DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

21 July 2008

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

21 July 2008
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

**Myanmar Statement

The Secretary-General welcomes today’s release of the Post-Nargis Joint Assessment Final Report on the margins of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting in Singapore.  The report offers a comprehensive, credible assessment of the humanitarian and medium-term recovery needs in the affected areas. As the product of an effective partnership between ASEAN, the United Nations and the Government of Myanmar, this report will help guide the relief and recovery efforts in Myanmar to ensure that the short- and medium-term needs of Cyclone Nargis survivors are properly addressed.

The Secretary-General congratulates ASEAN for the constructive role it has played in the successful Tripartite Core Group coordination mechanism. He believes this partnership serves as a very good basis for further cooperation between the Government of Myanmar, ASEAN and the United Nations.

** Myanmar

The Post-Nargis Joint Assessment report confirms that by early June, some 1.3 million people had been reached with some form of assistance, and that a second wave of deaths from disease and starvation had not occurred.  The report also highlights the revised Appeal, for $482 million, which was launched on 10 July in New York. To date, some $300 million is still needed for the period up to April 2009.

Under-Secretary-General John Holmes, in Singapore today, urged donors to continue their support to relief and recovery and commit funds pledged, based on the credible information gathered in the assessment and the broad access granted to the affected areas.

Holmes will travel to Myanmar tomorrow for his second trip to the area since the last visit in May with the Secretary-General.

** Zimbabwe

The Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Haile Menkerios, has returned to New York after taking part in consultations in South Africa over the weekend on Zimbabwe.

As has been announced publicly, the United Nations has agreed, at the invitation of the Government of South Africa, to join a Reference Group on Zimbabwe, which will accompany the mediation process and consult, as needed, on how to facilitate and advance the negotiations. The other members of the Reference Group are the African Union and the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).  President Mbeki remains fully in charge of the mediation process.  We may have a statement with more on this later today.

** Darfur

According to the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur, the security situation in Darfur over the weekend was relatively calm.

A peaceful demonstration attended by approximately 2,000 people -- mainly students -- took place in Nyala, South Darfur on 20 July.

In the past 24 hours, UNAMID forces conducted 19 security and confidence-building patrols throughout the region, and humanitarian programmes continued.  UNAMID Joint Special Representative Rodolphe Adada yesterday met with the new UN-AU Chief Mediator for Darfur, Djibril Yipènè Bassolé.

The Special Representative briefed Mr. Bassolé on the current situation in Darfur and the efforts being undertaken to speed up the deployment of the UNAMID peacekeeping force. Adada assured the Chief Mediator of UNAMID’s full support to make this mission a success.

UNAMID Force Commander General Martin Luther Agwai and Assistant Secretary-General Jane Holl Lute today visited the troops in Shangil Tobaya ( North Darfur) following the death of seven peacekeepers on 8 July and to show UNAMID's appreciation for all their hard work.

Meanwhile, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, Ameerah Haq, assured the Sudanese people that essential lifesaving services continue to be provided to vulnerable citizens of Darfur despite the atmosphere of ongoing insecurity, which has limited services and impeded access to some areas where people need assistance.

Ms. Haq called for the support and cooperation of all relevant authorities to help sustain these critical services to the civilian population.

**Security Council

The Security Council will hold consultations at 3 this afternoon.  Council members are considering the Secretary-General’s recommendation, conveyed by Special Representative Ian Martin, for a six-month extension of the UN Mission in Nepal.

Then after that the Council expects to hold a private meeting on the situation in Georgia.

**Democratic Republic of Congo

The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has sent a team of human rights investigators to a prison in the town of Mbuji Mayi, in the Kasaï Oriental province.  That’s after some 26 prisoners died from severe and acute malnutrition since February. The Mission said that very little was being done by the authorities despite the alarming number of inmates dying of malnutrition. The most recent deaths took place on 14 July when four prisoners died of hunger, bringing to 10 the number of inmates starved to death this month alone. Meanwhile, two dozen prisoners are considered to be in extremely critical condition due to malnutrition or starvation.

