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

16 June 2016

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 Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.  I will start off with two statements — one on Haiti and the other one on Bahrain.

**Haiti

On Haiti:  The Secretary-General is deeply concerned over the continuing political uncertainty in Haiti.  The Secretary-General notes that the prevailing situation is further compounding the numerous political and socioeconomic challenges facing Haiti.  Continued political uncertainty and further delays in completing the electoral process have the potential to adversely affect stability in Haiti, as well as international support to the country.

The Secretary-General calls on the National Assembly to urgently take a decision and determine a viable arrangement for provisional governance that can ensure the completion of the electoral process and a return to full constitutional order without further delays.  He urges all stakeholders to act responsibly in the interest of their country and people, including by refraining from any incitement or resort to violence.

**Bahrain

And on Bahrain:  The Secretary-General is concerned by recent actions of the Bahraini authorities seemingly aimed at restricting the country’s political opposition.  These include the dissolution of Al Wefaq, the largest opposition political grouping; the rearrest of human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, founder of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights; and the lengthening of the sentence of Sheikh Ali Salman of Al Wefaq.

The Secretary-General is also dismayed about reports that suggest that human rights defenders and activists in Bahrain have been intimidated and even stripped of their citizenship for peacefully carrying out activities to promote human rights, as well as for legitimately exercising their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association.

The Secretary-General is concerned that the current actions against the opposition may undermine the reforms undertaken by His Majesty King Hamad ibn Isa al Khalifa and lessen the prospect of an inclusive national dialogue in the interest of all people of the Kingdom.  The Secretary-General is convinced that the effective implementation of the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, the Universal Periodic Review and the national human rights institution would allow for an improvement of the human rights situation in the country and go a long way towards addressing the concerns and grievances of its citizens.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

And the Secretary-General, as you know, is in Saint Petersburg.  This morning he spoke at the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum.  In his remarks, he said that our shared challenge is to translate the promises of recent landmark agreements, including Agenda 2030 and the Paris Agreement on climate change, into tangible gains for people.  The Secretary-General said that Russia has tremendous scientific potential to develop technologies for mitigating the adverse effects of climate change and urged the country to continue to diversify its economy away from the energy sector and to reduce reliance on fossil fuel exports.

The Secretary-General added that he was deeply concerned about the escalating pressures being faced by civil society, near and far.  When civil society can play its full role, all of society benefits, he stressed.  He added that Russian civil society can play an active role in both the design of reforms and their implementation.  His remarks have been shared with you.

He also has a number of bilaterals including with President Alpha Condé of the Republic of Guinea and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov — those readouts have been issued, and he is currently now meeting with the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin.  And we will issue a readout as soon as we get it from our colleague, Mathias [Gillmann].

**Syria

On Syria, today — on a humanitarian update — an inter-agency humanitarian convoy is delivering humanitarian assistance to about 37,500 residents in the besieged neighbourhood of Al Waer in Homs.  A second convoy is planned in the coming days, pending Government approval.  The two convoys combined will provide food, medicine, health, nutrition, water and sanitation, and emergency supplies for about 75,000 people.  The last inter-agency convoy to Al Waer was on 3 March.

Also today, a UN and Syrian Arab Red Crescent convoy is delivering food, health, nutrition, water and sanitation, other basic supplies and agricultural assistance for 50,000 people in Afrin city, Kafr Janneh, Rajou, Yakhour, all in Aleppo Governorate.  Since the beginning of 2016, more than 844,000 people in hard-to-reach and besieged areas have received a range of humanitarian assistance through UN inter-agency convoys.

And from Geneva, you would have seen that Paulo Pinheiro, the Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said that Da’esh is committing genocide against Yazidis.  The report also determined that Da’esh’s abuse of Yazidis amounts to crimes against humanity and war crimes.  The report is online and I believe the press briefing, I think, is archived on the UNTV platform from Geneva.

**Central African Republic

Also we have been promising you an update on the ongoing investigations being conducted by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) on the allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse in the Kemo prefecture, in the Central African Republic.  Those investigations are being conducted jointly with Burundi and Gabon.

OIOS informed us that 90 of the 106 complainants have been interviewed by the joint teams.  Witnesses are also being interviewed in order to try and corroborate the testimonies.  The interview process is expected to be finalized in the coming few weeks.  OIOS will need the time to then review their findings and identify any additional resources that may be necessary to completing the investigation.

