HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC,
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
FRIDAY, 19 DECEMBER 2014
SECRETARY-GENERAL ‘DISMAYED’ BY ATTACKS AGAINST CIVILIANS BY MILITANT GROUPS, TERRORISTS
- In a statement, the Secretary-General says that he is dismayed by and strongly condemns the pattern of attacks against innocent civilians, including women and children, by militant groups and terrorists. This week alone, there have been appalling killings in Nigeria, Yemen and Pakistan. The perpetrators of these despicable acts of violence must be brought to justice. The Secretary General conveys his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and expresses his solidarity with the governments and peoples of the countries involved in their fight against terrorism.
THERE IS REASON TO BE ‘CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC’ EBOLA OUTBREAK CAN BE DEFEATED, SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS IN WEST AFRICA
- The Secretary-General is in West Africa today.
- Earlier this morning, he arrived in Liberia.
- He visited a facility in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, and held meetings with partners involved in the response against Ebola, with both local and international assistance.
- He also met with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
- In a joint press conference following that meeting, he said there is reason to be cautiously optimistic that this terrible outbreak can be defeated, as the spread of the virus is slowing in Liberia.
- However, he stressed it is not the time to ease our efforts, as just one case can trigger an epidemic. He said that the approach against Ebola is adapting to the shifting evolution of the outbreak as it becomes more geographically dispersed. He also said that even as we focus on stopping transmission today, it is not too early to start working on recovery for tomorrow and appealed to all to work together to preserve Liberia’s hard-won peace.
- Yesterday, the Secretary-General met with the President of Ghana upon arriving in the country last night.
- The Secretary-General is now in Sierra Leone where he has been meeting with health workers and survivors. He is scheduled to meet with President Ernest Bai Koroma and hold a press conference with him later today.
- The Secretary-General is remaining overnight in Sierra Leone.
- Tomorrow, he will head to Guinea and Mali. He is being accompanied by the Head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Margaret Chan, as well as his Special Envoy for Ebola, Dr. David Nabarro, and the Head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), Anthony Banbury.
SOUTH SUDAN: OPPOSITION FORCES HAVE KILLED CIVILIANS, COMMITTED ABUSES, U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT ALLEGES
- The Human Rights Division of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) issued a report today on the allegations that opposition forces killed at least 11 civilians and committed other serious human rights abuses during an attack on the Unity State capital of Bentiu last October. UNMISS human rights officers also received testimony from multiple sources alleging that opposition forces abducted and raped female residents of Bentiu after government troops withdrew from some parts of the city during the afternoon of 29 October 2014.
- According to the preliminary findings, “opposition forces committed gross human rights abuses and serious violations of international humanitarian law which may amount to war crimes.”
- The head of the Mission, Ellen Margrethe Loej, said this report was a timely reminder of that the fighting that has continued in Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei states in spite of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement that both warring parties signed nearly a year ago.
U.N. REFUGEE AGENCYS VOICES CONCERN OVER CONTINUED KILLINGS IN EASTERN D.R. CONGO
- From Geneva, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says that it is greatly concerned by the ongoing killings and other human rights violations against civilians in the Beni area of North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Multiple attacks over the last three months have caused widespread fear and displacement, and the Refugee Agency is asking for humanitarian access.
- UNHCR says that in all, about 88,000 people have been displaced and have received little assistance.
- The Agency is calling on the Government of Democratic Republic of the Congo to protect the civilian population in Beni and the surrounding areas to allow humanitarian organizations into the affected areas.
AT SECURITY COUNCIL, U.N. POLITICAL CHIEF SPOTLIGHTS NEED FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT, GOOD GOVERNANCE TO FIGHT TERRORISM
- Jeffrey Feltman, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, addressed the Security Council’s open meeting on terrorism and cross-border crime this morning.
- He said that we were reminded yet again this week why we must not tire in our efforts to counter terrorism, following the despicable attack on a school in Pakistan by the Taliban. He added that the need for urgent action to address terrorism and its transnational linkages regrettably well-illustrated, for example by the intensification of Boko Haram activities across the Lake Chad Basin region of Central Africa. In the Secretary-General's recent visits to Africa, he was constantly reminded that terrorism and cross-border crime cannot be addressed separately.
- Mr. Feltman said that efforts to combat terrorism will not bear fruit unless we combine law enforcement actions with measures to strengthen good governance, rule of law and human rights. He said that we will not uproot the ideologies that lead to violence if we do not win over hearts and minds.
U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICE WELCOMES MOVES TOWARDS NORMALIZATION OF TIES BETWEEN CUBA, UNITED STATES
- In Geneva, the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) said that it very much welcomes the developments towards normalizing the relationship between Cuba and the United States, and in particular the fact that the remaining three members of the so-called 'Cuban Five' as well as US citizen Alan Gross have all been released as part of the agreement.
- They said that the progress towards normalizing relations between the two countries will hopefully have a beneficial knock-on effect in the human rights of all Cubans.
U.N. MILITARY OFFICIAL MEETS LEBANESE LEADERS
- Major-General Luciano Portolano, Force Commander of the UN Disengagement Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), met today with the Lebanese Speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, as well as Prime Minister, Tammam Salam, and Minister of Interior, Nuhad Mashnouk.
- Following the meetings, General Portolano said that he and the Lebanese leaders had discussed the situation in southern Lebanon. He said that the leaders were particularly appreciative of the excellent relations with UNIFIL peacekeepers and the local population.
U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS, REFUGEE AGENCIES APPEAL FOR URGENT ACTION TO PROTECT VIETNAMESE MONTAGNARDS IN CAMBODIA
- In Geneva, the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said today that they are increasingly concerned about the health and well-being of 13 Vietnamese Montagnards.
- They have been hiding in the Cambodian jungle for more than seven weeks with no access to assistance or protection.
- A joint team of representatives from Cambodia Interior Ministry, the UN Human Rights Office and the UN Refugee Agency traveled to the area last week to engage with local authorities and to find and speak to the Montagnards. It was agreed that if the group said they wished to apply for asylum, they would be brought to Phnom Penh to do so.
- However, despite a clear instruction by the Interior Minister to cooperate, the local authorities have not allowed the team to meet the Montagnards or transport them to the capital.
- UN officials have been informed that provincial police have continued to search for the individuals, possibly with a view to returning them to Viet Nam, where they may be in danger of being subjected to human rights violations.
- OHCHR and UNHCR are appealing to Cambodian authorities to take urgent action to ensure that the Montagnard group is escorted to Phnom Penh and given access to the asylum procedure.
***The guests at the Noon Briefing were Nicholas Haysom, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and the Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), and Georgette Gagnon, the Mission’s Director of Human Rights.