2 April 2012
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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon everyone.  Welcome to the briefing.


**Security Council


This morning, the Joint Special Envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan, briefed the Security Council in closed session by video conference from Geneva on the latest developments concerning Syria.


The Council later discussed the situation in the Middle East.  I understand that those consultations have now just ended.  And the President of the Security Council for this month, Ambassador Susan Rice of the United States, is due to speak at the stakeout position any moment now.


** Fiji


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that rains brought on by a tropical depression have caused flooding in large parts of Fiji, especially the country’s western region.  The Government estimates that 150,000 people have been affected so far.  The United Nations remains concerned about the situation in Fiji and has offered support to the Government, which is leading the humanitarian response.


**General Assembly on Human Trafficking


Tomorrow, there will be a General Assembly interactive dialogue on the theme “Fighting Human Trafficking:  Partnership and Innovation to End Violence against Women and Girls”.  The President of the General Assembly, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and United Nations Goodwill Ambassador against Human Trafficking, Mira Sorvino, will deliver remarks at the opening of that event.


**Press Conferences


And then tomorrow, on press conferences, at 10 a.m., there will be a press conference to mark the release of a new report by the group Watchlist for Children and Armed Conflict.  That’s entitled “No One to Trust:  Children and Armed Conflict in Colombia”.


And then, at 11:30 a.m., there will be a mid-term press conference by the President of the General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser.  He will brief on topical global issues and key forthcoming events at the General Assembly.


And then, at 12:30 p.m., Ambassador Susan Rice, the Permanent Representative of the United States and the President of the Security Council for the month of April, as I just mentioned, will be here to brief you on the Council’s programme of work for the month.


So, I am happy to take questions from those who are here, and obviously to take questions from others later.  I do understand that there is a briefing going on with the Council President right now.  So questions, please.  Yes, Matthew? Take a seat, ask your question.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Okay.  I wanted to ask you the following.  One, there was a very large…


Spokesperson:  Get your breath first, take a breath.


Question:  Sure.  A New York Times article about Haiti and cholera, and they go into great detail and they say that, even the members of the panel that the UN cites so much, say that new evidence tends to show that it was introduced by the UN.  There is a quote by Mr. Banbury to the contrary, but virtually everything else in the article points to the UN and says it is… the UN’s refusal to take responsibility has led to further problems in Haiti.  And so, I wonder, I have seen Mr. Banbury’s quote, but is there any reflection on the UN on the mounting evidence that they are responsible for the introduction into Haiti into cholera… of cholera into Haiti, excuse me?


Spokesperson:  Well, I think, as we have said on numerous occasions, there are a couple of points.  One is that the UN has indeed received claims related to cholera in Haiti, and it is studying those claims.  And this is obviously a highly complex matter which will require thorough consideration.  And given the unique nature of the claim, needless to say, this will take some time.  And I think, as you can appreciate, when it comes to claims, that is not unusual.  The UN has advised the claimant that it is looking into the matter.  So, that’s the first thing.  The second thing is that, as you mentioned, there was the report of the independent Panel of Experts and, as you will recall, that Panel concluded that it was not possible to be conclusive about how cholera was introduced into Haiti.  And as I say, the claims are being studied and, therefore, at this point, I don’t have any further comment, including on the New York Times story.


Question:  Okay, and you… I guess just to make it a little more pointed, it seems like some of the panellists have now been quoted as saying that some subsequent scientific research makes the… they no longer stand behind the idea that it can’t be proved.  They are saying it pretty much has been proved, so…


Spokesperson:  Well, as I say, there was that Panel, there were the findings from that Panel, and clearly, at this point, given that the UN has received claims and those claims are being looked into, we don’t have any further comment right now, okay?  Any other questions?


Question:  Yeah, I wanted to ask…


Spokesperson:  Yes?


Question:  …footage has come out over the weekend of Ahmed Haroun, the Governor of Southern Kordofan, very, you know, shown in very clear video fashion telling troops in Southern Kordofan to take no prisoners and to clean them out, and a general stands next to him and says, “let’s eat them raw”.  And many are saying that this is proof of a war crime and obviously into some [inaudible] back to the UN actually flying Ahmed Haroun to Abyei and back.  Does the UN, given its continuing interest in this area, Southern Kordofan, and its role in the past with Ahmed Haroun, have any view of this tape and what should happen now if…?


Spokesperson:  Well, listen, as you know, we don’t have direct full access to Southern Kordofan in the fashion that we would obviously like.  So, it is very difficult for us to have a full picture of what is happening on the ground.  We are obviously extremely concerned about the reports that are coming out of there.  I think it is a bit of a stretch to be linking what may or may not be happening now with previous engagements of the kind that you mentioned — transporting this gentleman by helicopter.  But, I understand what you are saying.  I don’t have anything further on that particular point, except simply to stress that we are concerned about the reports that are emerging from there.  But, we don’t have the direct access that we would need to be able to really understand fully what is going on.  Okay, other questions, please?


Question:  Just one more on Sudan.  Has UNAMID conducted its inquiry into this, there was a report of them firing, on UNAMID itself, firing on protesters, 15 injuries; it said some were… were pretty… more serious?  I don’t know what has happened, but there was statement by UNAMID they were going to go out and check it out.  Have they done so? And what’s their finding on whether they complied with the rules of engagement and have any of the people shot actually expired?


Spokesperson:  Let me check.  I haven’t heard anything back on that particular topic.  Let me check again, Matthew.


[The Spokesperson later said that a multi-disciplinary team coordinated by the Human Rights Division of the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) was in Kabkabiya, North Darfur, this weekend to assess the situation and the circumstances surrounding the 27 and 28 March events.


The UNAMID team, which included civilian, military and police officials from the peacekeeping mission, sought to ascertain the causes and underlying issues that triggered the reported incidents, as well as how civilians and peacekeepers became casualties.


UNAMID reiterated that, in defending its premises from armed protestors trying to break into the compound, peacekeepers acted within their rules of engagement, and did not cause the deaths of anyone.


The UNAMID team reported that the local community leaders whom they met with reaffirmed their support for UNAMID’s work in the area and reiterated their interest in continuing their partnership with peacekeepers towards peace and security in Kabkabiya.


UNAMID is also planning a joint investigation with Government of Sudan law enforcement officials on the events of 27 and 28 March.]


Correspondent:  Okay.


Spokesperson:  Okay, thank you very much, thank you.


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For information media • not an official record