As you know, these allegations date back to 2014 and 2015 and there is clearly in area a lack of medical, judicial and other physical evidence, which means that the work of the investigators relies primarily on the testimonies of victims and witnesses.  OIOS staff remains on site and we will continue to update you on a periodic basis as we can.

Also, today in the CAR [Central African Republic], our peacekeeping colleagues in the mission report that an unspecified number of ex-Séléka members attacked Ngaoundaye in Ouham-Pende prefecture yesterday, resulting in looting and displacement of civilian population as well as the burning of houses.  In response, MINUSCA [United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic] peacekeepers have been deployed to the town, including the local church, where 100 to 200 civilians have sought refuge.

In Bangui, tensions are subsiding following recent protests triggered by the killing of a taxi driver over the weekend.  The Mission continues to conduct patrols in sensitive areas of the capital.  And last update from the CAR:  from our humanitarian colleagues who say that, since 12 June, more than 1,300 Central Africans, including nearly 900 children — most of them unaccompanied — have arrived in two villages on the border between the Central African Republic, Cameroon and Chad.

A joint assessment by UN agencies and local authorities have identified that priority humanitarian needs include food, water, shelter, basic household items, health care and psychosocial support, as well as protection.  Humanitarian partners have expressed concern that displacement figures could further increase as fighting reportedly continues.

**Mali

And back here, as you would have seen, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Mali, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, briefed the Security Council this morning.  Stressing that there is no alternative to peace in Mali, he warned that the peace progress risks capsizing with the slow implementation of the peace agreement.  And his remarks have been made available to you.

**Yemen

And on the humanitarian front on Yemen — the Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen said today in Sana’a that the scale and intensity of the humanitarian situation in the country is bleak and by many measures it is continuing to get worse.  He said that it is no exaggeration to say the economy is on the verge of total collapse.

More than 13 million Yemenis are in need of immediate life-saving humanitarian assistance.  Meanwhile, people are dying of preventable illnesses because of limited availability of even the most basic medical supplies.  Nearly 3 million people have fled their homes since the conflict escalated, most of whom — about 2.8 million — are displaced within Yemen itself.  The UN has directly assisted 3.6 million people in Yemen so far this year, through the end of April, including with food and health assistance.  But, some areas are difficult to reach for security reasons, and the parties to the conflict need to grant unfettered humanitarian access.

**Iraq

And on Iraq humanitarian situation — our colleagues at the World Health Oganization (WHO) say their Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean arrived in Baghdad today to review first-hand WHO’s response to the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Fallujah, where more than 42,000 Iraqis have been displaced since last month.

**Burundi

And the Peacebuilding Fund has just transferred close to $1 million to the Office of UN Special Adviser, Jamal Benomar, to support the peaceful resolution of conflict in Burundi.

**Refugees

And UNHCR [Office for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] today launched a celebrity-fuelled campaign that asks people of all over the world to sign a petition to ask their governments to act on behalf of the world’s forcibly displaced.  Some 60 celebrities, including Cate Blanchett, Helen Mirren, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Baaba Maal, Benedict Cumberbatch and our own Secretary-General appear in a video on YouTube, asking people to sign a petition that will be presented here in UN Headquarters in September during the high-level meeting on refugees and migrants.  The petition asks all Governments to make sure that every refugee child has an education, every refugee family has somewhere safe to live and that every refugee can work or learn skills. 

**Food and Agriculture Organization

And the FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization] today launched a new publication calling on Governments, development partners, civil society and the private sector to support the efforts of forest and farm producer organizations. It was launched during the European Development Days in Brussels.

**Press Briefings

Tomorrow here at 12:45 p.m., there will be a briefing by Ambassador Román Oyarzun Marchesi of Spain, as in his capacity as the Chair of the 1540 Committee of the Security Council on the Consultations on the Comprehensive Review of Security Council resolution 1540 (2004).

**Honour Roll

And today we say “thank you” very much to our friends in Athens, in Greece, who have paid their dues in full bringing the number to?  [Eighty-eight], very good.  Do you have a question, or do you yield your question to a colleague?  Okay.  Luke.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thanks.  On the situation in Kenya, regarding the refugee camps, the Kenyan Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary, Amina Mohammed, is being quoted in the Kenyan press as saying at meetings between the SG [Secretary-General] and the Kenyan President yesterday in Brussels that, "the Secretary‑General said he understands Kenya's decision to close the refugee camp and that the closure is now 'an internationally established fact.'"  Is that an accurate summary of what the SG actually said yesterday?

