26 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 Eduardo del Buey, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  Welcome to the noon briefing.


**Sierra Leone


I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


The Secretary-General welcomes today’s delivery by the Special Court for Sierra Leone of the trial judgment in the case against Charles Taylor, former President of Liberia.


This is a historic and momentous day for the people of Sierra Leone, for the region and beyond.


The Secretary-General’s thoughts today are with the victims of the crimes for which Charles Taylor has been found guilty.


The judgment is a significant milestone for international criminal justice, as it concerns the first-ever conviction of a former Head of State by an international criminal tribunal for planning, aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity.


It sends a strong signal to all leaders that they are and will be held accountable for their actions.


The Secretary-General deeply appreciates the commitment of the Special Court to ensuring accountability for the very serious crimes committed against the people of Sierra Leone and United Nations and associated personnel during the conflict in Sierra Leone.


The Special Court for Sierra Leone is an excellent model of a cooperative partnership with the United Nations to bring those responsible for serious international crimes to justice in accordance with international standards of justice, fairness and due process of law.  It has helped the process of national reconciliation and the restoration and maintenance of peace in Sierra Leone.


As the Special Court for Sierra Leone nears the completion of its mandate, the Secretary-General calls on the international community to preserve and promote its legacy by supporting the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone, which will commence functioning upon the closure of the Special Court.


**OHCHR


And in this context, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, welcomed Thursday’s judgement by the Special Court for Sierra Leone in the Charles Taylor case, and said the guilty verdict against the former Liberian President for planning, aiding, and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity marked a major milestone in the development of international justice.


Her full statement is available online.


**Secretary-General Travels


The Secretary-General began his three-day visit to India today.


In New Delhi, he met with Ghulam Nabi Azad, Minister of Health and Family Welfare, as well as with Dr. Satya Paul Agarwal, Secretary General of the Indian Red Cross Society.


We hope to have readouts of those meetings later today.


**Security Council


This morning the Security Council adopted a resolution extending the sanctions on Côte d’Ivoire until April 2013.


Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous told the Council that in the months ahead, the United Nations will continue to streamline and strengthen the effectiveness of UNAMID uniformed personnel.  On the political front, progress has been affected by the problems in Sudan as a whole and the hostilities between Sudan and South Sudan.  He called on the signatory parties to live up to their commitment to implement the Doha Document for Peace.


**Chernobyl


Today marks the twenty-sixth anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, the worst nuclear power plant accident in history.


In his message, the Secretary-General says, on this occasion, as we pay our respects to the past, we also need to take stock and look ahead.  The United Nations is fully committed to the Decade of Recovery and Sustainable Development proclaimed by the General Assembly for 2006-2016, and to the United Nations Action Plan on Chernobyl, which contains a declaration of principles embraced by all United Nations agencies involved in recovery efforts.


One year ago, the Secretary-General visited the Chernobyl site and saw first-hand the great resilience being demonstrated by the affected people.


The Secretary-General calls again on the international community to generously support Chernobyl-affected regions as they continue their long-standing efforts towards recovery and normalcy.


The full statement is available online.


**Press Conferences Tomorrow


Tomorrow, at 10:30 a.m., Dr. Hamadoun Touré, the Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) will be here to give a press briefing on the role of the ITU.


**CERF


And I have one more thing:


The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has given some $82 million in the last six months to help humanitarian organizations in the Sahel scale up assistance to address rising hunger, malnutrition and conflict-related displacement resulting from the crisis in Mali.


Since November 2011, those grants to humanitarian partners in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, the Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal have provided immediate life-saving assistance to more than 3.5 million people.


This year, the donors pledged nearly $375 million in support of the Fund, bringing the amount contributed to the CERF since 2006 to $2.8 billion.


You can find out more on OCHA website.


Okay, ladies and gentlemen, that is all from me.  Questions, please.  Sylvian?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Do you know when the latest report, 1559 report, will be discussed by the Security Council?


Deputy Spokesperson:  No, I don’t have that information.  We will have to check with the Security Council office on that.  Mr. Abbadi?


Question:  Thank you, Eduardo.  There are indications that the Sahelian region of Africa might undergo severe crisis, especially in regards to death of children from malnutrition.  What is the United Nations doing or the Specialized Agencies to head off a humanitarian crisis in the area?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as I just read, the CERF contributions to the Sahel, we have given, so far, already $82 million in the past six months to help humanitarian organizations scale up assistance to address rising hunger, malnutrition and conflict-related displacement resulting from the crisis in Mali.  So, there is $82 million there.  We are looking for more contributions from donor States and as these contributions come in, they will be applied to help alleviate the suffering of the people.


Question:  That is for Mali; I am talking about entire region of the Sahel.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, for the entire region, as I said, as we’ve said here — one second, let me just get the statement out again — “These grants to humanitarian partners in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, the Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal have provided immediate life-saving assistance to more than 3.5 million people.”  So, the money is going to the Sahel region.

Question:  Is UNICEF doing anything in particular for children?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, you’ll have to ask UNICEF; I don’t have that information with me.


Question:  Do you have an idea what, the whereabouts (sic) of Mr. Abdulhadi al-Khawaja?  After the last statement by the Secretary-General, the guy disappeared.  His family is unable to get in touch with him and he is probably in his eightieth day of hunger strike.  Is there any response from the Bahraini Government on that?


