|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 briefing.
The Secretary-General has been co-chairing the Istanbul conference on Somalia today. In his remarks to the conference, he said his message was for the world to commit to long-term assistance for Somalia. He said the United Nations would lead in helping achieve peace, stability and prosperity.
The Secretary-General said Somalis had moved to complete the Roadmap for ending the transition and that Somali leaders had confirmed that the transition will end on 20 August. The end of that transition marks the beginning of a new phase of inclusive dialogue where all Somali voices should be heard. The Secretary-General emphasized the importance of applying the decision to include 30 per cent of women in institutions.
Among the challenges Somalia faces, the Secretary-General highlighted attacks on journalists and the need to keep human rights at the centre of the political process. He urged donors to contribute to building the security sector and rule of law. He said that in the face of terrorism, piracy and drought, Somalia needs solidarity and a comprehensive investment plan.
The Secretary-General is taking part in a press conference about now, and we will provide a transcript as soon as we can. He has also had quite a few bilateral meetings, and we'll distribute readouts where we can.
Yesterday, in the presence of the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) observers, 210 detainees in Damascus, and 13 detainees were released in Dara'a. This is the number that was released in the presence of UNSMIS military observers; we cannot at this stage verify other reported releases.
Both the Secretary-General and the Joint Special Envoy, Kofi Annan, have said repeatedly that we must see the release of all detainees being arbitrarily held, and that clearly many more must be released.
On the reports of further execution-style killings in Qusayr (Homs) — UNSMIS has sent two teams to this area. We cannot yet confirm the reports but teams are right now working on this.
**Syria — Human Rights
In her statement to the Human Rights Council in Geneva today High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said she was appalled by the atrocities committed in El-Houleh, and echoed the calls of the Secretary-General and of the Joint Special Envoy, Kofi Annan, for an immediate end to all forms of violence and human rights violations by all parties.
She said that, according to preliminary reports, on Friday, 25 May, shortly after a demonstration had taken place, the Syrian military allegedly unleashed a barrage of heavy weapons on the El-Houleh area. Some reports suggest that pro-Government Shabiha paramilitary groups also entered the villages and may bear responsibility for dozens of killings.
The High Commissioner said the acts may amount to crimes against humanity and other international crimes, and may be indicative of a pattern of widespread or systematic attacks against civilian populations that have been perpetrated with impunity. Ms. Pillay said that the Government of Syria said that it has established an inter-ministerial committee to investigate these events. Nevertheless, she said, there is a need for prompt, independent and impartial international investigations into all serious human rights violations in Syria, including those that have occurred in El-Houleh.
She said that we must make all efforts to end impunity, to ensure accountability for perpetrators, and to provide adequate and effective remedies for the victims.
She reiterated her call to the Government of Syria to grant the Commission of Inquiry full and unimpeded access to the country to carry out investigations into all human rights violations, including the El-Houleh events. Her full statement is available on line.
And the Human Rights Council has just adopted a resolution on Syria. In it, the Council strongly condemned the use of force against civilians, including 49 children, in El-Houleh. The resolution also requests the Commission of Inquiry to urgently conduct a comprehensive, independent and unfettered special inquiry into the events in El-Houleh.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) released today a new global estimate of forced labour. According to this estimate, 20.9 million people are victims of forced labour globally, trapped in jobs into which they were coerced or deceived and which they cannot leave.
Women and girls represent the greater share of the total, 55 per cent as compared to 45 per cent for men and boys. Of the total number of 20.9 million forced labourers, 22 per cent are victims of forced sexual exploitation, 68 per cent are victims of forced labour exploitation in economic activities and the remaining 10 per cent are in state-imposed forms of forced labour, for example in prisons.
**Secretary-General’s Rio+20 Press Conference
To let you know, the Secretary-General will hold a press conference Tuesday, 5 June, at noon to speak about and take questions on the forthcoming Rio+20 Conference. Consequently, there will not be a noon briefing that day.
At 2 p.m. today, Omar Jamal, Chargé d'Affaires of the Permanent Mission of Somalia to the UN, will give an update on the Somalia Conference being held in Turkey, the road map and the recent assassination attempt on the Somali President.
And press conferences on Monday, at 10:30 a.m., Lourdes Aranda, Mexican Sherpa for the G-20, will hold a press conference on the Mexican presidency preparations for the G-20 Leaders’ Summit to take place in Los Cabos, Mexico, in mid-June.
At noon, Georg Kell, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact, will introduce the results of the Global Compact Annual Implementation Survey.
And at 12:30, the President of the Security Council for June, Ambassador Li Baodong, will discuss the Council's programme of work for the month.