Originally built for 200 inmates, the prison in Mbuji Mayi now houses 425 prisoners.

** Afghanistan

The UN Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan today provided an update on its work in clearing mines and unexploded ordnance from that country. The Centre said that over the past six months, it has helped to collect and destroy more than 38,000 anti-personnel mines and 419 anti-tank mines, as well as more than 950,000 items of unexploded ordnance.

During the month of June, the Centre recorded a record-low figure of people dying from mines and unexploded ordnance, with 24 victims recorded. The Centre hopes that number can diminish even further.

**Trade

All this week in Geneva, the World Trade Organization’s Trade Negotiations Committee is meeting to discuss a range of issues, including tariffs and agriculture subsidies, that could shape a final agreement on the Doha Development Agenda.

In opening remarks today, WTO Director General Pascal Lamy told Committee members that they are within reach of a major step in the drive to conclude the Doha Round this year.

Amid rising food and energy prices and financial market turbulence, a balanced outcome to the Doha Round could provide a strong push for economic growth, improve prospects for development, and ensure a more stable and predictable trading system, Lamy said.

**Environment

And we have two environment-related items to flag for you.  The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), along with several partners, has launched a world soil database.  It tracks such things as current and future productivity, erosion risks, water limitations, and potential for carbon storage as a way to reduce greenhouse gases.

In other news, two Norwegian music festivals have become the first such gatherings to sign on to the U.N. Environment Programme’s Climate Neutral Network.

 As part of the initiative, festival organizers are providing solar charging points for mobile phones, electric golf carts for on-site travelling and wind- and solar-powered lighting systems. There is more information in on that upstairs.

**Press Conference Tomorrow

And our guest at the noon briefing tomorrow will be Ian Martin, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Political Mission in Nepal.

And this is all I have for you today.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Michèle, welcome back.  Do you have any special announcement to make about the new High Commissioner for Human Rights, which was made public by The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times?

Spokesperson:  Not yet.  We’ll make the announcement public when the General Assembly is informed.

Question:  I mean, the appointment has taken place?

Spokesperson:  Well, the appointment will take place when the General Assembly is informed.

Question:  I understand that, but can you confirm the report?

Spokesperson:  I can confirm that [a choice] has been made, yes.

Question:  OK. And also, there is this report about 13 Afghans killed by the US and NATO strikes.  Do you have any statement about that?

Spokesperson:  No.  I am aware of the report.  I have seen that.  As you know, the Secretary-General has several times intervened on the issue of civilian casualties.  But I don’t have anything specific on this incident.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you Michèle and welcome back.  Has the Secretary-General received an official complaint from Lebanon’s Telecommunications Minister on Israel violating, or what they alleged violated resolution 1701 in intercepting the telecommunications network in...?

Spokesperson:  I don’t think the Secretary-General has received any formal letter on that.  However, UNIFIL would be the ones informed first and I can try to check with them first.  Yes, Erol?

[The Spokesperson later confirmed that UNIFIL had indeed received a letter from the Lebanese Minister of Telecommunications addressed to the Secretary-General.]

Question:  Michèle, what does it mean exactly when the Secretary-General says in spite of very obvious disagreement and protest, I would say from Russia, that he would proceed with the reconfiguration of the UNMIK on the ground?  How will it go through the upcoming weeks and months?

Spokesperson:  As you know, the Russian authorities of course were informed of what the Secretary-General was doing, and we’re just continuing with the plan that was initially accepted.

Question:  And that’s all the protest that the Secretary-General is facing or is he facing something more behind the scenes?  How does that pressure like, if you can explain?

Spokesperson:  Well, it’s difficult to explain where all pressures come from.  The pressures are numerous, as you know, and the Secretary-General has tried -- he has said it himself -- to find the least objectionable solution.  However, we still are under [resolution] 1244.  That’s what the Secretary-General is going by. Yes, Nathan?

Question:  What’s the reaction to the memorandum of understanding just signed in Harare between the MDC and ZANU-PF?

