Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

24 June 2011

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

24 June 2011
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 Farhan Haq, Acting Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, everyone.

**Security Council

The Security Council adopted a presidential statement this morning, welcoming the signing of the Kampala Accord concerning Somalia on 9 June, and calling on the signatories of the Accord to honour their obligations.

After that, Yury Fedotov, the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, briefed Council members on transnational organized crime.  He informed them that a UN system task force dealing with transnational organized crime and drug trafficking has started to work, and met yesterday to try to foster more meaningful coordination within the UN system in dealing with those problems.

This afternoon at 3 p.m., the Security Council will receive a briefing in closed consultations from Jamal Benomar, who recently visited Yemen in his capacity as a Special Adviser.

** Yemen

Speaking of Yemen, the UN human rights office is set to deploy a delegation on Monday to Yemen for a 10-day mission to assess the human rights situation there in light of recent events.

A team of three human rights experts from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights will visit Yemen from 27 June to 6 July.  Among other things, the team intends to visit medical facilities and detention centres in a number of cities.

Upon conducting a preliminary assessment, the team will draft a report which will be made public and presented to the Human Rights Council at its next session in September.

** Bahrain

The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has expressed her serious concerns about the trials of 21 people in Bahrain, including that the due process rights of the defendants were not respected and the trials appeared to bear the marks of political persecution.

Her office said that up to 1,000 people reportedly remain in detention in Bahrain.  And the Human Rights Office noted particularly that four individuals who were previously arrested reportedly died in detention due to injuries resulting from severe torture.  The Government must urgently conduct an independent investigation into these allegations, Pillay’s office said.

You will recall that, in a statement we issued yesterday, the Secretary-General urged the Bahraini authorities to allow all defendants to exercise their right to appeal and to act in strict accordance with their international human rights obligations, including the right to due process and a fair trial.

** Libya

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that more than 650,000 people have left Libya since the start of the conflict.  The majority of people departing the country are non-Libyans who have returned to their countries of origin.

Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency estimates there are a total of 243,000 internally displaced Libyans.  That estimate is unverified.

So far, approximately 530,000 people have received food assistance inside Libya.  We remain concerned about disruptions to the public food distribution system in Libya.  Food stocks are running low and there is a shortage of fuel to transport humanitarian assistance.

** Somalia

The UN refugee agency is alarmed by the dramatic rise in the number of new refugees arriving from Somalia to Kenya.

In the past two weeks, the Dadaab refugee complex in northern Kenya has received more than 20,000 Somali refugees.  Last year, Dadaab received an average of 6,000 to 8,000 Somalis every month, but this year, the monthly average has increased to 10,000 refugees.

UNHCR is concerned about the physical condition of the refugees, with many families having walked for days to reach the site.

Overcrowding at Dadaab, the largest refugee settlement in the world, is an additional challenge, with the camp population surpassing the 360,000 mark this month.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that Somalia is sliding deeper into crisis due to drought, rising food prices and conflict.  It notes that one in three Somalis — some 2.5 million people — are in need of emergency humanitarian assistance.

** Mozambique

The UN refugee agency is calling on authorities in Mozambique to stop deporting asylum-seekers.

Nearly 100 asylum-seekers — Somalis and Ethiopians — were sent to the United Republic of Tanzania after arriving recently by boat in northern Mozambique.  Many were suffering medically as a result of their journey, with at least four people said to have drowned.

The agency helped organize their transport, believing they were being taken to a site for newly-arrived asylum-seekers.  Instead, police took them away and later deported them.

International organizations, Tanzanian authorities and UNHCR have confirmed reports that other asylum-seekers have had their shoes confiscated by Mozambican authorities to prevent them from walking back into the country from a refugee camp.

**Deputy Secretary-General’s Travels

On 28 June, the Deputy Secretary-General will depart New York for Malabo, in Equatorial Guinea, to represent the Secretary-General at the forthcoming African Union Summit.

Following that meeting, she will then proceed to Geneva to open the High-level Segment of the substantive session of the Economic and Social Council on 4 July 2011.

And the Deputy Secretary-General will return to New York on Tuesday, 5 July. 

** Rwanda

Regarding Rwanda, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, the former Minister of Family and Women’s Development in Rwanda, was convicted today in what is called the “Butare case”, along with five other accused persons, by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

The Tribunal’s Trial Chamber II sentenced Ms. Nyiramasuhuko to life in prison for conspiracy to commit genocide, genocide and crimes against humanity.  She was arrested in Kenya in 1997.

The other five persons convicted were also sentenced, for crimes including genocide and direct and public incitement to commit genocide.