Spokesman:  Well, I think the accurate summary is contained in the readout that we issued yesterday in which the Secretary‑General, first of all, commended the Government of Kenya for the decades of generous hospitality to hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees and in which he encouraged President [Uhuru] Kenyatta to work with Somalia and UNHCR in ensuring that all… the Tripartite Agreement is followed and that Kenya needed to abide by all its international obligations towards refugees.  The decision that the Government of Kenya made is the decisions… is the sovereign decision of the Government of Kenya.  I think what we, from the Secretary‑General's standpoint and the High Commissioner of Refugees, Filippo Grandi, who was also in Nairobi, I mean, our focus is on ensuring that there is no refoulement, that whenever Somalis return home is done voluntarily, that there's a dialogue with the Government of Somalia and the assurances that we have received, at least the High Commissioner for Refugees received himself, is that the return of refugees to Somalia would not contravene Kenya's obligations.

Question:  I just want to be clear.  Has the UN given up on trying to persuade the Kenyan Government to reconsider this entire decision…?  That's really what this…

Spokesman:  I think what is clear is that the Government of Kenya has taken a decision.  What is important to us is that the implementation of that decision be done within the full respect of international law, Kenya's obligations, and that we put the interests of the Somalis at the centre of whatever is done.  Joe?

Question:  Yes.  With reference to the statement that the Secretary‑General delivered in Saint Petersburg that you referred to, Ukraine's ambassador this morning spoke to reporters and was very critical of a portion of that statement, in which he felt was overly positive in his characterization of Russia's role, including in connection with resolving the conflict in Ukraine, human rights and so forth.  Would you have any comment on… on that?

Spokesman:  No, I… you know, often when a Secretary‑General speaks, people have comments or criticism.  I would urge everyone to read the full statement, but I'm not going to analyse or respond to the criticisms that may have been received.  I mean, the fact is, as the Secretary‑General said, the Russian Federation is a permanent member of the Security Council and has a critical role to play in this work, in addressing other pressing global issues.  I mean, I… we're not going to walk back from what we said.  And again, I would encourage people to read the whole statement.

Question:  He indicated that, I think, he's preparing a formal letter or some sort of written communication with these concerns to the Secretary‑General.  Has that been received?

Spokesman:  Not that I'm aware.  Nizar?

Question:  On the situation of… in Yemen, obviously, this… the famine or the death of people for lack of medicine and food is not something which is happening as natural reasons.  So, how the Coalition will be made responsible for the calamities of the Yemeni people?  Is there anything the United Nations can impose on them?

Spokesman:  Clearly, what is happening in Yemen, as you say, is not a natural occurrence.  It's due to the failure of all the parties in Yemen to agree on a path forward, a political path.  That's why we are encouraging everyone to redouble their efforts in the talks in Kuwait, which are ongoing, and I think the fact that the talks remain is in itself a positive sign.  All those who have… who may have committed crimes who… against… war crimes or other crimes in terms of attacks on civilians, civilian infrastructure will have to be brought to account.  I think the Secretary‑General has in various reports has not shied away from assigning responsibility and decrying the suffering of the Yemeni people.

Question:  Today, the United Arab Emirates declared that they are stopping all operations in Yemen.  Will that exonerate them from the crimes committed during their bombardments or…?

Spokesman:  I don't… I haven't seen those reports.  I think all those who may have committed crimes will have to be brought to account.  Masood, Matthew, and then Sherwin.

Question:  Thank you.  Stéphane, can… does the Secretary‑General has any opinion or comment on the withdrawal of 11 nations from UNIDO, United Nations Industrial Development Organization in Vienna, as to why have they have withdrawn and what is happening with this?

Spokesman:  It's not clear to me at least why they have withdrawn.  But, we would urge all Member States to show support for all organizations within the UN family.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  Sure.  I'd asked you yesterday in writing, but I'll ask you now too.  What's OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] or your response to this framework… functional review of OCHA that Stephen O'Brien sent to… around to various people in OCHA on Friday that says… that found as an outside consultant, it says a lack of transparency, decision-making is felt throughout the organization; the leadership team does not work well together; decision‑making lacks discipline, transparency and accountability.  It seems like a critique…?

