DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon. We announced yesterday that our guest at the noon briefing would be Michael Steiner, the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Kosovo. That is still the case, but we have an important announcement to make on Cambodia, for which we've asked the Secretary-General's Legal Counsel, Hans Corell, to join us.
Our briefing today will consist of just one item, which Mr. Corell will present. The balance of the briefing will be put directly on the Web. Following Mr. Corell, Mr. Steiner will brief you on Kosovo. Here is the item on Cambodia.
The Secretary-General today instructed his Legal Counsel, Hans Corell, to deliver a letter to the Cambodian Government informing them that the United Nations will no longer negotiate with the Government on establishing a special court to try Khmer Rouge leaders for genocide and crimes against humanity for the period 1975 to 1979.
The letter gives two reasons for this decision. First, on a review of the entire process of the negotiation, the United Nations has concluded that as currently envisaged, the Cambodian court would not guarantee independence, impartiality and objectivity, which are required by the United Nations for it to cooperate with such a court.
Second, the Government rejected the United Nations proposal that the assistance that the United Nations would provide will be governed by the agreement between the United Nations and Cambodia. Cambodia insists that only its own rules would govern such assistance.
Mr. Corell is to here to explain the United Nations position and to take your questions.
** Briefing by Hans Corell, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel
Thank you, Mr. Eckhard, and good afternoon.
At the instruction of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the United Nations will no longer continue the negotiations with the Royal Government of Cambodia towards the establishment of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia for the Prosecution of Crimes Committed During the Period of Democratic Kampuchea. These are often referred to as the "Extraordinary Chambers". The reasons for this decision are the following:
The negotiations between the United Nations and the Government originated from a request by Prince Ranariddh and Mr. Hun Sen, at the time co-Prime Ministers of Cambodia. In a letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations of 21 June 1997, they jointly requested the assistance of the United Nations in
bringing to justice persons responsible for genocide and crimes against humanity during the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979. On 15 March 1999, an expert group appointed by the Secretary-General proposed that an international court be established. But, the scenario changed. In a letter to the Secretary-General of 17 June 1999, that is to say two years after the original request, Mr. Hun Sen, who is now the sole Prime Minister of Cambodia, modified the request; the focus was now to be on a national court with the participation of foreign judges and prosecutors.
Despite the fact that an international court was no longer requested, the United Nations was encouraged by Member States to continue the efforts of bringing the Khmer Rouge leaders to justice. Therefore, the United Nations engaged in negotiations of an agreement between the Organization and the Government. On three occasions, United Nations delegations visited Phnom Penh at the invitation of the Government. Those visits took place in August 1999, in March 2000 and in July 2000. On the last occasion, I was then head of the delegation. I departed from Phnom Penh on 7 July 2000, with the belief that there was an understanding with respect to the outcome of the negotiations. The United Nations and the Cambodian Government had subjected both the draft law that was before the National Assembly and the text of the agreement to be signed between the United Nations and the Government to a detailed scrutiny.
The negotiations between the Government and the United Nations extended far longer than expected when the discussions began more than two years ago. During much of that time, the initiative rested with the Government, despite frequent statements by senior Cambodian officials holding the United Nations responsible for delays in the process. Indeed, during much of the period following July 2000, the United Nations waited for the adoption of the law establishing the Extraordinary Chambers. This did not occur until 10 August 2001, more than a year later. The United Nations received the official translations from Khmer into English and French under cover of Senior Minister Sok An's letter to me of 30 August 2001. During that period, the United Nations provided numerous suggestions aimed at assisting the Government in establishing a credible process and worked closely with Minister Sok An in drawing up an agreement on the establishment and operation of the Chambers.
After that long delay, it was possible for the United Nations to review the Law on the Establishment of the Extraordinary Chambers, which I will refer to as the "Law" in the future. In a letter to Minister Sok An of 10 October 2001, that is to say four weeks later, I stated that there remained for the United Nations a number of issues of concern. Principal among those issues is which document, the Law or an agreement between the Government and the United Nations, would govern the conduct of the Extraordinary Chambers in the event of a disagreement between the two documents. In a letter to me dated 23 November 2001, Minister Sok An stated, and I now quote him: "While the Articles of Cooperation may clarify certain nuances in the Law, and elaborate certain details, it is not possible for them to modify, let alone prevail over, a law that has just been promulgated". The United Nations must take this as the final position of the Cambodian Government.
