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

23 January 2012

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

23 January 2012
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.  Welcome to the briefing.

**Noon Briefing Guest

I am joined today by videolink from Juba by Ms. Hilde Johnson, who as you know is the Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan.

So I am going to turn over to Ms. Johnson, who I am sure will have a few introductory remarks and then be ready to take questions.  And after that, I have a few other items, and will also be happy to take questions.  So please Ms. Johnson, welcome to the briefing.  And the floor is yours.

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

So, I have a couple of other items, and then of course I am happy to take some questions.

** Cyprus

First of all, the Secretary-General is at the Greentree Estate in Long Island, New York, where he has been meeting since this morning with the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities.  As you know, the talks — hosted by the Secretary-General — will last until tomorrow evening.  And tonight, at around 7:20 p.m., the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Cyprus, Alexander Downer, will speak to the media following the conclusion of the first day of meetings.

**Haiti — Sexual Exploitation and Abuse

The UN Secretariat regrets to confirm that, on 16 January 2012, the UN Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, alerted Headquarters about two allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse involving minors in Haiti.  The first case involves UN police officers based in Port-au-Prince.  The accused officers have been removed from their duties to reduce any contact with the local population while the investigation is under way.  The second case involves one or more members of the Formed Police Unit in Gonaives.

The United Nations is outraged by these allegations and takes its responsibility to deal with them extremely seriously.  The police-contributing countries concerned have been informed.  However, unlike cases involving UN military contingent personnel, investigations into allegations involving UN police fall under the responsibility of the United Nations.  For this reason, a team was dispatched to Haiti, on 21 January 2012, to investigate these allegations with the utmost determination.  MINUSTAH is emphasizing the responsibility and accountability of the chain of command in both preventing and taking prompt action when such allegations arise.  The Mission will take action to support the alleged victims.

**Secretary-General’s Appointment

The Secretary-General has appointed Major General Paolo Serra of Italy as Head of Mission and Force Commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).  Major General Serra will succeed Major General Alberto Asarta Cuevas of Spain, who will relinquish his post on 28 January 2012.  We have more on that appointment in my office.

** Guantanamo

The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, expressed her disappointment that the Government of the United States has failed to close the Guantanamo Bay detention centre.  While fully recognizing the right and duty of states to protect their people and territory from terrorist acts, Ms. Pillay also reminded all branches of the United States Government of their obligation under international human rights law to ensure that individuals can have the lawfulness of their detention reviewed before a court.

**Noon Briefing Guest Tomorrow

Tomorrow I will have as my guest here at the briefing Catherine Bragg, the Assistant Secretary-General for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

That’s what I have.  Questions, please?  Stefano, and then Matthew?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yes, it is again on the speech on responsibility to protect that the Secretary-General did last week.  I read the speech and I understood that he said that 2011 was a great year for the United Nations for the responsibility to protect, apart… and then he said but something didn’t work, and he mentioned South Sudan, and he was mentioning exactly the situation of the last month and last weeks.  Now, this last report that we had from there he looks instead — at least I understood like this — that a lot of things actually worked, that thousands of people were protected and it doesn’t seem that the problems, at least the feeling comes out of that.  So, I would like to know, the question is, who is… is… maybe the Secretary-General didn’t have the right information last week yet, or there is some yet something that is not clear in between that communication, between the two.

Spokesperson:  I disagree with that assessment or that description, Stefano.  First of all, the speech was indeed very wide ranging, and it did indeed point to the evident progress that was made in implementing the responsibility to protect last year.  When the Secretary-General spoke about the lessons that were also learnt, he was not simply referring to South Sudan, there were lessons to be drawn from all of the activities, even in places where there was evidently success.  With regard to what we have heard now and what you are referring to, I do not see a difference here.  It is obvious that there were difficulties and Ms. Johnson has said that it would have been easier with those helicopters.  I don’t think that that is in dispute.  It is very easy, with hindsight, to try to point to differences between a speech made and remarks simply made right now.  There is no difference here.  The key point is that in any operation you will always be able to learn something from it.  And when you do not have critical assets, as they are known in peacekeeping — in other words, helicopters — it can make a difference.  That’s really where I would want leave that.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure, could I, one follow-up on that and then another question on Sudan.  Just, she’d… as you know, and you heard Ms. Johnson say, that it is not her task to outline, you know, who or to whom the Secretary-General spoke when he said that he’s pleaded with, it wasn’t clear if it was a member of the Security Council or members — is there some way, can you say who… did he ask anyone beyond the Russians to… and then ultimately the Bangladeshis and… and [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Well, I am not going to get into precisely with whom the Secretary-General may or may not have spoken, simply to say that I know that he worked extremely hard in contacting various players with the aim of trying to secure helicopters to help with that operation.

Question:  And who, I mean, I understand, it is just that the speech was viewed as being critical, you know, obviously critical of those he asked for.  He said, South… you know, I wasn’t provided with assistance by a member or maybe members of the Security Council, so it seems like it has been read as a criticism only of Russia.  And so I just wanted to know, is there anything that you want to add to that?  Is that a correct reading of the speech?

Spokesperson:  I am not going to parse the remarks.  I am simply saying that the Secretary-General has made clear that he worked hard to try to secure the helicopters that were needed, and are still needed in fact, as you just heard.

