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

4 January 2013

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

4 January 2013
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.

Good afternoon everybody.  Welcome to the briefing.

** Central African Republic

The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, said today that it had received credible reports that rebel groups and pro-government militias are increasingly recruiting and involving children in armed conflict in the Central African Republic.

UNICEF is calling for the immediate cessation of child recruitment by all armed groups in the Central African Republic and urges all parties to protect children against the harmful impact of, and their involvement in, armed conflict in the country.

Even before the conflict erupted last month, about 2,500 children – both girls and boys – were associated with multiple armed groups, including self-defence groups, in the Central African Republic. While it is impossible to give a precise figure, reports indicate that this number will rise because of the recent and escalating conflict.

The full press release on this is available online.

** Liberia

The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, has wrapped up its repatriation operation for tens of thousands of Liberians who were forced into exile because of 14 years of civil war in their country.

The final 724 Liberians returned from Guinea on the last weekend of 2012, officially ending a programme that began a year after peace was restored in Liberia, in 2004.

In total, the Agency helped more than 150,000 Liberian refugees go home, mainly by road convoys and flights.  As part of the programme, each returning refugee received a small cash grant to help them restart their lives.

So, that’s what I have for you.  Questions, please.  Yes, Masood?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yes, sir.  A question about this, I mean, the United Nations, does it, or the Secretary-General does consider the drone attacks as a form of terrorism?  Is that one definition that the Secretary-General [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  I would simply refer you to the Secretary-General’s report on the protection of civilians, as I did yesterday.  And I think the language contained there covers what I would have to say.  So, I don’t think I will repeat myself today, okay.

Question:  Okay. Other thing that I wanted to ask you is that we, you have probably heard these reports; probably you have been asked to comment upon it, those Palestinians who have been, from West Bank and have been asked to move away from their homes because Israel has to conduct war, I mean war games or, what, exercises, military exercises.  Has the Secretary-General talked to them and told them that you cannot come and just uproot people from their homes because you have to conduct military exercises in an occupied territory?

Spokesperson:  Well, I would need to check with Robert Serry, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, in Jerusalem to see whether he has had any contacts with the Israeli authorities on this.  I don’t have anything specific on that at the moment, but I’ll certainly check for you.  Okay.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Regarding the Falkland Islands dispute and in answer to a question yesterday, you indicated that the good offices of the Secretary-General remain; and why doesn’t the Secretary-General offer the same good offices under Article 99 of the Charter regarding the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands since they also involve dispute over ownership and sovereignty of islands?

Spokesperson:  Well, one key reason is because there is already a regional arrangement, and a regional discussion.  And I think that the Secretary-General made clear that dialogue in the region is the best way to handle that.  Very often it is the case that where there is a regional arrangement, a regional organization that is looking at these matters, whether it is in Europe, in Latin America or elsewhere, then that is often — and Africa — that is often a better way to handle things before it escalates to a more global international organization.  That’s the whole reason for having regional organizations recognized under the Charter, as I know that you are aware they are.  Okay, yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure, Martin, I have some questions on Sudan and [ Democratic Republic of the Congo], but I wanted to ask you this Bahrain question.  It’s been, there is a pretty high profile case of the Bahrain Human Rights Centre, Mr. al-Muhafadha, who has been arrested, he was arrested on 17 December, supposedly for, for tweeting about the use of bird pellet and other anti-protest equipment in Manama and is now been, he is still in jail.  Various human rights groups have called for him to be released, and I am just wondering is the Secretariat aware of this case?  What do they think of somebody arrested essentially for reporting a crackdown on a demonstration in Bahrain?

Spokesperson:  I’ll check with my colleagues, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to see whether they have anything on this.  Plainly, as I was mentioning yesterday, and — or may be it was the day before, I forget — the Secretary-General has spoken out consistently about what needs to happen in Bahrain and for people to be able to exercise their fundamental freedoms.  So, I think that that helps to cover part of the answer, and I will check with the Human Rights office on the rest of it, okay?

Question:  Okay, great.  I wanted, there are, there are reports in Darfur in this continuing fighting in the east Jabel Mara region.  Now there are reports of multiple rapes by pro-government militiamen in a place called Korodos in east Jabel Mara.  And I am wondering, if, given the importance of this issue to the Secretary-General, DPKO, etcetera, what, in a case like this, where there are reports, you know, reports, very detailed reports, what is the next step and has UNAMID, is UNAMID going to go out and what’s going to take place?

Spokesperson:  Wherever there are credible allegations and reports, then the Mission there, as elsewhere, would seek to try to verify those reports.  I’d need to check with my colleagues in the field and here at Headquarters to see whether they have anything specific on that.

Question:  if I could ask one, because this is, the reason I, one reason that I am asking, there was this change in countries to the [Democratic Republic of the Congo] as I am still, I guess waiting and interested in, in what MONUSCO (United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) has found out about these 126 rapes in Minova.  One of the reasons that I’m asking is that there was a much more recent, you know, investigation of some [Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda] claims where MONUSCO went and created a mission, 21 December to 24, and issued a release.

Spokesperson:  I am aware of this, I seem to remember, you’ve mentioned that.

Question:  Yeah.

Spokesperson:  You have mentioned that here already, as well, I think.

Question:  I know, and so, I am wondering how long, is there any deadline?  Given that there is this human rights due diligence policy to not work with units who were involved in this, in the incidence in Minova, how long can it take to find out and has there been any change in the list of brigades that MONUSCO works with during this now fairly extended investigation?

Spokesperson:  Well, when an investigation is under way, it is under way. And when there is something to report, then I’ll let you know.  I don’t have anything further to report at the moment.

Question:  And is it is an active investigation, I mean, I guess I just want to [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  The investigation is under way.  The investigation is under way.  Under way means it is active, right.

Question:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  Okay, so, yes, Masood, you had another question?

Question:  No.

Spokesperson:  Just looking interested?

Question:  [Laughter]

Spokesperson:  All right, okay.  All right, last question, Matthew?

Question:  Sure, I, there is some, there was a report put out by the Committee on Contributions of countries that had paid their, you know, paid their dues in full for 2012, and there has been at least one country that’s not on the list, it’s disputed it.  Now, this country is Sudan.  Sudan’s Ambassador Daffa-Alla Ali Osman has said that they, claims that he did pay, that the list is wrong, the [United States] is also listed, you know listed as, as being somehow behind.  Is there some way, how do we resolve this dispute between a UN report saying that Sudan didn’t pay and Sudan saying that it did pay?  Is there some, is there some, can I ask you and you ask somebody or how do we [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  We’ll certainly try to find out.  But, you slipped in the parenthetical reference to the United States.

Question:  Sure.

Spokesperson:  And you know very well that the United States works on a different budget cycle.

Question:  No, sure.

Spokesperson:  So, I don’t think that you should compare the two.  Let’s check on the contribution list with those who deal with these matters and then we can come back to you, okay?

Question:  Okay, great.

Spokesperson:  All right, thanks. Have a good afternoon.

* *** *

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