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

26 October 2011

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

26 October 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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


So, good afternoon everybody, and welcome to the briefing.


**Noon Guests


I am very pleased to welcome as my guests today, Barbara Crossette to my far right, and Richard Kollodge, who have authored, along with others, The State of the World Population 2011, which is out today.


And I know that Richard, who is the editor of the report, will have something to say first before taking questions.  And Barbara, who obviously is a familiar face to many in the press corps, will, as the lead reporter on the report, also have something to say.


And just to remind you that after they have briefed you, I will have a couple of other items, and will obviously he happy to take any further questions that you may have before we then move on to a briefing at 12:45 p.m. by Valerie Amos.


But first of all, welcome Richard and Barbara, welcome.  And please, the floor is yours.


[Press conference by Mr. Kollodge and Ms. Crossette is issued separately.]


**Press Conference Today


So okay, as I mentioned, Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, will be briefing you on her recent trip to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea shortly.


**Security Council


And then, this morning, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Libya, Ian Martin, briefed the Security Council.  In his briefing, Mr. Martin said that Muammar and Motassim Qadhafi were mistreated and killed in circumstances which require investigation, and there are other disturbing reports that killings amounting to war crimes were committed on both sides in the final battle for Sirte.  Such killings were contrary to the orders of the National Transitional Council, and he welcomed their announcement of an investigation.  He said they also are within the scope of the International Commission of Inquiry mandated by the Human Rights Council.


Mr. Martin noted that the flow of weapons across borders is naturally a major anxiety for Libya’s neighbours and beyond.  The implications of events in Libya for the region also include the outflow of people — not just migrant workers, but also armed elements from the former regime — and concerns for those third country nationals who remain.  Together with the African Union, the United Nations will work with Libya’s neighbours to support them in addressing these matters.


And after Mr. Martin’s briefing, the Security Council held closed consultations on the situation in Libya.  And then this afternoon the Council will meet in closed session to discuss Western Sahara.


**Secretary-General to Non-Governmental Organization Community


This morning, the Secretary-General met with the community of non-governmental organizations.  He expressed his strong appreciation for their strong commitment and willingness to work with the United Nations in addressing many of the important challenges we are facing.


The Secretary-General said that the world needs to forge a common agenda for sustainable peace, prosperity, freedom and justice.  The three areas in which the efforts of the non-governmental organizations will be especially important are sustainable development, disarmament and helping countries in transition.  And his full remarks are available online.


**Press Conferences Tomorrow


Tomorrow, Juan Somavia, the Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and Michelle Bachelet, the Executive Director of UN-Women, will be my guests at the Noon Briefing. 


And then at 1 p.m. tomorrow, there will be a press conference by the Permanent Mission of Mongolia, together with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and that’s on the “2011 UN Day Concert:  Celebrating Cultural Diversity”.  That’s an event which will take place tomorrow evening in the General Assembly Hall.


Any questions?  Yes?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Yeah, sure.  I… I am sure you’ve seen this controversy about the UN’s report of the number of civilians dead in Afghanistan.  It was a report that said only 15 civilians have been killed in… in these targeted strikes by the… the ISAF forces there were gover… pro-government and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission has said that the number is… is wildly undercounted, doesn’t take into account many of the deaths caused and… and one… at least one media organization is saying Georgette Gagnon, the head of the human rights office there has been barred from speaking to the press, and I would like to know, what’s the UN’s response to this critique of its basically having underplayed deaths caused by the allies in Afghanistan?


Spokesperson:  I’ll check with the… our colleagues in the Mission there.  But you will have seen there has been consistent reporting by the Mission on casualties over the months and years.  And those figures are widely respected.  So let me see if I have anything further on the particular point that you have raised.  Yes?


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  And I am sorry if I missed that, probably you have mentioned, but I just wonder, like 10 years ago, former Secretary-General Kofi Annan went to Sarajevo to pronounce the birth of the 6 billionth of the… inhabitant of the world… of the… of the planet.  Is the current Secretary-General planning to do anything similar or what he is going to do on 31 October?