Question:  Okay.  And this other Sudan question is, and it is… it came out over the weekend that there was a wedding reception in Khartoum, the wedding of Idriss Deby to the daughter of Musa Hilal, who is the… one of the main leaders of the Janjaweed militia.  And unless it is a fabrication, there are photographs, wire service of Ibrahim Gambari, UN-African Union envoy, greeting and smiling and laughing with Omer al-Bashir.  So, I wanted to know, since he is indicted by the ICC [International Criminal Court], and the UN has said that they only deal with the ICC indictees on a necessary or as necessary basis, how is it necessary to attend this wedding ceremony and be, you know, be dealing in this way with Omer al-Bashir?

Spokesperson:  I’ll have to check on that, I haven’t seen those pictures, Matthew.  Yeah, other questions, please?  Masood?

Question:  Yes, on this race incarceration in… I mean, removal by the Israeli authorities of three Palestinian legislators from the International Red Cross offices in East Jerusalem… I mean, and so I understand article 49 of [inaudible] Geneva Convention prohibits Israel, the occupying Power, to remove these people from there and take them away.  Do you have any comment?  Has the Secretary-General any comment on that?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have any specific comment on that, Masood, at the moment, no.  No, I don’t.  Yes?

Question:  But you are aware of this?

Spokesperson:  Yes, aware, but I don’t have any specific comment at the moment.  I am going right to the back here.

Question:  Thank you.  In less than a year, there is a second Cuban dissident, Villar Mendoza, who started a hunger strike protesting his alleged brutality by the regime.  Are there any comments, please?

Spokesperson:  Well, we don’t have full details on this case, but any death that might be the result of a hunger strike is of course regrettable.  Okay, yes?

Question:  Good morning, Martin.  Thank you.  Not one, but two drone strikes last night, one in Somalia, one in Pakistan.  The Somalia one killed one person, the Pakistani one four or five depending on which report you read.  Both of the drones belong to the United States.  What is the Secretary-General’s reaction?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything for you on that, really, no.

Question:  With respect, it flies right down the middle of his job description.  If it were any other…

Spokesperson:  And with respect, I don’t have a comment, and that’s it.  Right, yeah.

Question:  I want to ask you again, in Côte d'Ivoire, I believe it is on Saturday, there was a rally of supporters of the former President or leader Laurent Gbagbo, and they are saying that they were rallying and that they were abused by police in full view of UN peacekeepers and that the peacekeepers did nothing and in fact attacked them when they tried to defend themselves.  Is, has UNOCI [United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire] sent you any information on this incident and what is their mandate in terms of whatever you call it, reconciliation and this seemed to be a peacefully rally, at least according to those who participated in it?

Spokesperson:  Well, I’d have to check on that, Matthew.  I don’t have anything on that.

[The Spokesperson later said that according to UNOCI, Formed Police Units assisted Ivorian police officers and gendarmes who have the primary responsibility for maintaining order.  The Operation said it continues to work with the authorities to avoid similar incidents.  Nesirky also noted that the Operation had issued a statement condemning Saturday’s incidents and calling on the Government to take the appropriate measures to determine their circumstances.]

Question:  And have you seen that there is a comment by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Tanzania saying that Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro has confirmed that her time at the UN is done?  Is that an accurate statement by him, and I mean, I guess I will put it that way?

Spokesperson:  I haven’t seen that statement, Matthew.

Question:  It is in the Citizen newspaper in Tanzania.

Spokesperson:  Right.  I have not seen the statement, Matthew.

Question:  And one, can I ask on question about this Human Rights Watch?  We had a briefing at 11 and many things were said, including some praise, you know, or, this Human Rights Watch said that they thought that the Secretary-General was doing more on human rights this year.  But one criticism they made was about Sri Lanka, and they said that they expected beyond just submitting the report to Geneva, that they wanted to see a more forceful approach taken.  And I noted in their report that they have mentioned this commitment to do an inquiry into the UN’s own actions in Sri Lanka that was made by the Secretary-General in September.  Has that been done, and what would you make of their criticism that the Secretary-General should do more, specifically on the issue of Sri Lanka?

Spokesperson:  Well, first of all yes, it is right that Human Rights Watch actually had some very positive things to say about the role of the Secretary-General in the past year with regards to human rights and that is obviously very welcome.  The second point is, on Sri Lanka, this is for the member States of the Human Rights Council now to look at.  It is has been passed to them, and it is for them to look at.  That’s the second thing.  What was the third part, Matthew?

Question:  No, the inquiry, where he committed to do an inquiry…

Spokesperson:  Yes, right, right, yes, yes, exactly, yes.  Excuse me.  The third part is to do with looking at how the United Nations system, the different parts of the UN family responded as a whole during that crisis, that is something that is still under way.  There’s no conclusion to that yet. But it is under way.

Question:  Who is doing it?  I mean, just to… because you gave… the other time there was a follow-up on the cholera Haiti commission, is it possible to know who is in charge of it and… and…?

Spokesperson:  I’ll let you know.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  Yes, Erol?

Question:  Martin, is the Secretary-General going to attend tomorrow, also, at the Greentree, the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish negotiations? 

Spokesperson:  Of course.

Question:  And how much is he optimistic this time, we haven't heard, in this [inaudible], at least?

Spokesperson:  Well, actually Erol, there was a statement on Friday that gave a very clear indication of what the Secretary-General believes could and should happen.  And yes, he is there today, and yes, he will be there tomorrow.

All right, thanks very much.  Have a good afternoon.

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