Welcome to the United Nations. It's your world.

Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY MARTIN NESIRKY, SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

TUESDAY, 31 DECEMBER 2013

[There will be no noon briefing on 1 January 2014. The briefing will resume on Thursday, 2 January 2014.]

U.N. MISSION IN SOUTH SUDAN CONCERNED OVER MOUNTING EVIDENCE OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS

  • The UN Mission in South Sudan, UNMISS, says it is gravely concerned about mounting evidence of gross violations of international human rights law that have occurred in South Sudan during the past 15 days. 
  • The Mission reports that extra-judicial killings of civilians and the capture of soldiers have occurred in various parts of the country, as evidenced by the discovery of large numbers of bodies in Juba, as well as the Upper Nile and Jonglei state capitals of Malakal and Bor, respectively.  It observed massive displacement and arbitrary detentions of civilians.
  • The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in South Sudan, Hilde Johnson, condemned in the strongest terms the atrocities committed against civilians of different communities by elements from both sides during the crisis. She called for perpetrators to be held accountable.
  • The Mission has been actively collecting information every day since the crisis began and will continue to investigate all reports of serious human rights violations.
  • It reminds all parties of their obligation to protect civilians and act in accordance with human rights and humanitarian law. The Mission also calls on key leaders in South Sudan to send strong public messages to their respective constituencies insisting that the violence must stop.
  • The Mission also reports that fighting broke out today in Bor, Jonglei state, as anti-Government forces attacked the town in the vicinity of the United Nations base.
  • The Mission continues to protect approximately 9,000 civilians inside this base, and reports that the base remains secure.
  • The Mission reports that it observed a number of anti-Government individuals moving eastwards towards Pibor and also southwards.
  • In Malakal town, in Upper Nile State, the Mission has been conducting patrols.
  • The leadership of the UN Mission in South Sudan continues to engage with the Government at the highest levels, as well as with opposition political figures.
  • The Security Council issued a press statement on Monday night, supporting the Intergovernmental Authority on Development’s (IGAD) efforts to bring about peace. The Secretary-General has reiterates his full support for the IGAD mediation process, as he did in his telephone call to President Kiir on Monday, and again emphasizes the need for an immediate cessation of hostilities.
  • In response to questions about a potential cease-fire, the Spokesperson said that the United Nations is waiting to hear more details of the negotiations on a cease-fire.
  • Asked about recent atrocities, Nesirky said that the Mission says that many violations appear to be ethnically targeted. Most of the more brutal atrocities are reported to have been carried out by people wearing uniform.
  • He said that UNMISS sees evidence of the apparent targeting of South Sudanese citizens on ethnic grounds. This can lead to a perpetual cycle of violence that can destroy the fabric of the country, which is the newest country in the world.
  • Asked about the various crises taking place in Africa, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General does not see a linkage between the different situations in parts of Africa.
  • At the same time, he added, a confluence of crises place a burden on the people of Africa and complicates efforts by the UN and the wider international community in dealing with the needs on the ground.

U.N. AGENCIES INCREASING RESPONSE IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

  • The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the security situation in the Central African Republic remains tense and has triggered a new wave of displacement in the capital, Bangui.
  • There has been a 70 per cent increase in the number of people displaced in Bangui, from 214,000 on 17 December to 370,000 today. A total of 785,000 people have been displaced across the country and some 2.2 million people need assistance.
  • Despite the insecurity and restraints on access, aid organizations are reaching as many people as possible with assistance. The World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed 555 tons of food to more than 133,000 people in Bangui this month. It has also reached more than 41,500 people in Bossangoa and 21,500 people in Bouar.
  • At the international airport in Bangui, where agencies estimate that between 70,000 and 100,000 people have sought refuge, humanitarian partners are trying to reach people with emergency assistance, including medical care and malnutrition screening for children.
  • The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is working with its partners to establish mobile child protection activities. A comprehensive humanitarian assessment is being planned at the site to further develop a coordinated response.
  • To increase the humanitarian response, organisations have redefined their priorities in a 100-day intervention plan. This plan seeks some US$152 million for the first three months of 2014 alone.
  • In response to further questions, the Spokesperson said that the UN Office in the Central African Republic, BINUCA, is reporting the number of violent confrontations has decreased in Bangui over the past few days
  • The Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Babacar Gaye, is focusing on re-establishing field offices, to strengthen UN field presence; as well as human rights monitoring and reporting, with increased presence in the field.
  • He also is working to ensure the full deployment of the UN Guard Unit to enable UN personnel to carry out their task with protection, as required; and to start immediate planning for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.

D.R.CONGO: U.N. MISSION CONDEMNS ATTACKS ON STRATEGIC SITES, CALLS TO SHED LIGHT ON INCIDENTS

  • The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Martin Kobler, has condemned in the strongest terms the attacks perpetrated by armed men on a number of strategic sites in the country.
  • The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, MONUSCO, has called on Congolese officials to swiftly shed light on these incidents, in line with the constitutional order and legislation.
  • It also reiterates its wishes to see attacks on civilian populations brought to an end.
  • The Mission reports that approximately 100 people are believed to have been killed in the attacks and is working to verify this information.
  • The Mission has also called on the authorities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to provide information about the attacks as it follows up through the national legal framework.
  • The Mission has strengthened security at its bases, and continues to focus on protecting civilians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