Spokesperson:  As I said, we’re waiting for a statement on that.  We should get it within the next two hours.

Question:  And how would you characterise Haile Menkerios’s efforts so far in terms of adding the UN’s weight to the facilitation process, the mediation process that SADC and the AU are doing?

Spokesperson:  Well, you know what Haile Menkerios was doing.  At the invitation of the Government of South Africa, he joined a reference group on Zimbabwe with SADC and other members.  So, what he has done is put his input into the process.  But, as you know South Africa is, Mr. Thabo Mbeki, the President, is in charge of the mediation.  The UN has a supporting role.

Question:  Some Security Council members have said that that mediation process has essentially failed; Thabo Mbeki’s.  Is that the view of the Secretary-General?

Spokesperson:  No, it is not. He feels, on the contrary, that the agreement that has been signed today is one example of the process moving forward.  How far it will go, we don’t know.  The UN has, as I said, just a supporting role in this process.

Question:  So you see this as a success of the...?

Spokesperson:  I am not saying this is a success.  I am saying it is a step forward.  Yes?

Question:  Speaking of steps forward, and speaking of letters to the Secretary-General, did you receive any letter from parliamentarians from Burma?

Spokesperson:  Yes, he did.

Question:  And what is his view of their request that he will re-evaluate especially the seven-point plan that they say is illegitimate and was, I think in the past, described as a step forward?

Spokesperson:  Yes, we did get a letter from the five parliamentarians. It was received about an hour ago, so I cannot give you yet a reaction to that letter.  It was just received by fax about an hour and a half ago.

Question:  But does he still consider the seven point plan a step forward?

Spokesperson:  Well, this is still being discussed.  I don’t have an answer for you now to the letter.

Question:  No, this is not about the letter.  This is about the seven-point plan...

Spokesperson:  I mean, the whole process is being discussed as you know.  Mr. Gambari is preparing to go back.  So the whole process is being discussed.

Question:  Re-evaluated, is it fair to say, or just discussed?

Spokesperson:  Just discussed.  I don’t know, you know, how far they have gotten in terms of re-evaluating the process.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you.  An interfaith conference in Madrid organized by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah ended on Friday with a call for the Secretary-General to become involved in the next stage of the process.  I was wondering, has there been a formal request from Saudi Arabia and what is the Secretary-General’s response?

Spokesperson:  As you know, this has been discussed when the Secretary-General was in Saudi Arabia with the people in charge of the whole interfaith dialogue.  At this point I don’t think he has received a formal request yet.  But I am sure he is very open to following up with the process.  Yes?

Question:  On Friday, the Serbian Foreign Minister was here and he met with the Secretary-General.  I understand he told the Secretary-General that he wanted him to halt this move to handing over UNMIK’s authority to the European Union police.  What was the Secretary-General’s response, and could you maybe give us a little readout of that?

Spokesperson:  Well, the readout I got for you this morning because I assumed the question was going to come.  I can just say that the Secretary-General met with Serbian Foreign Minister Jeremic to discuss the situation in Kosovo, particularly in follow-up to the Security Council discussion on 20 June.

And they both agreed on the importance of close engagement in moving forward with the measures set in the special report to the Council that the Secretary-General submitted to the Council.  And they both reaffirmed their commitment to maintaining close dialogue.

This is all I can say at this point.

Question:  Is it not fair to say that Jeremic is a part of those pressures that are described on the Secretary-General, as my colleague previously explicitly said, to ask the Secretary-General to halt this process, or is part of the solution rather?

Spokesperson:  I am not aware either way whether he actually put pressure on the Secretary-General.  I am not aware of this.  I was not there at the meeting.  I can only say that there have been very many discussions on this with Serbia before; actually even before the Secretary-General even submitted his plan to the Security Council.  So, at this point, they are definitely part of the solution too.

Question:  Because Jeremic came from Moscow, directly. And he is today or tomorrow in Brussels talking about that.  Then his position seems to me, and the Russian position are very same. On the other part, the Secretary-General is moving forward with the reconfiguration, so, I don’t see how it is part of the dialogue.  But any how, my question is what is the role; how does the Secretary-General see the role of his new Representative, the chief of UNMIK?