Spokesman:  I have no particular response to what is clearly a leaked document, but I think it's only normal that leaders in any parts of the UN conduct periodic reviews of how their organizations are run, how they're perceived internally.  And if they do that and receive critical comment from the outside, I'm sure… I think, in a sense, it shows a positive sign of self‑reflection and wanting to improve what may be good into even better.

Correspondent:  I mean, you say it's leaked, but it was sent around, it was widely to OCHA officials, and many of them themselves saying…

 

Spokesman:  What I'm saying is that it was not released as a public document.  It remains internal… internal e-mails remain internal e-mails.

Question:  Right.  It's a doc… it's a report.  The UN paid for it.  It says that the OCHA is mis-serving the public.  That's not an internal…?

Spokesman:  I think I've just answered that.

Question:  Okay.  Has Kanye… Kyung‑Wha Kang resigned?

Spokesman:  She has indicated that she wanted to step down for family reasons, but she will stay… I think her departure date has not been set.  And it won't be for a few weeks, if not a couple of months.

Question:  Okay.  What about the other questions I sent you?

Spokesman:  We'll come back to you later.  Sherwin?

Question:  Thanks, Steph.  Today… changing focus somewhat, today is Youth Day in South Africa, and this year marking the fortieth anniversary of the Soweto uprisings, in which up to 700 students and peoples were mowed down by apartheid police.  Given the UN's condemnation, at the time a very visible role by the Security Council, are there any thoughts you can share at this time?

Spokesman:  Clearly, I think the UN played a critical role in the fight against apartheid through its various committees, through its actions of Member States.  And I think we do… we all join the people of South Africa in commemorating the anniversary of the Soweto uprising.  Those days of June 1976, it once demonstrated the perversity of the apartheid system, as well as the unstoppable march of the people of South Africa towards freedom.  I think, you know, all of us who look back at those… look at those images from 1976 cannot still help be moved as we saw those who were cut down by the forces of the apartheid regime and whose only crime was to demand the dignity and the respect that was their birthright.  We honour the memory of those who fell during the uprising and of all of the victims of apartheid.  Their sacrifice paved the way to the end of a despicable regime and the progress made by South Africa since its first democratic elections in 1994.  They will forever inspire the struggle for human rights and freedom around the world.  Olga?  I think you were being very patient.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  You mentioned few humanitarian convoys that reached Syrian cities.  Is there any talks now for aid drops?  Because, as we remember, like two or three weeks ago, Stephen O'Brien said…

Spokesman:  Yeah, I think… if you didn't hear it in yesterday's briefing, it may be new to you, but I did state there were airdrops done on Deir Ezzour, both on Monday and Tuesday.

Question:  Yes.  But, airdrops in Deir… in this area in Deir Ezzour are quite… quite regular.  I mean, are there any talks to expand the airdrops or…?

Spokesman:  As it remains, our preference remains on road convoys.  You see we're getting a few in.  I don't have any reports of other airdrops besides Deir Ezzour.  Fathi?

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  With regard to the aid distribution in Syria and for the sake of transparency and accountability, how much of the aid sent to the Syrian besieged area was actually distributed in the besieged area and not to parts of Syria that's under the control of the regime?  How much is done exactly by the UN organizations, and how much has been done by Syrians affiliated with the regime…?

Spokesman:  Those details are contained in the periodic reports from the humanitarian colleagues to the Security Council.  I think there's one coming up.  What is clear to us is that the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society, which is our main partner, is doing an admirable job.  I think, of the 90 or so humanitarian workers who were killed during this conflict, most of them are Syrians, and most of them belong to the Arab Red Crescent Society.  We have no reports of diversions of aid away from the beneficiaries when those convoys are handled by our Syrian humanitarian partners.  Edie?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  The Ukrainian ambassador has criticized the Secretary‑General's speech this morning in Saint Petersburg for saying that Russia has a critical role to play in addressing pressing global issues from ending conflicts in Ukraine and Syria to safeguarding human rights and controlling the proliferation of nuclear weapons.  Do you have any comment?

Spokesman:  I do, and in fact, your colleague Joe Klein asked the question, I think, as you were on your way down here.  I will… we can refer you back to the transcript that will be published.  Okay.  Go ahead.