SECRETARY-GENERAL LOOKS FORWARD TO SENDING OUT INVITATIONS FOR SYRIA CONFERENCE

  • Asked about invitations to next month’s conference on Syria, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General is looking forward to issuing the letters of invitation to the International Conference on Syria as soon as possible.
  • On 20 December, Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi announced the list of countries whose invitation had been agreed with the Initiating States of the Conference. There are also several issues that need to be finalised by the Initiating States. Once that is done, the United Nations will promptly issue the invitation.
  • The Spokesperson added that the most important part about the International Conference for Syria is the intra-Syrian negotiations, where the Government and opposition delegations are expected to agree on the full implementation of the Geneva Communiqué and launch a political transition process in Syria.
  • Another very important aspect is that, as preparations for the conference are being made, all Syrian sides should take urgent efforts to reduce the levels of violence, release those abducted and detained, end the sieges and improve humanitarian access.

U.N. CALLS FOR URGENT HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE FOR PALESTINIAN REFUGEES IN SYRIA

  • The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) says it has received reports that at least five Palestinian refugees in the besieged refugee camp of Yarmouk in Damascus have died because of malnutrition, bringing the total number of reported deaths to fifteen.
  • The situation has progressively deteriorated for some 20,000 Palestinians trapped inside Yarmouk, where the Agency has been unable to enter the area to deliver desperately needed relief supplies since September. 
  • The Relief and Works Agency urgently asks all parties to immediately heed their legal obligations and facilitate the urgent provision of humanitarian assistance to Yarmouk and other Palestinian refugee camps.

SOME 4.1 MILLION SYRIAN REFUGEES WILL NEED ASSISTANCE BY END OF 2014

  • The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, says that the number of registered Syrian refugees grew to more than 2.3 million people over the course of this year, with refugees continuing to pour out of Syria at a rate of 127,000 people a month.
  • The Agency estimates that some 4.1 million Syrian refugees will need assistance by the end of 2014, including 2 million children.
  • Across the region at present, some 400,000 refugees currently live in formal camps, but nearly 2 million reside outside formal settlements. To keep pace with the exodus, more than 196,000 tents and 809,000 plastic tarpaulins were distributed to refugees residing in camps and informal sites.
  • At present, the UN’s refugee response plan for 2013 is only 68 percent funded.

U.N. ADVISOR ON YEMEN CONDEMNS SHELLING OF FUNERAL

  • In a statement issued on Monday, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Yemen, Jamal Benomar, condemned the shelling of a funeral gathering in Al Dhale province on Friday, 27 December, which resulted in the death of at least 19 people, including children.
  • Mr. Benomar expressed serious concern that the attack is being attributed to Government armed forces. He welcomes the investigation into the attack by the authorities and calls for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

MYANMAR: U.N. RIGHTS OFFICE WELCOMES PARDON FOR POLITICAL PRISONERS

  • The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that it welcomes the pardon granted on Monday by President Thein Sein of Myanmar to political prisoners.
  • The Office commended that this is an important step in the reform process of the last year and shows the significant progress that has been made in solving the problem of political prisoners in Myanmar, in line with the President's pledge.  
  • However, the Office added that it regrets the presidential pardon did not include three workers from international non-governmental organisations, detained in Buthidaung Prison, and human rights defenders in Rakhine State. The Office asked the authorities to release those prisoners and to ensure that the prisoner review committee continue its work to resolve all pending cases.

PHILIPPINES: SHELTER NEEDS STILL IMPORTANT AFTER TYPHOON BUT FUNDING LACKING

  • The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has said that enormous shelter needs still persist in Typhoon-affected areas in the Philippines. Despite those needs, the funding for the shelter and camp coordination is lagging well behind overall funding levels.
  • Humanitarian partners are working with the Government, while encouraging additional actors – especially the private sector – to become involved.
  • The Office also said that greater support is needed to rebuild livelihoods and market mechanisms, particularly as food assistance decreases in coming weeks and months.

SECRETARY-GENERAL UNDERLINES WORK OF SIERRA LEONE SPECIAL COURT, AS IT PREPARES TO CLOSE

  • On the occasion of today’s closing of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the Secretary-General wishes to congratulate the judges, principals and staff, both Sierra Leonean and international, on the important achievements that have been accomplished over course of the eleven years of its existence. 
  • The United Nations is proud of its partnership with the Government of Sierra Leone in establishing the Special Court, which ensured accountability for the unspeakable crimes committed during Sierra Leone’s over a decade-long civil war, and thereby greatly contributed towards establishing peace and stability and in laying the ground for Sierra Leone’s long-term development. On 1 January 2014, the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone will take over the residual tasks of the Special Court.
  • Of the impressive legacy and the many lessons that the work of the Special Court leaves behind as we move forward in truly establishing an age of accountability, one lesson stands out above all: justice is an indispensable element for peace to be sustainable in post-conflict societies. 
  • The Secretary-General’s principled commitment to international criminal justice will remain steadfast and unwavering.

SECRETARY-GENERAL EXPRESSES CONDOLENCES TO RUSSIA AFTER VOLGOGRAD ATTACKS

  • Asked about the attacks in Volgograd, Russia, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General spoke to President Vladimir Putin on Monday. A readout issued after the meeting said that the Secretary-General expressed his deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the attacks in Volgograd as well as to the Russian people.
  • The Secretary-General stressed the importance of strong international cooperation to fight terrorism and he noted that the perpetrators must be brought to justice.