Spokesperson:  Zannier?  Well, he’s specially assigned with reconfiguration.

Question:  Yes, but in terms of the dialogue. What is...

Spokesperson:  He also has a role to play in the dialogue, of course, because the reconfiguration implies, of course, constant discussion in the field on specific issues, and this is being carried out on a daily basis. So this not just something that you can decide at the top; this is something that is being done on the ground as the reconfiguration takes place.

Question:  The reason that I am pressing with this question is actually because the Serbian authorities obviously are trying to represent these, ask for more talks, for more dialogue as they are returning back to the process of negotiation between Belgrade and Pristina.

Spokesperson:  I don’t think we’re returning back to the negotiations.

Question:  It seems to me that it’s only technical issues that they are talking about, as you said.

Spokesperson:  Yes, those are practical issues dealt with on a daily basis, which have to do with the mandate given by [resolution] 1244 to the Mission.

Question:  So, Jeremic was in that framework?

Spokesperson:  As far as I know, yes.

Question:  Thank you, Michèle.  You know Amré Moussa of the Arab League is in the Sudan right now and it seems he’s trying to reach a compromise between President Bashir and the ICC.  Do you think Mr. Ban Ki-moon supports Amré Moussa’s efforts in this regard?  You know, the two Sudanese suspects who should have been delivered to the ICC they can be; their charges can be dealt with by the Sudanese courts in return for suspending the ICC indictment of Bashir.  What’s Mr. Ban Ki-moon’s position on that?

Spokesperson:  Well, the issue was discussed with Mr. Amré Moussa in Paris when the Secretary-General met him there.  There is no doubt that the Secretary-General is listening to what the different groups have to say.  But the position of the Secretary-General is very clear.  The ICC is an independent body. The Secretariat of the United Nations cannot interfere, nor be involved in anything that involves the ICC.  The ICC is an independent body that will decide on the requested indictments themselves, on their own. The UN Secretariat has nothing to do with that.  So, the UN Secretariat cannot be involved in negotiations between the League of Arab States and the ICC.  I am not even aware there are such negotiations.  The position of the Secretary-General is really quite clear on this.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Two questions on Darfur.  One, is there, is this announcement by Egypt that they’d like to set up a conference about Darfur, they say, with UN involvement.  Have there been any discussions between the Egyptians and the UN about such a conference?

Spokesperson:  I don’t think there has been any formal request or any formal decision taken.

Question:  Will the UN view that as a positive step?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know at this point.  I don’t have any feedback yet on this.

Question:  Okay, thanks.  And then the new mediator Bassolé is he still the Foreign Minister of Burkina Faso?

Spokesperson:  No.  Not any more.

[The Spokesperson later clarified that Mr. Bassolé would remain Foreign Minister of Burkina Faso through 1 August, when he would assume his role as mediator.]

Question:  And then there is a report out by Human Rights Watch about the Democratic Republic of the Congo, eastern Congo, saying that nothing has improved and that , you know, militias continue to kill civilians.  And their report says that sometimes the UN has evidence of such violations but is not sharing it with international facilitators – EU, AU – that are part of this process.  Does the UN have any response to this?  Basically, it’s a peace process that the UN has praised and said was going well.  Now there seems to be evidence that nothing has improved.  What’s the...?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think it’s quite an assumption to say that the UN is not briefing its partners on the whole process.  I don’t think it is true.  I don’t think it is correct.  I think the UN has been steadily informing all its international partners on the process itself.  So, personally, I don’t see what to say about this.  There is really nothing...I mean, it’s a general statement.  As you know, I just read for you a specific intervention that they made on a prison where a number of prisoners were dying of starvation and of malnutrition.  There was specific intervention about that specific issue.  On the peace process in general, I don’t think I can really tell you that they have not been informed of the progress.