Spokesperson:  You’re right, you did miss it.  The answer is no, not with an individual.  I think the point that I was trying to make is that this is much more about 7 billion people as a whole and the actions which we can all take to ensure that the world can continue to sustain a population of that size, and for people to be able to live in dignity wherever they may be.  So the short answer is no, that will not be taking place.  You may also have noticed that the Secretary-General visited a high school in lower Manhattan, where young high school students were holding up placards saying “I am one in 7 billion”.  The Secretary-General will also be speaking at an event, actually here on Monday as we mark that particular day, which as you know is a symbolic occasion.  Yes?


Question:  Another meeting early this morning the Secretary-General had with his Special Envoy on human rights of Sri Lanka.  Afterwards, they describe… he… the minister told me the meeting was constructive, that he had said that the… the… their response… essentially the LLRC report will come out in November and be presented to the UN next October 2012 in Geneva.  I wanted to know if… is that from the Secretary-General’s point of view, is that a… is that one year delay acceptable and… and what’s your readout of the meeting?


Spokesperson:  There will be a readout, and we’ll give it to you.


Question:  How about specifically on that point, is a one year delay…


Spokesperson:  We’ll have the official readouts and we’ll give that to you, Matthew.


Question:  Will it address this, do you think?


Spokesperson:  Matthew, there will be a readout, okay, and that’s what I have for you at the moment, all right.  Yes?


[The Spokesperson later released the following readout of the Secretary-General's meeting with Mahinda Samarasinghe, Special Envoy of the President of Sri Lanka on Human Rights:


Earlier today, the Secretary-General received Hon. Mahinda Samarasinghe, Special Envoy of the President of Sri Lanka on Human Rights.  This meeting was part of the United Nations ongoing dialogue with the Government of Sri Lanka as a follow up to the Joint Statement of 23 May 2009 between the Secretary-General and President Rajapaksa.  The Secretary-General stressed the importance of dealing with accountability issues in the context of national reconciliation.  The discussion also touched on the importance of an inclusive national dialogue aimed at achieving genuine political reconciliation, as well as ongoing progress with regard to recovery and resettlement efforts in the North.]


Question:  I may have missed this, and you may already have said this, but did the Secretary-General say anything about the fact that Colonel Qadhafi was killed without a trial?


Spokesperson:  Well, Ian Martin addressed that point this morning.  And as you know, he is the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, and he said we had hoped that Muammar Qadhafi and others with the heaviest responsibility for such crimes — he was talking about crimes in the past and in the context of what has unfolded in recent months — we hoped that Muammar Qadhafi and others with the heaviest responsibility for such crimes would be captured and brought to justice.  And just to remind you that that was in the Security Council in open session this morning.  And the person speaking was Ian Martin, whose title is Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya.  Other questions?  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  Sure.  Speaking of justice, I wanted to ask you about two cases.  One is Jeffrey Armstrong, who is a former UN official who has just been… has been found guilty of having received salaries from the UN and from the US National Labor Relations Board at the same time, and he was, you know, trial… he was found guilty.  I am just wondering, does the UN have any comment?  Is… are there any safeguards in place to make sure that a person is not in fact moonlighting or receiving a double salary?  The other one is Mr. Gupta; you may or may not have a comment on… former UN adviser Gupta, Goldman Sachs director, has been arrested today and charged with fraud and insider trading, and I know he no longer works for the UN, but he had… he did in the past.  Is there any… does the UN have any comment on either of those two cases?


Spokesperson:  No.  Other questions?  Other questions?  Yes?


Question:  Thank you.  With regard to Ian Martin’s report this morning to the Security Council, he mentioned that Libya had maintained the largest stockpile of handheld anti-aircraft missiles.  And right now the borders of Libya, in the lack of a national army, it’s quite open and several reports, almost on a daily basis, indicate large-scale operations of smuggling across the border to Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia and Niger.  What’s the UN prepared to do in this regard?  Would the UN form a peacekeeping force in the interim period until the Libyan NTC forms a national army?  Or this would be falling in the mandate of the NATO?


