HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY EDUARDO DEL BUEY
DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
WEDNESDAY, 21 NOVEMBER 2012
[The United Nations Headquarters will be closed on Thursday, 22 November, for a US holiday.]
SECRETARY-GENERAL SHOCKED BY ATTACK IN TEL AVIV, DISCUSSES CEASEFIRE WITH PALESTINIAN, EGYPTIAN PRESIDENTS
- The Secretary-General was shocked at the news of the terror attack on a bus today in the centre of Tel Aviv. In a statement we issued this morning, he condemned this attack in the strongest possible terms. There are no circumstances that justify the targeting of civilians. The Secretary-General is saddened and expresses his sympathy to those injured in the blast.
- The Secretary-General met this morning in Ramallah with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
- Speaking to the press afterward, he appealed to all those commanding, bearing and operating weapons to respect international humanitarian law to ensure the protection of civilians at all times. And he called for an end to indiscriminate rocket attacks by Palestinian militants.
- He added that he believes that it is time for a Palestinian state to emerge that meets the aspirations of the Palestinian people and that will exist side by side with Israel in peace and security. He looks forward to supporting negotiations that are the best means to achieve that result.
- The Secretary-General headed to Cairo afterward, where he met with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi.
WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME TO PROVIDE FOOD ASSISTANCE TO 350 FAMILIES IN GAZA
- The World Food Programme (WFP) will provide emergency food assistance in the coming days in different areas of Gaza to 350 families – around 2,100 people – whose houses were destroyed during the recent attacks. These families will receive, for an initial ten-day period, a ration of canned food and bread, through local bakeries using World Food Programme wheat flour.
- On Tuesday, four trucks with WFP food stocks, sufficient to feed 5,600 for a month, attempted to enter via the Karem Shalom crossing but had to turn back due to rocket fire. It is critical to ensure this access point is open for humanitarian food and other supplies in the coming days.
- Asked about the consequences of the attacks on children, the Spokesperson reiterated the Secretary-General’s position that the violence must end. As the Secretary-General has made clear, the rocket attacks on Israel are not acceptable and must cease and Israel must exercise maximum restraint.
- The Spokesperson noted the Secretary-General’s recent statements concerning the actions by both sides that have resulted in civilian casualties.
HEAD OF U.N.E.S.C.O. DEPLORES ATTACKS ON MEDIA, SCHOOLS IN GAZA AND SOUTHERN ISRAEL
- This morning the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, issued a statement in which she said she is alarmed by the escalation of violence in Israel and Gaza.
- She condemned the killing of three Palestinian journalists—Mahmoud Al-Komi, Hossam Salameh Mohammed and Abu Eisha— in air strikes on 20 November.
- She voiced alarm over reports that media were being targeted in the air strikes and rocket fire between southern Israel and Gaza.
- She also expressed her alarm at strikes on schools in both Gaza and southern Israel. Schools should offer a safe environment for children, she said, noting that attacks against them is a denial of the right to education and should be firmly condemned.
- Asked about the Secretary-General’s views, the Spokesperson reiterated that the Secretary-General believes that journalists must be free to go about their work without violence or the threat of violence.
D.R.CONGO: HEAD OF U.N. MISSION SAYS GOMA OCCUPATION INCREASES RISK OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
- The Security Council this morning received an update on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, following the M23 occupation of the city of Goma.
- Roger Meece, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, told Council members by videoconference that the security situation in the province of North Kivu has seriously deteriorated, compounded by a vast humanitarian crisis.
- Mr. Meece said that the occupation of Goma poses a major risk of increased serious human rights violations, including killings and the forced recruitment of civilians, including minors. The UN Mission, MONUSCO, has received numerous reports of targeted summary executions and unconfirmed cases of sexual violence, among other abuses. He also discussed encounters with English speaking officers, surprising weaponry and equipment being used and other signs of external support for the M23.
- The Security Council last night adopted a resolution calling on the M23 to withdraw from Goma and asking for all outside support to the rebels to cease.
- The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, expects to talk to reporters following the meeting.
- The Security Council also adopted a resolution this morning on piracy off the coast of Somalia.
U.N. MISSION IN D.R. CONGO CONTINUES EFFORTS TO PROTECT CIVILIANS
- The Secretary-General is extremely concerned by the latest developments in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and the humanitarian consequences of M23 attacks.
- The M23 must comply with the demands of the Security Council, the African Union and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region to immediately withdraw from Goma and lay down their arms.
- The UN Mission, MONUSCO, is continuing all efforts within the limits of mandate and capabilities to protect civilians, in extremely challenging circumstances. The Mission has some 1,500 troops in Goma and 6,700 in North Kivu. Another 4,000 troops are in South Kivu.
- However, MONUSCO cannot act in substitute to the Congolese army and national security forces in directly confronting the M23. The use of force by UN peacekeepers is principally to protect civilians. Any use of force by UN peacekeepers must also take into account the imperative not to further endanger civilians.
- The Secretary-General is very concerned about demonstrations against the United Nations in parts of the country, including in Goma and other parts of North Kivu, as well as in Bunia and Kisangani in Orientale province. Any actions to undermine or target the efforts of the United Nations to protect civilians and deliver humanitarian relief will not be tolerated.
SECRETARY-GENERAL WELCOMES ADOPTION OF GENERAL ASSEMBLY TEXT ON DEATH PENALTY MORATORIUM
- The Secretary-General welcomes Monday’s record vote in favour of the call for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty by the Third Committee of the General Assembly, which adopted the resolution by 110 votes in favour (with 39 against and 36 abstentions). The new resolution, inter alia, calls on all States to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty. It reflects a trend against capital punishment which has grown stronger across regions, legal traditions and customs since the landmark resolution of the General Assembly in 2007.
- The Secretary-General saluted this development at a high-level event on the death penalty in New York this July. He said then that the taking of life is too absolute, too irreversible, for one human being to inflict on another, even when backed by legal process.
- Some 150 States have either abolished or do not practice the death penalty. Monday’s vote offers the opportunity to again encourage Member States who still practice the death penalty or retain it in law to follow suit. The Secretary-General therefore calls on Member States to join the worldwide trend and support next month’s General Assembly resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.
U.N. AND MYANMAR LAUNCH REVISED RESPONSE PLAN FOR RAKHINE STATE
- The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Myanmar, Ashok Nigam, together with Myanmar’s Minister of Border Affairs, Lieutenant General Thein Htay, today launched the Revised Rakhine Response Plan to meet urgent humanitarian needs in Rakhine State.
- The plan has been revised upwards, from $32.5 million to $68 million, to address overall needs until the middle of next year. The remaining $41 million is still urgently required to meet the funding gap.