Question:  One other thing.  There is this AP article again about Haiti talking about how food that’s being delivered there remains, a large percentage of it, not being delivered.  They talk about how World Vision is jam-packed; warehouses and indeed the fuel crisis is not being delivered.  And it just made me wonder, is it MINUSTAH or the UN system?  Does it have any role to play in making sure that this food aid that arrived in Haiti actually gets to people?

Spokesperson:  Not the ones from organizations other than the ones linked to the United Nations.  I am sure that the UN is of course involved whenever there is a WFP food delivery taking place.

Question:  (Inaudible)...like World Vision and Catholic Relief Services (Inaudible) of food for some reason due to fuel or bad roads.  It’s just that there is...a few months ago there was a story about this and it said...?

Spokesperson:  Well, the UN is involved only, I think, in the delivery of food, as far as I know, that WFP brings to Haiti.

Question:  I believe it was 17 July, Thursday of last week that the Secretary-General said that the UN and the ICC complement each other.  He also stated that the UN would take the necessary steps, I believe it was, to facilitate the ICC in its work.  So, I am wondering if there is going to be some change in the future when it comes to the ICC and Bashir?

Spokesperson:  Well, the only help the UN can give to the ICC is upon request by the ICC and of a technical nature. We are not at all involved in the work of the ICC.  The ICC is -- again I stress it -- an independent entity.  We certainly support the work that is being done by all of the international tribunals and we do whatever we can to support them whenever, of course, we are asked to.   But those are separate entities -- he same way the Tribunal on Rwanda is a separate entity and the one in the former Yugoslavia is a separate entity.  They have nothing to do with the Secretariat as such.

Question:  Just a very short question regarding the new mediator in Darfur.  You know he cannot communicate in English nor in Arabic.  Do you think that will be a problem for the new mediator in Darfur?  Do you think it could be a problem for him to deal with the different parts over there?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know of his linguistic skills. I’d have to ask which language he speaks.

Question:  Michèle, I had asked this question also earlier.  I mean, after the understanding between the Secretary-General’s office and the Pakistani Government on the investigation of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto; has the Secretary-General made any choice of a chairman of the investigation commissioners yet, or determined as to how much it will cost and who will pay for it?  Those are the questions that are being asked at this point in time and I would like to know.

Spokesperson:  As far as I know, most of those details have not been worked out yet; on the question of cost and on the question of who is going to chair that commission.

Question:  But he has not made a choice of...

Spokesperson:  As far as I know, no.

Question:  As yet?

Spokesperson:  No.

Question:  But, can we know of a date that can...?

Spokesperson:  No. I cannot tell you of a date.  When the Secretary-General has a date we will announce it.  Don’t forget that the Secretary-General has a number of high-level appointments to deal with right now and that’s what he is dealing with at this point.

Question:  Okay.  On the question of high-level appointments, Michèle, I just want to know why is it that when the appointment is already made this (inaudible) why is it that he doesn’t want to make this announcement...?

Spokesperson:  Because it is a General Assembly prerogative.  The General Assembly is the one that approves the choice of the Secretary-General.  In some cases it is the Security Council.  In the case of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, it is the General Assembly.  It is basic courtesy that the Secretary-General informs the General Assembly, who has to vote on that choice before, of course, he informs the general public.

Question:  He is following the courtesy at this point in time?

Spokesperson:  Of course.  Yes.

Question:  Could we ask when he might do that then?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know yet.  It’s going to be soon.

Question:  Wasn’t he supposed to inform the General Assembly before making the decision or consult with the General Assembly?

Spokesperson:  No.  The way the process works is that he submits a name to the General Assembly and the General Assembly can of course disagree with his choice.  But the Secretary-General submits a name after he has gone through the whole process of interviewing different people and going through very extensive --

Question:  The General Assembly can also reject the choice?

Spokesperson:  Pardon me?

Question:  The General Assembly can also reject the choice?

Spokesperson:  Yes, it can happen.

Question:  But wasn’t he supposed to consult them on a shortlist?

Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, all the Member States were consulted at the time when they were getting the names for the post.  They got letters; several suggested names.  It took the process to the time that you know of, hardly long. It took a while for them to come to a shorter list and then from the shorter list we had a series of interviews, some of them undertaken, the last ones by the Secretary-General himself.  So there was a process that went on for a while. Now they have reached the end of the process, submitting the name to the General Assembly. Yes?

Question:  I wanted to go back to the ICC issue.  In the speech that was referred to earlier, the signing of the Rome Treaty, the Secretary-General, while clearly emphasising the importance of the independence of the ICC, he also said that it was important for the ICC to consider the consequences of whatever actions it takes.  Does the Secretary-General have an opinion on this aspect of the Bashir moves by the ICC Prosecutor?  Whether the potential consequences have been taken into consideration thoroughly...?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think, as I said, it’s up to the Court.  What the Secretary-General has said is that he has expressed his concerns about the impact that it could have on the UNAMID troops on the ground. It’s a fact. That doesn’t influence in any way whatever choice the ICC makes.  The ICC makes a choice that is the ICC’s prerogative.  The Secretary-General will not get involved in that.  But he is still-- since he is responsible for the security of UN personnel deployed on the ground as he is -- concerned about other impacts this might have on humanitarian assistance to the people of Darfur. That he is concerned is normal.  It is his mandate to have that concern.  That does not in any way influence the decision of the ICC.  Yes?

Question:  There were pictures on the Internet in the last few days of UNIFIL soldiers saluting dead bodies of Hezbollah fighters.  Is that consistent with the mandate of UNIFIL?

Spokesperson:  I got some information from UNIFIL on the ground and they said that they confirmed that they assisted in the exchange of Lebanese prisoners and the handover of mortal remains through the UN positions at the Ras Naqoura crossing point between Israel and Lebanon, as you know.  During the process, UNIFIL provided assistance in the form of area security at the crossing, liaison and coordination as well as limited logistical support to the Lebanese Government.

The soldiers shown in the photograph were not involved in any of the Lebanese ceremonies.  They were carrying out their normal mandated duties along the road used by the convoy. And they said that it is customary in most armies for military personnel in uniform to salute whenever a coffin passes in a procession.  They were merely following this customary military tradition and saluted coffins draped in Lebanese national flags.  That’s what they did.  Yes?

Question:  Michèle, in a press conference on Wednesday, Mr. Holmes, who was making an appeal for humanitarian disasters, also mentioned Palestine as the most unattainable situation over there and asked for funds over there.  Has the Secretary-General taken note of his observation and also asked the Israeli Government again -- I mean, I am sure that the dialogue continues -- to take measures to somehow give relief to the people in Gaza?

Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, the situation for the population in Gaza has been steadily...  Since the SG started his mandate, this has been a constant preoccupation.  He discussed this with everyone he spoke to at the meeting in Paris.  He met with Prime Minister Olmert, President Abbas and Egyptian President Mubarak and the issue of the humanitarian situation of the population in Gaza was constantly evoked and discussed. Yes?

Question:  On Darfur and the ICC.  First on Darfur, the decision to pull out non-essential personnel and move them to Uganda and elsewhere; when would it be re-visited?  Is the idea that that entails the ICC rules and how is that going to go on?

Spokesperson:  I cannot second-guess the people on the ground.  You know the decisions are taken on the ground. So far, as I said, there was nothing really major this weekend.  To date, as far as we know, 316 staff members have been relocated to either Entebbe or El Obeid. No relocations have taken place since Friday. What decisions will be taken on the ground, I cannot second-guess our people there.

Question:  No, it wasn’t to second-guess. It sounds like they are monitoring it.

Spokesperson:  Yes, on a daily basis.

Question:  And the other one is, in terms of the ICC, there is this case of Thomas Lubanga from the Congo.  My understanding is that the Secretariat provided evidence to the Prosecutor that the Prosecutor didn’t turn over to the defence and now the case has been put on hold. And there some negotiations between the ICC and the Secretariat about how that information could be provided.  First, I’m sorry to say it at such length, but is that; like you were saying that there is no relation between the Secretariat and the ICC...?