It has been the United Nations consistent position that the Organization cannot be bound by a national law, in a context like this. Therefore, the United Nations insisted throughout the negotiation, in accordance with the usual practice in concluding international agreements, that the United Nations and the Government should reach a controlling agreement. In addition, it has been the consistent position of the United Nations that the Law would have to conform to the contents of the agreement. The question of Cambodia's sovereignty is not at issue here. The matter required an agreement to be implemented under the principle, which we call in international law, pacta sunt servanda, which means basically that the terms of the agreement are binding on both parties.
The problem of which document would control the conduct of the Extraordinary Chambers was created by the decision of the Government to present the Law to the National Assembly before reaching an agreement with the United Nations. The United Nations reluctantly continued to discuss the agreement and the establishment of the Extraordinary Chambers with the Government despite its stated reservations about that process. This has never been merely a procedural concern of the United Nations. On the contrary, reaching such an agreement has been a necessary condition for the Organization's participation. Reducing the agreement to the status of a technical, administrative document subordinate to the Law would deprive it of its substantive role of ensuring that international standards of justice, necessary for the continued participation of the United Nations, would be maintained in the operation of the Extraordinary Chambers.
Given the Cambodian Government's position in this matter, it is not likely that the parties would resolve it through further negotiations. In addition, and having reviewed the correspondence over the last few months, including a letter which I received from Minister Sok An of 22 January 2002, the United Nations has come to the conclusion that the Extraordinary Chambers, as currently envisaged, would not guarantee the independence, impartiality and objectivity that a court established with the support the United Nations must have.
During the negotiations the United Nations maintained that international standards of justice must be met for the United Nations to participate in the Extraordinary Chambers. The United Nations has made great efforts to accommodate the concerns of the Government. At the same time, we attempted to the best of our ability to protect the integrity of the Chambers and the prosecution. The United Nations regrets that the Government was unable to address its concerns before the Law was adopted so that they could be reflected in the Law and, which is extremely important, so that the agreement would thereafter effectively govern the standards agreed to. Unfortunately, the Government acted on its own without recognizing that an agreement must be based on the consent of both parties.
Another aspect. In light of all these circumstances that I have referred to now, the United Nations has reviewed the negotiation process as it has developed from the first contacts between the United Nations and the Government in June 1997 until now. What has emerged during this period, and, in particular, since the last negotiating session in Cambodia in July 2000 has given cause for great concern on the part of the United Nations. The United Nations is especially concerned at the lack of urgency shown in the year and a half since that visit. That delay extended the time before which the aged Khmer Rouge leaders could be brought to justice. The United Nations fears that this lack of urgency could continue and affect the work of the Extraordinary Chambers, which would be vulnerable to delay.
Therefore, having carefully considered these concerns, the United Nations has concluded that the proceedings of the Extraordinary Chambers would not guarantee the international standards of justice required for the United Nations to continue to work towards their establishment and have decided, with regret, to end its participation in this process.
Recognizing the stated goal of the Cambodian Government to establish the Extraordinary Chambers without delay, this decision would enable it to make other arrangements and begin this process of brining the leaders of the Khmer Rouge to justice.
The United Nations shares with the Cambodian people a desire to bring the Khmer Rouge era to a close in a way that contributes to national reconciliation and justice and wishes the Government well in its efforts to reach this goal.
Thank you for your attention.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Can you be more specific about what particular standards and procedures, as envisaged by the Khmer Government in these trials, are of concern to the United Nations, violating its standards?
Mr. Corell: There are several concerns here. First of all, the arrangement as such is a very, very intricate arrangement. We tried in the negotiation to ascertain that in all the different steps here, there are three instances in the pretrial chamber that these standards were met. But there are several issues, which we had raised to the Government. One of them, for example, is that the accused would not be allowed to appoint counsel of their own choosing.