**Press Conference

And after this briefing, at around 12:30 p.m., there will be a press conference by the International Criminal Court on Tunisia’s accession to the Rome Statute.  Speakers will include:  Christian Wenaweser, the Permanent Representative of Liechtenstein, in his capacity as President of the Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court; and also the Permanent Representative of Tunisia, who I believe is involved in the signing of the accession of Tunisia to the Statute right about now, in a meeting with the Secretary-General.

That’s it from me.  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Is it true that Mr. Choi Young-Jin in Côte d'Ivoire will be replaced by Bert Koenders, the former Minister for Development in the Netherlands?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  What I can say on that is that the Secretary-General has not at this point made a decision on an appointment for a replacement for Mr. Choi Young-Jin.  So any other names being bandied about at this stage are speculative.  But we do not have a formal announcement on this.  Hopefully, if we get an announcement in the coming days, we’ll let you know.  Yes?

Question:  Sure, I want to ask, there is on Libya, the Government there says that they have asked the UN, a letter to the Secretary-General and to Mr. [Abdul Ilah] al-Khatib to investigate a bombing by NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] of one of [Muammar al-]Qadhafi’s eight houses on 22 June they say resulted in the deaths of civilians inside the house.  I wanted to know, one, if the letter has been received, but, whether or not it is, what the UN views as its role in receiving requests to look at civilian casualties from the NATO military action?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, first we will check to confirm whether the letter has been formally received.  Once that’s done, we can see what the response would be.  [He later said that the letter had not been received so far.]

Question:  And also there was, yesterday I had asked Mr. Martin Nesirky about this meeting between Babacar Gaye and NATO, and he said, I think he said he’d look into it — some type of a readout to decide to… to determine whether the UN discussed this action?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes, we’re in touch with our colleagues in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to see what Mr. Gaye’s meeting entailed, and we’ll try to get back to you with some description of that whenever we get any details on that.  Okay.

Question:  I want to ask you about a couple of things, about two other meetings.  One is, this morning the Secretary-General met with Mr. [Etienne] Tshisekedi, a candidate in the [Democratic Republic of the Congo].  One, I wanted to… two separate things:  One, is there a readout?  And two, the [Democratic Republic of the Congo] Permanent Representative has said that he wasn’t informed in advance, that he thought this was irregular.  Is it true that the… I don’t know what the protocol is in terms of informing the Permanent Representative.  Was it done?  If it wasn’t done, why and what was discussed with Mr. Tshisekedi?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  That’s a bunch of questions.  The basic point is the Secretary-General is able to meet with leaders of different political factions of different countries.  There are many countries in which he tries to meet with as wide a range of political stakeholders, and yes, I can confirm that he did meet this morning with Etienne Tshisekedi.  We would not have a readout with that meeting; we tend not to have readouts of those meetings as any sort of standard policy.

Question:  Does the UN think that the election is on track?  It was said to me once they have MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo], big Mission there, the election was slated for November.  Is it the UN’s understanding that that will… that it’s on track?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, you will have seen the Secretary-General’s last report on MONUSCO, in which the state of preparedness for the elections are detailed, and we’ll continue to keep the Security Council updated.  If there are problems with the timetable, of course, MONUSCO would inform the Security Council of that.  But like I said, the latest report has the last update.  Did you have a question?  All right, then…

Question:  One other thing I wanted to ask you about, if it’s possible. Yesterday he met with CPJ [Committee to Protect Journalists] and, although I think, I guess after the meeting after Human Rights Watch, there was no readout.  In this case, CPJ has said beyond the press release that they issued that the case of the Sri Lankan journalist Prageeth [Ekneligoda] that has been raised in this room and in letters, was in fact raised.  So I wanted to know, absent the readout, could you confirm that?  And separately, what steps has the UN taken on this petitioning of the Secretary-General about this disappeared journalist, for more than a year now?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  As you know, we have been following up on that case and have been in touch, including with that particular journalist’s family.  So we have been following that case over the months.  I wouldn’t give any details of specifics regarding the meeting with the Committee to Protect Journalists, and also the representative from Reporters without Borders.  What I would say is that yes, we discussed cases around the world.  The focus was not, by the way, on Sri Lanka; it was on the Middle East.

Question:  By them putting out a press release, do you think this in any way reduces their access to Ban Ki-moon?  That’s something that Human Rights Watch had said it didn’t provide a readout of its meeting with him because they wanted to keep access going forward.  So, I wanted to know, what guidance…?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t speak for other organizations.  It’s each organization’s own right to determine how it conducts its affairs.  We, of course, in order that we can have frank discussions of a number of issues, don’t tend to put out readouts of some of these things, particularly if they concern sensitive human rights matters, so we can make progress on those human rights matters.

And with that, I wish you guys all a good weekend.

* *** *

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