incident and was looking into this.]


Question:  Okay, that will be great.  And just one… I want to ask one last thing.  This issue, an issue has come up about, if, and I understand there is a hypo-… there is a hypothetical but then there is a sort of a factual part of this.  If the… if Palestine were to become an Observer State, i.e., not a Member of the UN but voted by the GA, enhanced status that they are a State, and they wanted to join the International Criminal Court, two delegations had said they would then file something with Patricia O’Brien of OLA.  One delegation said she would automatically have to just file it and they could join the ICC.  Another delegation said she would have some discretion whether to pass it on.  I don’t expect, it’s kind of a, it’s a, it’s pretty highly charged; it seems technical, but it’s pretty important.  Is there some way to get, either to get Ms. O’Brien to give a briefing, or to know on… on just what the legalities of joining the ICC are, and the UN’s role, or to get some answer from her officer or the Secretariat?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, let’s check into it and we’ll try and get back to you on that.


Question:  On the issue of United Nations Security Council’s expansion, which has been going on for a long time, there has been, I mean, the conference going on between various countries to decide as to what is the way forward.  Now, we… I had last asked the Spokesman to the President of the General Assembly to ask the Ambassador of Afghanistan, Mr. Tanin to give us a briefing on what is the… what is… what is the latest now on that.  Is there a possibility that can be done now?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, you’d have, have you asked the Spokesperson for the [General Assembly].


[The Deputy Spokesperson later added that the Secretary-General had already noted that the necessity to reform the Security Council seemed to be a common view of Member States and that the General Assembly was discussing this subject through an informal process and through intergovernmental negotiations.]


Correspondent:  [inaudible] last Spokesman.  I think Mr. Victor has now left.  I think there is going to be a new Spokesman for the President of the General Assembly.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, you have to ask the Spokesperson’s office and see if somebody there could…


Correspondent:  Yeah, [inaudible] ask Victor who, I think he should be, President Deiss’s, he has served President Deiss’s, I mean, he is… I don’t see him, but he is still the Spokesman for the President of the General Assembly, and he said yes, we are going to hold it.  And then I have not heard anything about it.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I haven’t heard anything about that, but the [General Assembly], normally there is a Spokesperson for the [General Assembly], who deals with those questions.  Okay?  One last question?


Question:  Will the Secretary-General visit any other country on his way back to New York?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t believe that is in the cards, no.


Okay, thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.  Have a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record