But there are a number of issues, and I don't think I should go into detail here, but the whole concept, and the fact that the Government is not prepared to allow the agreement to be the governing document, means that we do not know what will be the development of this matter in the future. If the United Nations is to enter into an endeavour of this magnitude, where we would have to rely on support of many Member States to finance it -- we have seen our efforts in Sierra Leone -- then we must be certain that the legal framework is locked in the agreement. This is not agreed to by the Government.
Question: So it's not so much the specific points of the agreement that you take issue with, it's more of the controlling authority here.
Mr. Corell: Exactly.
Question: But are there, in addition to the thing about counsel, are there many different ones that you --
Mr. Corell: Oh yes. There is a list of concerns that we have raised with them.
Question: You don't want to say anything more about what they are --
Mr. Corell: Well I mean it's a very, very cumbersome exercise that we have entered into and there are other elements that are grafted onto the procedures that we have warned them that they simply cannot be met. We cannot agree to those, and they have not accepted that.
Question: On balance, what is more important, the lack of political will of the Government which you identified in the slowness of their movements since the visit of July 2000, or these technical problems? Which is the more important? Could you envisage any circumstances under which you would return and renew cooperation with the Government on this issue?
Mr. Corell: The United Nations has been engaged in this process for four and one-half years. The first two years were focussing on the options that were examined by a group of experts, and that led to a very clear recommendation by those. That recommendation -- an international court -- was not accepted. And this was noted in the Secretariat. But we were encouraged by Member States to continue the negotiations. I must confess that we had our misgivings, but we tried, as international civil servants, our best to achieve a result that could be acceptable.
Mind you, I received a lot of criticism from people who know this field of law, that we have gone too far. But we thought we could defend the result that was reached in July 2000, if that had been accepted, including if it had been accepted that the agreement between the United Nations and Cambodia would be the governing document. That was not accepted by the Government.
Whether we would return, the Secretary-General has taken this decision and this is what I am communicating to you now. I'm not going into any hypothetical questions.
Question: On the correspondence that you referred to in your statement, are those all public documents?
Mr. Corell: No, these are documents that I have exchanged with Minister Sok An. I know that some of them are available to the meeting. But the briefing that I gave you now, I will disseminate here.
Question: Was the final decision reached by the Security Council, the General Assembly or the Legal Department of the United Nations?
Mr. Corell: Certainly not by the Legal Department of the United Nations. This is a decision taken by the Secretary-General. But, the Security Council has not been involved in this matter, and I don’t think that the Security Council was interested in getting involved in this matter.
The General Assembly has followed it, as the General Assembly follows these matters, and they have of course encouraged the Secretariat to engage in these negotiations. But, basically, it has been the Secretariat and the Secretary-General who have been dealing with this matter.
Question: What do you describe as a change in the Cambodian position? What exactly do you ascribe this to?
Mr. Corell: I am not going to speak on behalf of the Cambodian Government. All I want to say is that we made it clear from the very beginning that we would have to have an agreement, clearly setting out the parameters, the conditions for the establishment of these special chambers. We asked the Government not to present the Law to Parliament before we had reached an agreement. In spite of that, the Government went ahead and presented a draft law to Parliament. We discussed this with the Secretary-General, because this is in a sense a technical matter at that stage. So we decided to really try our best, so we continued the discussion, but all the time, we clearly indicated to the other delegation that ultimately, we have to conclude an agreement. And Mr. Sok An told me if there is an agreement to be concluded, it has to be ratified. Now I received a message that there is no way that the Law will be changed or amended. We can have some marginal adjustments.
But that in itself is not the ultimate issue here. The ultimate issue is that unless the whole concept of these Extraordinary Chambers is governed by an agreement between the United Nations and the Government, the United Nations cannot enter into this, because it will leave the field open to the Government in Cambodia to make whatever changes they see fit in the future. And this is not the way the United Nations would enter into an agreement with a Member State.