And to repeat, the Secretary-General will hold a press conference Tuesday, 5 June, at noon to speak about and take questions on the forthcoming Rio+20 Conference. Consequently, there will not be a noon briefing that day.
That’s it from me. Questions, please? Masood?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Syria situation. I mean, I know the Human Rights Council has passed this resolution, comprehensive, but they… but in all this they seem to be overlooking that there is another element operating Syrian… in Syria, based… the outside [inaudible] forces also… I mean, the so-called militia and… and their recruits also responsible for killing inside Syria. Will there be confidence in the investigation with the… will they… who got the involvement of the foreign mercenaries inside Syria?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the important thing is to get an independent team into Syria to be able to investigate. It is very difficult to investigate what is going on from the outside. So as Navi Pillay and the Joint Special Envoy and the Secretary-General have said and as the Human Rights Council just voted today, there has to be an independent commission of inquiry going into Syria to investigate the violence coming from all parties.
Question: Another question. Like yesterday, the Israeli Government handed over 81 bodies of Palestinians to the Palestinian authorities, the thing is, has anybody asked what were the bodies doing in possession of Israel for such a long time and as to how they killed them? I mean, that process is closed?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, that is not an issue I have any information on right now, no. Matthew?
Question: Yes, sure, I want to ask a couple of questions about Sudan. One is that there is a report that Sudan has… has given letters of… of expulsion to four NGOs [non-governmental organizations] operating in east Sudan, including Save the Children Sweden and a group called [inaudible], and I wonder what the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs [OCHA] has to say about the expulsion of these groups. And also, there… there seems to be a dispute whether Sudan is keeping its police… armed oil police inside Abyei. It seems… the Government seems to have, since yesterday’s Council meeting said that they are keeping them and I wanted to know if either Mr. Menkerios or the Secretary-General has a response to that.
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, in response to the first part of your question, I would ask you to phone OCHA up and ask them what their response is to that. I have no information on it. With respect to the police, the Secretary-General has urged the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan to immediately establish the Abyei area administration to provide the governance leader for civilians in the area to live in peace, as well as the other bodies provided under the 20 June 2011 agreement on temporary security arrangements for Abyei. The Secretary-General has called on Sudan to withdraw all remaining police forces. One more question?
Question: I have more than one, I mean, it’s… whatever, it is… it is like 12:10 p.m., so maybe I’ll ask two, I believe.
Deputy Spokesperson: You can ask.
Question: Can I have two questions?
Deputy Spokesperson: You can ask two questions.
Question: Okay, great, thanks a lot. One is Rwanda and one is about… is about here in… inside the building. The Foreign Minister of Rwanda has said publicly that she has summoned Roger Meece of MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] to Kigali to explain what she calls the spreading of false rumours and vol… and… and aggravating the volatile situation in the Great Lakes region of Africa. I wanted to know if… if… Mr.… Mr. Meece has received this invitation and also what he says to… to this pretty serious accusation by a Foreign Minister of Rwanda?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I’ll have to check on whether Mr. Meece has, in fact, received this invitation from the Rwandan Foreign Minister to go to Rwanda. But you know, we stand by the statement I made two days ago in which we talked about the Rwandan… the combatants from M-23 who claimed that they had been recruited in Rwanda believing that they were going to be of service with the Rwandan Army, and that MONUSCO has informed the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo of their presence in their camp and is awaiting a decision as to how the Government should like to proceed. We stand by that.
Question: Okay, good. And so this… this is a question I want to ask, it’s a little… it’s… and thanks for… for the opportunity. I wanted to know, in… in the… in the… in the UN’s commitment to sort of free and independent press, issues arise in which… in which many media organizations have rules that journ… their journalists shouldn’t have a financial relationship even as a landlord with the people that they cover. Some missions here actually have that same understanding that their people in their missions wouldn’t enter into such engagements with ostensibly independent journalists. So I wanted to know, whether within the UN system — whether it is OLA and who you… you may tell me to contact them, but they don’t answer — but whether the UN has any principles or ideas or thoughts on the idea of UN officials entering into a financial relationship with the journalists who are ostensibly covering them independently. Any thoughts?
Deputy Spokesperson: UN officials from the general Secretariat?
Deputy Spokesperson: I would have to check on that, I have got no information. We’ll have to check with the ethics people on that.
Question: Can you get back to me?
Deputy Spokesperson: Yeah, we’ll try and get back to you on that.
Question: Okay. As quickly as possible, if you could?
Deputy Spokesperson: Okay, thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. Have a very good weekend.
* *** *For information media • not an official record