HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY FARHAN HAQ, ACTING DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
THURSDAY, 16 JANUARY 2014
SECRETARY-GENERAL WELCOMES START OF LEBANON TRIBUNAL’S TRIAL FOR ATTACK ON FORMER PRIME MINISTER
- In a statement issued today, the Secretary-General welcomes the opening today of the trial of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), nearly nine years after the heinous terrorist attack which killed former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 21 others. The Secretary-General stresses the vital importance of combating impunity for the long-term stability and security of Lebanon. He notes with gratitude the continuing support of the Government of Lebanon, and of other Member States, for the work of the Tribunal.
- In response to questions, the Spokesperson said that the Tribunal is an independent body with a mandate exercised in accordance with the highest international standards of criminal justice pursuant to Security Council resolution 1757 (2007) and its Annex.
- In this case as for other international tribunals, the United Nations respects the course of justice and the need for due process.
- He added that any legal or jurisdictional issues, or questions relating to the judicial process or the Tribunal’s institutional functioning, ought to be referred directly to the Tribunal.
LEBANON: U.N. ENVOY SPEAKS OUT AGAINST DEADLY CAR BOMBING
- Derek Plumbly, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, strongly condemned the car bombing this morning in the area of Hermel in north-eastern Lebanon that has killed and wounded a number of people. He extended his condolences to the families of the victims of this bombing.
- The Special Coordinator said he continues to be disturbed by the recurrence of indiscriminate acts of violence in Lebanon during the past months. He urged all Lebanese to exercise restraint and expressed his hope that those responsible for today’s bombing and all other acts of terrorism will be brought to justice as soon as possible.
EXECUTIONS COULD BE WAR CRIMES, U.N. RIGHTS CHIEF WARNS SYRIAN OPPOSITION
- The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, warned armed opposition groups in Syria today that executions and unlawful killings are in violation of international human rights and humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes. She said that, over the past two weeks, her office has received reports of a succession of mass executions of civilians and fighters who were no longer participating in hostilities in Aleppo, Idlib and Raqqa by hardline armed opposition groups in Syria, in particular by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
- The High Commissioner reiterated her call on all parties to the conflict to treat individuals held in their custody with humanity and to immediately release all those who are deprived of their liberty in violation of international law.
- On Wednesday, the Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, called Dr. Hassan Abdel-Azim, President of the National Coordination Committee (NCC), following that group’s decision not to be part of the delegation of the Syrian Opposition to the Geneva Conference on Syria. Mr. Brahimi told Dr. Abdel-Azim that he respects the Committee’s decision but deeply regrets that it will not be part of the delegation of the Opposition.
- In response to questions, the Spokesperson confirmed that a letter had been received from the Syrian Government confirming its attendance at the Geneva Conference for Syria. The Syrian delegation is to be headed by the foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem.
- Asked about concerns that the opposition may not show up for the conference, Haq said that the expectation remains that the Syrian opposition will attend with a broadly representative delegation.
- Asked about the priorities at the conference, he said that the Secretary-General had made clear that the key goal of the Geneva Conference is to reach an agreement on a transitional governing body with full executive power.
- Asked about the humanitarian situation at Yarmouk Camp, Haq said that the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) continues to seek access to the camp, after an aid convoy had to turn back on Monday because of fighting in the area. He said that the Agency was trying to see whether it could enter the camp using a more safe route than the one the Syrian authorities had provided on Monday.
ITALY ALLOWS LOADING OF SYRIAN CHEMICALS, WEAPONS WATCHDOG SAYS
- The Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Ahmet Üzümcü, confirmed today that the Italian Government has agreed to allow the port of Gioia Tuaro for the loading of priority chemicals brought from Syria by cargo vessels onto a U.S. ship, the MV Cape Ray.
- The port is located on the Mediterranean coast of southern Italy and specialises in transshipment activities.
U.N. MALI ENVOY BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL
- Bert Koenders, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Mali, briefed the Security Council this morning on the work of the UN Mission in that country (MINUSMA).
- He told the Council that the coming year will be decisive for the people of Mali, and he said that Mali has a unique opportunity to tackle the root causes of the successive crises that the nation has undergone and to build a durable basis for peace and reconciliation.
SOUTH SUDAN: U.N. MISSION BOLSTERING SECURITY FOR CIVILIANS IN ITS BASES
- The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is improving security in its bases across the country where some 65,000 civilians are seeking shelter.