Question: Can you give us your assessment of the quality of justice that Cambodian people are likely to face now that the United Nations has withdrawn from this?
Mr. Corell: I refer to what I said towards the end, that Mr. Hun Sen has often complained about the United Nations dragging its feet. He said that if the United Nations is not on board, then Cambodia would go ahead on its own, maybe with the support of the interested States. I do not know.
Question: What is the concern about the lack of urgency in terms of the Khmer Rouge. Either that people will escape or grow old and die?
Mr. Corell: This process has gone on for a long time. During the process, the Cambodian Government has tried to put the focus on the United Nations -- that we have been slow in responding. This is certainly not so. We are concerned at the latest development. I don't know really what they mean by this, but we simply register that it has taken an inordinate time for them to deal with the matter, since we parted in July 2000.
**Spokesman for Secretary-General
Thank you very much. We have a chronology of the United Nations dealings with the Cambodian Government on this issue, which you can get, either in my office or from Israel [Machado] in the back.
[The following is the remainder of the noon briefing as posted on the United Nations Web site.]
**Secretary-General Arrives for Olympic Games
Secretary-General Kofi Annan is in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he arrived Thursday, and will attend the opening ceremony of the XIX Winter Olympic Games later today.
This morning, he had breakfast with Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee, and also met with his Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, Adolf Ogi.
Later this afternoon, he will attend a reception, convened by Utah Governor Mike Leavitt, in honour of United States President George W. Bush.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, is in Washington, D.C., for a day of meetings. Brahimi had a morning meeting at the U.S. State Department with Richard Haass, Director of Policy and Planning.
In the afternoon he had meetings scheduled with Stephen Hadley, Deputy National Security Advisor, and Christina Rocca, Assistant Secretary for South Asian Affairs. Also on his agenda is a meeting together with Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State, and Vyacheslav Trubnikov, First Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia. A meeting with James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, was also scheduled.
In response to questions previously asked, the Spokesman noted that the Secretary-General today welcomed the decision of the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP) to request his good offices in the current peace talks.
He hoped that the parties’ decision to request the facilitation of the UN in addition to that of the Catholic Church and the Group of Facilitating Countries (Canada, Cuba, France, Italy, Mexico, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Venezuela) will help place the peace talks on a firmer footing.
There are no meetings of the Security Council scheduled for today. The Council’s next scheduled meeting is for next Wednesday, when it expects to have an open briefing from the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Angola, Erick de Mul.
This morning at 10 a.m., in Conference Room 7, the 661 Sanctions Committee for Iraq met.
**Committee Meeting Wraps Up for Johannesburg Summit
The second preparatory committee meetings for the World Summit for Sustainable Development close this afternoon, and the Chairman of the Preparatory Committee, Emil Salim of Indonesia, has prepared a summary and a Chairman’s paper, the latter of which is to serve as basis for negotiating the text of the conference in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The Chairman’s paper is to be circulated this afternoon.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Georgia, Dieter Boden, is expected to accompany Georgian State Minister A. Dzhorbenadze Monday, when he is scheduled to visit Sukhumi.
The principal event in the programme of the Georgian State Minister’s visit to Sukhumi will be his meeting with the de facto Prime Minister of Abkhazia, A. Dzherjenia. They will be meeting each other as the respective heads of the Georgian and Abkhaz delegations in the Coordination Council, when a discussion of current problems is expected to take place in order to revive the peace process.
Meanwhile, a patrol of the United Nations Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), led by Chief Military Observer Major General Anis A. Bajwa, is visiting the upper Kodori Valley yesterday and today. The purpose of the visit was not only to fulfil the requirement of UNOMIG’s mandate, but also in keeping with the 17 January 2002 Protocol on the Kodori Valley. The patrol travelled with the Georgian Minister for Defence, Lieutenant General David Tevzadze, and President Shevardnadze’s Representative for the Kodori Valley, Imzar Kvitsiani.
The Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office in Angola, Mussagy Jeichande, was received in audience by the Angolan Minister of Interior and Executive Coordinator of the Peace and National Reconciliation Fund, Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos "Nando.”