Correspondent:  I wanted to see if there were any updates on replying to the Saudi letter or any communications with the Saudis.

Spokesman:  No updates that we have since yesterday.  You know, we, obviously, welcome any new information that the Saudi‑led Coalition should bring us, but no update on a potential meeting with the Deputy Crown Prince.  Nabil?

Question:  I have two questions on Libya.  Obviously, the Security Council is divided around what role Mr. [Khalifa] Haftar is playing in combating terrorism in Libya.  And I would like to know your position.  What's your assessment to what he's doing and especially in combatting terrorism?

Spokesman:  I don't have any specific assessment on his role in combating terrorism.  Obviously, we will follow and implement whatever Security Council support, whatever Security Council resolutions are approved.  Our overall message is that there needs to be support both from within the various actors within Libya and without… from outside of Libya and support of the Presidency Council.  And I think all those in Libya should rally towards that governing structure.

Question:  And may I follow up?  The SG was also mandated by the Security Council resolution 2292 (2016) to start a new mechanism or to provide a report on the international foreign fighters in Libya.  So, can you tell us a bit more about this mechanism?  Has he started writing the report, and what information do you have…?

Spokesman:  I don't have anything else to… honestly, I don't have anything to share with you at this point.  Obviously, we will implement and follow up with what is required of us by the Security Council.

Question:  Yes.  On Mali, I wanted to know, is there any Government of National Unity in place, and does the peace agreement signed by all party recommend it or not?

Spokesman:  Well, the… there is a legitimate Government in Mali, which is, obviously, a party to the agreements that were signed.  I think it is important that all those who signed the peace agreement implement the agreement.  The Special Representative, I think, outlined the numerous challenges that remain in Mali, and we would call for the international community to support the Government of Mali and support the implementation of the accord.

Question:  So, armed groups are not included in the public affair, actually?

Spokesman:  Sorry?

Question:  Armed group member are not included into the public affair actually in the country?

Spokesman:  I think the armed groups that signed on to the agreement need to do their bit as everyone else does in implementing the agreement.  Emoke?

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  Do you have any comment on the Human Rights Watch report today that in Ethiopia 400 people have been killed and tens of thousands detained during protests since November?

Spokesman:  No, I'll be honest with you, I have not seen that report.  But, I'll see if we can get some language on that.  Mr. Lee.  Sorry, and then Evelyn.

Question:  One follow‑up.  Given… is it fair to say that the Secretary‑General, when he met with the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, did not raise this issue of the Oromo protests?  There had been big… it's been raised to the UN a number of times…

Spokesman:  I will refer you to the readout, which will stand as the record of the meeting.

 

Question:  I wanted to ask you about Burundi.  I'd sent you this yesterday, but I'll ask it again.  And what I wanted to ask you is, of the students that were now… there are now several hundred students that have been expelled, and there's one that's been photographed as having been tortured for defacing the photograph… allegedly defacing the photograph of Pierre Nkurunziza.  And so, I'm wondering, again, given you'd mentioned this million dollars, what exactly is the UN doing about that and about the outstanding threat to… to crack down on Mugamba, a Tutsi… largely Tutsi community?  People are fleeing…

 

Spokesman:  I think it's important the Government uphold its responsibilities to protect its people to ensure that there is freedom of expression and freedom of speech.  The Special Envoy has a team on the ground, and they continue to engage.

Question:  And do you think… I mean, to tie what you announced in the top of this million dollars, how will this actually help protect people…?

Spokesman:  Well, I think this will enhance the capacity of Mr. Benomar's office on the ground.  Okay.  Evelyn?

Question:  Yes.  Just curious, the aid that was delivered by OCHA near Homs today, did the Syrian Government take anything out of the convoys to express its annoyance?

Spokesman:  Not that I'm aware and they've been… our OCHA colleagues have been pretty clear at stating publicly when that does take place.  Nizar and then…

Question:  Today a sad incident happened in Leeds… a sad incident happened in Leeds where Jo Cox, an MP [Member of Parliament], was attacked and perished or died in the attack.  Do you have any position on that?

Spokesman:  No, I mean, I just heard the reports briefly.  Obviously, we're saddened by the death of the MP and send our condolences to the family, but I have no further details than what we've just… what we just saw in the press.