Spokesperson:  Obviously, in cases like this, when the ICC or any court needs testimonies on the ground, and if the UN Mission can help to give them access to victims on the ground, this will be done, of course.  How the Prosecutor or how the Court treats these different testimonies -- issues of protection of witnesses, in cases that are still alive and where situations still exist -- how those are treated are decisions to be taken by the Court.  If for instance, the victim says he does not want his testimony used in Court that is the prerogative also of the victim. I don’t have the details, but this is a process that the ICC discusses.  The judges have to discuss these issues and when the Prosecutor filed his case for the Lubanga case, they felt that they didn’t have enough evidence.  The decision is for them to decide whether they will or will not consider what they had relevant enough.

Question:  In Prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo’s most recent request for the indictment of President Bashir, did the Secretariat provide evidence to Moreno-Ocampo for use in his submission in the same way that they did in Lubanga?

Spokesperson:  This is not providing evidence.  It’s giving access; helping to have access. It’s not giving evidence.  That’s not the job of the Secretariat.  It’s the job of the Prosecutor to go on the ground and do his investigation.

He can be assisted.  He can ask for assistance. I’ll give you an example, Matthew.  There is a fugitive that is in a third country.  The Court can ask the Government of that country for an extradition process to have that person who is accused to be brought to the Court.  This is something that is between the ICC or any courts, the Rwanda Court or the former Yugoslavia Court; they do ask the national Government to do so.  And the national Government can answer one way or the other.  The relationship with the Secretariat is the same.  They can use the Secretariat for support in getting access to some of the victims or for some information gathered on the ground, but the actual investigation is being done by the Prosecutor.

Question:  I have a question on Somalia.  There have been several reports of aid workers fleeing the area from threats.  Do you have any information on that?

Spokesperson:  No, I don’t have any information on Somalia today.

Question:  And a question on Myanmar; I know that you have mentioned this joint assessment report that was just released.  In that report they are requesting $4 billion for damages in Myanmar.  But the Myanmar Government recently had called for $11 billion; is this the new amount that they had agreed...?

Spokesperson:  Actually, you can just read the notes that were done after the meeting last Wednesday, when Mr. Holmes briefed you exactly on that.  You were here then, and also when the Secretary-General of ASEAN briefed you on that. You have all the information you need.  It’s the same thing that Mr. Holmes talked about.

Question:  And also, at least one Member State is sending their own delegation there to verify the needs of the Government of Myanmar with respect to these donor gifts.  Can you confirm that all international donors are following the same steps?

Spokesperson:  I have no idea.  And I don’t think I can answer for individual countries or individual donors.  You can ask individual countries what they have decided to do.  It’s up to them, of course.

Question:  You don’t have to go through the Tripartite Group...?

Spokesperson:  Well, no one can force any country who is giving bilateral aid to go through an assessment group.  But they have been doing it.  I don’t know who is not.  But I think it’s their own prerogative, of course, for national Governments to do so.  Yes, George, you’re the last one.

Question:  Following up on this Gaza situation; am I not correct -- and please correct me if my understanding is wrong -- that the border crossings are open, or at least largely open or are open most of the time; and if that’s true, what’s responsible for the situation for the people in Gaza and why is it not improving?

Spokesperson:  The situation has not been normalized totally, as you know.  I can get some additional information for you on how much is coming through and how much assistance is getting to the population, and I can get some update for you on Gaza, sure.

[The Spokesperson later added that Karni, the main commercial crossing between Israel and Gaza, is still closed, except for a conveyor belt; Rafah is closed except for humanitarian cases; Sufa is open; and Kerem Shalom is still closed.  An increased amount of goods -- such as cement, pipes and fuel -- are coming into Gaza largely through conveyor belts at Karni and Sufa, but that is still far below the needs of the population.  She also said that access continues to be severely restricted and there have been no significant improvements since the recent cessation of hostilities.  Border authorities have confirmed to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) that they have applications for more than 5,000 people from Gaza who wish to travel abroad, including for medical and academic reasons.]

Thank you very much.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.