Deputy Spokesperson: I have not seen any response from the Bahraini Government, but you know, on 24 April, the Secretary-General issued a statement on Bahrain, where he said he is concerned about the situation of Mr. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who remains on a hunger strike in detention.  The Secretary-General, once again, urges the Bahraini authorities to resolve Mr. Al-Khawaja’s case based on due process and humanitarian considerations without further delay.  The Secretary-General has asked that, and we are waiting for a response.


Question:  Is the Secretary-General disturbed that the officer who was responsible for a lot of brutality in the suppression of the protests has been promoted rather than demoted, or has been [inaudible] brought to justice?


Deputy Spokesperson:  No, we don’t have any information on that, Nizar, I’m sorry.


Question:  According to the implementation of the [inaudible]… report seems, is gone, going counter way, the other way, opposite [inaudible]


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General has made his statements on Bahrain, he has expressed his, as he said in his statement; he expects the Bahraini authorities to fully respect the fundamental human rights of the Bahraini people, including due process concerning all detainees.  So, the Secretary-General is calling on the Bahraini authorities to… he is concerned about the situation in Bahrain, particularly with regard to the continuing clashes between security forces and protesters.  He reiterates his appeal to all sides for utmost restraint and the immediate end of the violence.  That’s the Secretary-General’s position on Bahrain as it stands.  Matthew?


Question:  Sure, Eduardo, I want to ask you about this budget document for the Joint Special Envoy’s mission to, to Syria.  I mean, it describes certain, you know, posts, but it has this line in it that says extra-budgetary resources have been allocated to three Political Affairs Officers and one Senior Advisor.  So, I wanted know, I have asked this as best as I could to the Fifth Committee and ACABQ, they indicate this means non-UN money; that their secretariat has solicited outside funds, either from a Member State, or it could even be from a non-State.  And I wanted to know, can you disclose, either now or later this afternoon, from where these funds are coming?  Because it said they’ve already been allocated.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’ll have to check on that Matthew, I don’t have that information with me.


Question:  Okay.  But will you check on it?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’ll check on it, yeah, I will.  If we get a reply we’ll let you know.


Question:  Okay.  And I, I also wanted to ask you, in the Security Council this morning, Mr. Ladsous mentioned, without naming a Dar… a UNAMID staffer who he said has been arrested and detained by the Sudanese authorities since 24 February.  I wanted to ask you a couple, I mean one… obviously I’d like to know what the… what UNAMID is doing to get the person out, but there’s, there is this case in Ethiopia where, apparently, two DSS people have been detained by Ethiopia for some time, it’s in the Christian Science Monitor and described as a big loss of face for the UN, Yusuf Mohammad and another guy, Abdirahman Hassan, have been held, they say, as sort of bargaining chips, essentially to try to get other relatives of theirs to return from Denmark who have supported the Ogaden Liberation Front.  So I wanted… what is the UN’s policy on, I understand you, you want to be, you don’t want to jeopardize anyone’s safety by talking about detention, but it is troubling to learn that a UN staff member has been detained for, for months by Ethiopia and the UN has said nothing.  What’s the UN doing to get them [inaudible]?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the UN normally does not comment on these things for the safety and security of the people who are being detained.  But, the United Nations does work below the radar screen to try and get them freed as soon as possible.


Question:  And, in terms of how far below the radar screen, since this individual Yusuf Mohammad has been detained by Ethiopia, I know the Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has spoken with Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, so it’s… has he raised the fact that his own staff members are detained as leverage to get [inaudible]…?


Deputy Spokesperson:  As I said, Matthew, we don’t discuss whatever conversations take place with respect to detained people.  That is something that we maintain confidential so that we can ensure, as far as possible, the safety and well-being of the people that are detained.


Question:  How about the people that are PNG’d, persona-non-grataed, i.e., not at, endangered… there is a woman, Hawa Haidar, who is a staff member of UNAMID, who the Government unilaterally said they don’t want her to come back, I’ve seen the correspondence, she can’t even get back in to get her personal belongings.  Since it is not a matter of safety, it is just a matter of a Government…


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I’ll have to check on that, Matthew, I don’t have information on that particular case.


QuestionHawa Haida is her name; can you [inaudible]?


Deputy SpokespersonHawa Haida, yeah.


Question:  Okay, thanks.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Mr. Abbadi?


Question:  Eduardo, last week I asked a question as to whether or not the Secretary-General has received a copy of a letter sent by President Abbas to Prime


Minister Netanyahu, and you said you’d look into it.  Has… were you able to do that?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I have, and I haven't had a reply yet.  We’ll have to check into it for you.  Okay, thank you very…


Question:  Can I ask one more thing?  This is, this is a safety…


Deputy Spokesperson: Yes?


Question:  …I mean, in the last few days, passing from this building here to, to cover the Security Council, there has been a number of signs up about asbestos abatement, but it’s been, it seems that it was just done with cheap plastic, I mean, a number of people seem… said it seemed kind of amateurish or bush league and I wanted to know, is this asbestos abatement, and the way in which it is being sealed off with plastic, which got torn later in the afternoon, has this been looked at by DEP of the City’s environmental agency of any outside party, or is it just a pure UN...?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I’ll have to find out about that for you, Matthew, I don’t have any information on that.


Question:  Okay.


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


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For information media • not an official record