Question:  I have another question regarding the Syria conference.  A senior general in Israel, General [Efram] Halevi, mentioned very clearly that it is not in Israel's interest that ISIS would… to be defeated in Syria and Iraq.  And this is a… given that the UNDOF [United Nations Disengagement Observer Force] report mentions cooperation…?

Spokesman:  I'll be honest with you…  No, no, I obviously have not seen… I have not seen that report, so I don't want to comment on something that I have not seen.  Luke?

Question:  On Syria, about the Aleppo convoy, not the Homs one, was that convoy already in the works before this 48‑hour ceasefire, or was it given the go‑ahead because of Russia's announcement yesterday?

Spokesman:  It's a valid question.  I have no doubt that the… that, obviously, the planning for the convoy has been in the works for quite some time.  And as soon as we receive all the necessary green lights, the convoys go.  Matthew and then Joe.

Question:  Sure.  I wanted… on Western Sahara, this morning, the… the… François Delattre, the President of the Council, said that there's positive momentum, and it will be up to the Secretary‑General to respond to it.  And I understand that Hervé Ladsous has met with various of the parties about it.  Is there an actual proposal that he's conveying?  And if so, will you say now whether it involves the return of the full 80‑plus staff members or something less?

Spokesman:  No.  Obviously, we need to see the mission return to its full operational capacity, as outlined in the Security Council resolution.  There have been a number of constructive discussions between the UN and Moroccan authorities.  We're obviously assessing those discussions.  We also look forward to the Security Council to continue to reinforce the need of the full functionality of the UN mission, as specified in its own Security Council resolution.

Question:  Has the information that Mr. Hervé Ladsous has been conveyed to the Secretary‑General, even though he's travelling in terms of him assessing whether it's a sufficient response…?

Spokesman:  The Secretary‑General is… whether he's here in New York or on the road is fully informed on a daily basis of all key developments that he needs to know about.  All right.  Joe?

Question:  In response to the ISIS‑inspired massacre in Orlando, the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights chose to focus on criticizing the lack of effective gun control regulation in the United States.  I'd like to know whether, number one, the Secretary‑General shares the sentiments expressed by the High Commissioner.  And, secondly, is it appropriate for a UN official to comment or… intrude himself into what is essentially a domestic matter within a Member State?

Spokesman:  I think the role and responsibilities of the High Commissioner for Refugees are quite unique.  He speaks out as he feels he needs…

Correspondent:  I think it was the Human Rights.

Spokesman:  What did I say?

Correspondent:  Refugees.

Spokesman:  Refugees.  Sorry.  We have so many high commissioners.  You know, the role and responsibility of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is very unique.  He has a unique platform.  I think the Secretary‑General very much supports the work that he does as well as his freedom to express himself on all sorts of matters.  And frankly, I think, by definition, I think, when the High Commissioner for Human Rights expresses himself, it's often on issues that are of domestic focus in many countries.  And we see nothing wrong with what he said and nothing wrong with the fact that he said it.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure.  Something light that… about what you said yesterday and then something more serious that I would like to ask you.  You'd said yesterday that there… there is a… the tours of the UN are going to be expanded to include this room with some kind of a… we're going to add glass in the back and the tours will come through the briefing room they can watch us in play every day at noon.  I wanted to ask, are tourists or those taking the tour going to be allowed to take photographs?  And if so, will the security handbook that I've asked you about be amended?  And can I have a copy of the handbook?

Spokesman:  What I said was a joke, although maybe it would be fun to see it one day.  It was humour.

 

Question:  And here's the more serious question I wanted to ask you.  I've become aware today of a letter that was sent by Special Rapporteur David Kaye and Special Rapporteur Michel Forst to Ms. [Cristina] Gallach of DPI [Department of Public Information] on 25 February, asking about ouster and eviction of Inner City Press.  And her response was two months later, and she referred to an altercation in this room that required… so I'm asking you.  You were here.  Other than you turning off my phone, was it an altercation?  Is that an accurate statement?

Spokesman:  Matthew, Matthew… I have not… I will not comment on your personal issues.

Correspondent:  You're saying it's a personal issue.  This was a letter sent to the Special Rapporteur.

Spokesman:  And the letter, if you want to ask for the letter, you could ask the Special Rapporteur.

Correspondent:  No, I've seen the letter.

Spokesman:  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.