HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY FARHAN HAQ, ACTING DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
THURSDAY, 19 DECEMBER 2013
SOUTH SUDAN: CIVILIANS SEEKING PROTECTION FROM U.N. MISSION
- The Spokesperson provided details about the deterioration in recent hours of the security situation in South Sudan.
- While the situation in central Juba appears to have calmed down to some extent, which has allowed limited movements of UN personnel, reports of civilians seeking protection continue.
- Following unconfirmed reports of several students killed by security personnel in Juba University on Wednesday, several hundred students reportedly remaining on campus have requested assistance from the UN Mission in South Sudan. A patrol was scheduled for the area on Thursday afternoon.
- In another location in Juba, called the Kator complex, approximately 2,000-5,000 civilians have sought refuge and have called for force protection from the UN Mission. A patrol was en route.
- The situation in Jonglei has deteriorated. In Akobo, on Thursday, where civilians have gathered including 32 as of Wednesday night, Lou Nuer youth have reportedly forced an entry into the UNMISS Temporary Operating Base to reach to those civilians.
- Fighting took place and we are yet to ascertain the situation. The United Nations fears there may have been some fatalities but can't confirm who and how many at this stage.
- Asked about support for the base in Akobo, the Spokesperson said that the UN Mission will try to extract unarmed personnel and reinforce the base in Akobo with an additional 60 troops from Malakal. That would need to happen on Friday, since night has fallen.
- He said that UNMISS was trying to reinforce its positions in difficult areas throughout the country by redeploying troops from other locations as needed.
- Asked about violence in Bor, the Spokesperson said that the South Sudan Government has reported to UNMISS that there has been youth mobilisation and movement towards Bor, but the Mission has not been able to verify the claim.
- At present, he added, UNMISS is providing security to over 14,000 civilians gathered around the base in Bor, while providing protection at the Bor Airstrip.
- Asked about Mission’s mandate, Haq said that the Secretary-General had been clear in emphasizing the importance of the Mission’s mandate to protect civilians and ensuring that it can be carried out.
- The Secretary-General has called on the Government to cooperate fully with UNMISS as it fulfils its protection mandate, including in the provision of basic relief to civilians in need and in conducting human rights investigations into allegations of human rights abuses in recent days.
- Asked about contacts with other Governments, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Hilde Johnson, remains in constant contact with the Government of South Sudan and others with influence issues, where she conveyed the Secretary-General’s messages on the situation.
U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS CHIEF WARNS AGAINST DETERIORATING SITUATION IN SOUTH SUDAN
- The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has warned against the rapidly deteriorating security situation in South Sudan and the consequences for the civilian population.
- She said that she is deeply worried about the safety and security of civilians caught in the crossfire. The risk of seeing the fighting taking on an ethnic dimension is extremely high and could result in a dangerous situation.
- She called on the Government to send a clear message on command responsibility within the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) to prevent retaliatory attacks based on ethnicity and tribal affiliation and to hold the alleged perpetrators accountable.
- The High Commissioner also urged the Government of South Sudan to ensure that all those detained are accorded due process and that they are promptly either charged or released. She urged all parties, including members of the security forces, to exercise utmost restraint and comply with international human rights and humanitarian law.
SECRETARY-GENERAL STRESSES MANDELA’S GREATNESS AT MEMORIAL SERVICE IN NEW YORK
- The Secretary-General spoke at the General Assembly’s memorial service for Nelson Mandela, and said that Nelson Mandela was a human being with flaws and frailties like any of us. And yet from his humanity came humility; from humility came strength; from strength came transformation; from utter goodness came epic greatness.
- The Secretary-General said that when he visited South Africa to see his funeral service last week, he saw once again how much Nelson Mandela meant to the people of South Africa – and the people of South Africa said how much the United Nations meant to them. Their struggle, the Secretary-General said, was our struggle.
- He said that now it is our duty to build the better world that Nelson Mandela showed is within our grasp.
SECRETARY-GENERAL TO DEPART NEW YORK FOR THE PHILIPPINES
- As the Secretary-General announced on Monday, he is departing this afternoon for the Philippines.
- Over the weekend, he will visit Manila and Tacloban, where he will assess the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan firsthand.
U.N. ENVOY IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC SAYS SITUATION IS IMPROVING BUT REMAINS FRAGILE AND UNPREDICTABLE
- The Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the Central African Republic, Babacar Gaye, said on Thursday that the situation is improving in the country but remains fragile and unpredictable.
- In an interview with UN Radio, Mr. Gaye also said that there is no longer fighting in the capital Bangui and the disarmament of armed groups is ongoing. He said that this improvement has to be consolidated.
JOINT SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR SYRIA TO MEET SENIOR OFFICIALS IN GENEVA
- The Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, and Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman will meet at the Palais des Nations in Geneva on Friday with Russian Deputy Foreign Ministers Mikhail Bogdanov and Gennady Gatilov and United States Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman to further preparations for the International Conference on Syria.
- The meeting will be followed by one with representatives of the five permanent members of the Security Council and neighbours of Syria (namely, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey), as well as of the European Union and the League of Arab States.
- It is expected that the Joint Special Representative will address the press following the meetings.
COMMISSION OF INQUIRY ON SYRIA SAYS ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCES COMMITTED ON A WIDE SCALE
- The independent international Commission of Inquiry, in a report on Thursday, said that enforced disappearances are being committed on a wide scale throughout Syria as part of a campaign of intimidation and as a tactic of war.
- The report concludes that there are reasonable grounds to believe that acts of enforced disappearances were committed by Government forces as part of widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population amounting to a crime against humanity.
- In all the cases documented by the Commission, survivors of enforced disappearances described being subjected to torture during their detention. The Commissioners say that this underscores a deeply disturbing trend which sheds more light on the systematic use of torture. Victims were consistently denied their fundamental right to due process and placed outside the protection of the law, at the mercy of their captors.
U.N. AGENCIES HAVE BEGUN AIRLIFTING HUMANITARIAN AID TO SYRIA
- The World Food Programme, UNICEF and the UN Refugee Agency have begun airlifting humanitarian aid from Erbil, Iraq to Qamishli in Syria. The first humanitarian airlift, which started on 15 December, carried almost 40 metric tonnes of food supplies, including flour, pasta, oil, sugar and rice.
- The Refugee Agency has also airlifted vaccines and winter aid, including thermal blankets and plastic sheets for shelter.
- Over the next 10 days, two planes have been contracted to deliver some 285 metric tonnes of goods to assist 30,000 people.
APPOINTMENT OF TWO SPECIAL ENVOYS ON DISABILITY AND ACCESSIBILITY AND FOR DISASTER RISK REDUCTION AND WATER
- The Secretary-General has appointed Lenín Voltaire Moreno Garces of Ecuador as his Special Envoy on Disability and Accessibility.
- Mr. Moreno currently serves as Chairperson of the Committee for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities of the Organization of American States.
- As Special Envoy, Mr. Moreno will help promote the rights of persons with disabilities, with a particular emphasis on accessibility for all.
- The Secretary-General has also appointed Mr. Han Seung-soo of the Republic of Korea as his Special Envoy for Disaster Risk Reduction and Water.
- Mr. Han has previously served as Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Climate Change.
- In his new function, Mr. Han will rally commitments from Member States, the private sector and civil society to support the United Nations’ work on water related disaster risk reduction.
*** The Guest at the noon briefing was the Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson. He briefed reporters on the Rights Up Front Action Plan. He also talked about the situation developing in the Republic of South Sudan.