Speaking to the press after the audience, Jeichande said during the audience the two discussed the current humanitarian situation of the country. Jeichande, who was accompanied by the Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to Angola, Erick de Mul, said the United Nations has a working programme, and contacts with UNITA will be established within this programme. He said UNITA is an integral part of the process, adding that "Lusaka is the foundation, and Lusaka was signed between the Government and UNITA".
United Nations police reported that a 3,000-strong demonstration that turned violent in downtown Pristina has been contained. The demonstrators were protesting the recent arrest of three ethnic Albanians, former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) who were detained for crimes committed against other Albanians in 1998-1999. Three police officers were injured by rocks hurled by the demonstrators.
South Africa today signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children and Armed Conflict. South Africa becomes the ninety-fifth signatory to that protocol, which will enter into force next Wednesday, on 13 February.
Peacekeepers, humanitarian workers and journalists all work under difficult conditions in conflict and post-conflict situations. Their personal stories and struggles to deal with the aftermath of these experiences have been gathered together in an important book that addresses the condition known as Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. The book is called Sharing the Front Lines and the Back Hills, which is edited by Dr. Yael Danieli and has a foreword by the Secretary-General and many contributions from United Nations staff members.
Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, will visit that country at the Government’s invitation, starting on Sunday, 10 February, through 19 February. He will meet with Government representatives, judicial authorities, religious figures and civil society, and will also visit Kachin province to examine the human rights situation there.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) are helping to plan a major polio immunization drive in western Zambia and eastern Angola, following the confirmation of three polio cases among Angolan refugees. Two WHO-UNICEF missions are going to the region, one to Angola and one to Zambia, to deal with containing the virus.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) said in Geneva today that there are just under 1 billion mobile phones at the start of 2002. Within the first few months of this year, mobile phones will overtake fixed lines. This information will be released at the Second World Telecommunications Development Conference from 18 to 27 March in Istanbul, Turkey.
**The Week Ahead
**Saturday, 9 February
In Salt Lake City, Utah, the Secretary-General will address the Olympic Aid Forum and tour the Olympic Village.
Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Carolyn McAskie will travel to Nairobi, Kenya, and to Somalia through Tuesday, during which visit she is expected to travel to southern Somalia to observe the effects of the drought there.
**Sunday, 10 February
The Secretary-General will return to New York from his visit to Salt Lake City to attend the Winter Olympic Games.
**Tuesday, 12 February
The Secretary-General will speak at the opening of this year’s session of the Committee on the Rights of the Palestinian People.
The guest at the noon briefing will be Olara Otunnu, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.
From 1:15 to 2:45 in Conference Room 3, there will be a panel discussion on the book Sharing the Front Line and the Back Hills, edited by Dr. Yael Danieli, which has a foreword by the Secretary-General. The book is about peacekeepers, humanitarian aid workers and the media in the midst of crisis, and deals particularly with Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome.
**Wednesday, 13 February
The Security Council intends to hold a public meeting on Angola, to hear from the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Angola, Erick de Mul.
The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict will enter into force.
The third Global Ministerial Environment Forum will take place in Cartagena, Colombia, through Friday. Formally, the Forum meets as a special session of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Among the topics on its agenda is UNEP's contribution to the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development.
At 1:30 p.m. in Conference Room 2, there will be a briefing to present the main findings and the conclusions of the Commission on Macroeconomics and Health.
**Thursday, 14 February
The Security Council has scheduled its next regular briefing on the Middle East.
At 11 a.m., there will be a press conference by Airline Ambassadors International to launch the international Youth Art Cooperation sponsored by Airline Ambassadors International and the Spanish group “Paz y Cooperación”.
The guest at the noon briefing will be Erick de Mul, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Angola.
**Friday, 15 February
The Security Council has scheduled consultations on Ethiopia and Eritrea, one week before a Council mission intends to visit both countries. By the end of the week, the Secretary-General’s reports to the Security Council on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the “oil-for-food” program for Iraq and Special Court for Sierra Leone are expected.
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