- Among the security measures put in place are weapons searches and joint UN police and military patrols inside and in the immediate vicinity of all sites.
- The Mission says that the last of the additional police units authorized by the Security Council last December will arrive by the end of next week. These units will be deployed at bases in Juba, Malakal and Bentiu.
- The Mission notes that it continues to face restrictions on the movement of ammunition for its troops. It reminds all parties that, as stated by the Security Council, efforts to undermine the Mission’s ability to implement its mandate, as it seeks to protect civilians, will not be tolerated.
- The Mission also notes that the congestion of the sites is a challenge to civilian safety. Yesterday, it began moving several hundred people who had just arrived at the UN’s Tomping compound to another site where space is still available.
- The Mission reiterates that it is impartial in implementing its mandate to protect all civilians.
- In Malakal, the Mission reports that anti-Government forces appear to be in control of the town. The Mission is protecting some 20,000 civilians at its Malakal site.
- In Bentiu, the Mission reports heavy shooting and shelling. As of today, 5,300 civilians are seeking shelter in two UN sites.
- The Mission has conducted several patrols in the towns of Bor, Pibor, Malakal, Pariang, Bentiu and Juba.
- The Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Šimonovic, is continuing his visit to the country. He has met with Government officials, community leaders and civilians at the Mission’s bases in Bentiu and Bor.
- The Spokesperson clarified that regarding his office’s update yesterday on Malakal, the UN military office who was said to have suffered a gunshot wound was injured accidentally and not by a stray bullet.
- The Spokesperson, in response to questions about human rights in South Sudan, noted that Mr. Simonovic would talk to the press in Juba and would then discuss South Sudan in a Monday press briefing at the United Nations.
U.N. AID OFFICIAL CALLS SITUATION IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC ‘TRAGIC’
- John Ging, the Operations Director of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), briefed the media today in Geneva on his recent mission to the Central African Republic, where some 2.6 million people need humanitarian assistance.
- He called the humanitarian situation in the country “tragic” and added that the communities he spoke to during his four-day mission have no confidence that the situation is going to get better anytime soon.
- UN agencies and humanitarian partners have appealed for $247 million to provide assistance in the Central African Republic this year but have only received 6 per cent of the funding so far.
- On Monday, 20 January, UN Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos and European Union Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva are expected to co-chair a high-level meeting in Brussels to discuss the humanitarian situation in the country, its implications and financial requirements for aid.
- Asked about insecurity in the country, the Spokesperson noted that the Secretary-General had presented a range of options to the Security Council on how to provide security there, and it was up to the Security Council to decide whether any other option needs to be considered.
PHILIPPINES: TWO MONTHS AFTER DEVASTATING TYPHOON, U.N. RELIEF CHIEF URGES CONTINUED ASSISTANCE
- The Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, says that two months after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, good progress has been made in many areas but people are still dependent on humanitarian support, especially to rebuild their homes.
- More than 14 million people were affected by the storm, with some 4 million of them having been uprooted at the height of the emergency.
- Two months after the storm, the scale and spread of humanitarian needs is still daunting, Ms. Amos says. She is particularly concerned that only 20 per cent of the funding needed has been secured to help people rebuild their homes.
- She says that in the coming months, the humanitarian community will focus on ensuring a smooth transition from urgent assistance to long-term recovery and rehabilitation efforts.
SECRETARY-GENERAL MARKS LAUNCH OF YEAR OF SOLIDARITY WITH PALESTINIAN PEOPLE
- In a statement, the Secretary-General says that today marks the launch of the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. This will be a critical year for achieving the two-State solution, bringing an end to the occupation that started in 1967, and securing an independent, viable and sovereign State of Palestine living in peace and security with the State of Israel where each recognizes the other’s legitimate rights.
- The Secretary-General calls on all members of the international community and, in particular, Israelis and Palestinians, to work together for justice and a durable peace. Israel and Palestine need to live-up to their commitment to a negotiated two-State solution and resolve all permanent status issues, in accordance with Security Council resolutions, the Madrid principles, the Road Map, the 2002 Arab Peace initiative and existing agreements between the parties.
- The leaders of Israel and Palestine will need political will, a sense of historic responsibility and a clear vision for a better future for this and future generations. The Secretary-General pledges to do his utmost in support of their efforts.