Spokesperson:  Well, as Mr. Martin told the Council, together with the African Union, the United Nations will work with Libya’s neighbours to support them in addressing these issues which involve the flow of weapons, as well as people.  And Mr. Martin did say that he was reporting to the Council increasing concerns about looting of these MANPADS and the likely proliferation of such weapons, as well as munitions and all sorts of mines.  And he said that obviously this has serious potential local and regional implications, as you said in your questions.  And what he said was international partners have been working with the Ministry of Defence on identifying MANPADS sites and storage areas, primarily in the eastern part of Libya.  So clearly international partners are working with the Libyan authorities for whom it is of course the prime responsibility to deal with that.  Yes?


Question:  Yes, I remember I asked Mr. Martin just a few hours… last week, when we just got the news of Qadhafi’s death, and he was live there.  And he, if I understood well from his answer, he wasn’t so sure who was eventually going to do an investigation, how should… he didn’t really… I think he really didn’t answer clearly at that time also because I guess it was just a few hours.  But, after that we find out practically that the investigation is necessary.  And this morning at the Security Council he said that, you know, that investigation has to be done.  What is not clear yet, I think, is, is this investigation done with the Libyan Government or is independent from the…


Spokesperson:  Stefan, you asked me asked that yesterday, and I answered.  He said again in the Council this morning that they welcome… they welcome the announcement by the Libyan authorities that they will be looking into allegations of mistreatment and so on.  He also said, as I just mentioned a little while ago, that what is being looked at, possible violations by both sides, would fall into the remit of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into Libya which was set up by the Human Rights Council.  So primary responsibility for criminal investigations, if you like, into what happened, rests with the Libyan authorities.  A Commission of Inquiry is already established by, under the Human Rights Council that is looking into what happened.  But that is not a criminal investigation, clearly.  That is a fact-finding mission and will be reporting again, it has already issued a preliminary report, it will be reporting again in March of next year on its findings from future visits.  As Mr. Martin also said, there are human rights advisers who are now forming part of the UN support mission in Libya.  Okay.  Yes?


Question:  Can I ask you, there is a report in… in the Zimbabwean media that Robert Mugabe, his wife and Foreign Minister were seeking to attend a UN system meeting in Geneva and had visas denied.  They haven’t flown.  It says that they have lodged a report, a complaint, both with the Swiss Government but also with the UN saying that, you know, Heads of State and their delegations have a right to travel regardless of… of travel bans and embargoes.  And you know, I guess what I wonder is… is… has the UN… can… maybe you know or don’t know now, but can you… you… what’s the UN’s position on the ability of a Head of State and his delegation to travel to the UN in Geneva?


Spokesperson:  Well, this is very clearly a matter for the Zimbabwean authorities, the Swiss authorities and the ITU.  The ITU was the venue for the meeting that we’re talking about, and the ITU are therefore the people you should address your questions to.


Question:  Is it… isn’t it a U… isn’t it a UN system agency?


Spokesperson:  It’s a specialized agency with its own legal personality.  Okay.  Yes, last question?


Question:  You said that the investigation into criminal activities in Libya would be carried out by the Libyan authorities who are, I would assume now, the… what was formerly the opposition.  So how can they be trusted to investigate themselves when they killed Qadhafi without a trial?


Spokesperson:  As I said, primary responsibility for ensuring accountability in a country rests with the authorities.  The National Transitional Council, while I am not a spokesman for them, have said — and Mr. Martin said so in the Council — have given undertakings that they will be carrying out those kind of investigations.  And so obviously everybody knows, not least the National Transitional Council, that the international community is following this very closely.


Okay, thank you very much.  I know that Ms. Amos is already here to brief you. 


[Press conference by Ms. Amos is issued separately.]


* *** *

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