HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY MARTIN NESIRKY,
SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
TUESDAY, 18 FEBRUARY 2014
FINDINGS OF NEW D.P.R. KOREA MUST BE TREATED WITH GREATEST URGENCY, SAYS U.N. RIGHTS CHIEF
- Today the High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay welcomed the report of the independent UN Commission of Inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), which was published in Geneva yesterday.
- She said that its findings need to be treated with the greatest urgency, as they suggest that crimes against humanity of an unimaginable scale continue to be committed in the DPRK.
- Ms. Pillay said that in January 2013, she urged the international community to put much more effort into tackling the human rights situation of the people in DPRK. Two months later, the Commission of Inquiry was established by the Human Rights Council.
- She said that the Commission has now published a historic report, which sheds light on violations of a terrifying scale, the gravity and nature of which – in the report’s own words – do not have any parallel in the contemporary world. She added that there can no longer be any excuses for inaction.
- The High Commissioner said that insufficient attention was being paid to the kind of horrific and sustained human rights violations that are reported to be taking place on an ongoing basis in the DPRK. That has now been partly rectified.
- She added that we now need strong international leadership to follow up on the grave findings of the Commission of Inquiry, calling on the international community, in line with the report’s recommendations, to use all the mechanisms at its disposal to ensure accountability, including referral to the International Criminal Court.
- Ms. Pillay said that it is vitally important to maintain the momentum on addressing the serious violations that this remarkable report documents in such a comprehensive manner. The spotlight on human rights in the DPRK should not be dimmed as the news headlines fade away.
- The independent Commission of Inquiry is scheduled to formally present its report to the 47 Member States of the Human Rights Council, in Geneva, on 17 March 2014.
- In response to questions, the Spokesperson added that the Secretary-General believed that there had been positive developments on the Korean Peninsula, particularly regarding family reunions and the fact that they have been decoupled from political considerations.
U.N. MISSION REPORTS HEAVY FIGHTING IN SOUTH SUDAN’S UPPER NILE STATE
- The UN Mission in South Sudan, UNMISS, has reported heavy fighting between soldiers of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers and the opposition in the vicinity of its compound in Malakal in Upper Nile State, since early this morning.
- The Mission says that fighting appears to have subsided since the afternoon although it continues to report sounds of gunfire and mortars.
- The Mission says it is providing medical treatment to a number of wounded combatants as well as civilians within the base.
- Over the weekend, the Mission also received reports of fighting between SPLA and opposition forces east of Malakal in Baliet County.
- The Mission says it is deeply concerned about the fighting and reiterates the necessity for parties to fully implement the Agreements on Cessation of Hostilities and Status of Detainees. The parties must cooperate fully with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Monitoring and Verification Mechanism, which the United Nations is supporting.
- Overall, the UN Mission is protecting 75,000 civilians in a number of bases around the country, including some 22,000 civilians in Malakal.
JOINT ENVOY CONTINUES TO PUSH AHEAD WITH SYRIA TALKS
- Asked about the conclusion over the weekend of the last round of talks on Syria in Geneva, the Spokesperson noted that the Joint Special Representative, Lakhdar Brahimi, had apologised to the people of Syria for the lack of progress at the talks. He added that Mr. Brahimi intends to push ahead and will come to New York to brief the Secretary-General. He made it clear that he intends for the talks to continue.
- Nesirky recalled that the Secretary-General has made clear that the Geneva talks will be a long process.
- The Spokesperson said that it should not surprise anyone that the negotiating process is difficult. But the Secretary-General and Mr. Brahimi remain determined to push ahead with the process.
- Asked about Mr. Brahimi’s support, Nesirky said that Mr. Brahimi has had steadfast support from the US and Russian authorities.
SECRETARY-GENERAL: ACCESS TO SAFE WATER CRUCIAL IN POST-2015 DEVELOPMENT AGENDA
- The Secretary-General spoke at the General Assembly’s thematic debate today on water, sanitation and sustainable energy, and he said that access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene must feature prominently in the post-2015 development agenda.
- The Secretary-General noted that in the poorest communities around the world, hundreds of millions of people – especially women and children – spend hours each day collecting firewood and water. He added that the health toll from unclean water and household air pollution is immense. Meanwhile, some 2.5 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation; and some 1 billion people practice open defecation.
- The Secretary-General emphasized the goals of his Sustainable Energy for All initiative: universal access to energy by 2030; improved efficiency; and an increase in the share of renewable energy sources.
LIBYA: U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICES VOICES CONCERN OVER NEW LAW WHICH COULD CURB FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION, OPINION
- The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed its concern today about the potential for a new law in Libya to lead to undue restrictions on the freedom of expression and opinion. It is also concerned about an increasing number of attacks against journalists in recent months.
- The Human Rights Office said that the law appears to go against the spirit of the February 17 revolution. It said that the law contains broad and vague language that could clearly be used to arbitrarily curtail freedom of expression and opinion.
- The Office also condemned recent acts of violence and intimidation against journalists and called for impartial, speedy, and effective investigations into such attacks with a view to bringing the perpetrators to justice.
U.N. AIDS AGENCY URGES UGANDA TO REJECT NEW BILL THAT COULD RESTRICT RIGHTS OF GAY MEN
- The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) says that it is deeply concerned about a bill in Uganda that would further toughen punishments against gay men.
- It says that the bill calls for a 14-year jail term for a first conviction and life imprisonment for the offence of “aggravated homosexuality.”
- UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé says that Uganda was the first country in Africa to break the conspiracy of silence on AIDS and to give voice to the most marginalized, but that he is now scared that the new bill will take Uganda backwards.
- He strongly urges the Ugandan authorities to reject the bill and to ensure the human rights and dignity of all people in Uganda.
UKRAINE: SECRETARY-GENERAL CONCERNED BY RENEWED VIOLENCE, FATALITIES
In response to questions, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General has been following developments in Ukraine closely. He had been encouraged by recent positive measures taken on both sides, including the amnesty for those detained as a result of the protests as well as the decision by protesters to vacate Government buildings.
But he is extremely concerned over today's reports of renewed violence and fatalities. He reiterates his appeal to all concerned to act with restraint in order to avoid any further violence.
The Secretary-General urges the renewal of genuine dialogue between all parties leading to rapid results.
- The Spokesperson added that the Secretary-General had spoken to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in Sochi, Russia, recently.
- Asked about the talks on Iran’s nuclear programme, the Spokesperson said that Catherine Ashton briefed the Secretary-General on those talks when she met him last week. He noted the negotiations are taking place between the P5+1 and Iran and do not involve the United Nations.
- Asked about the Central African Republic, the Spokesperson said that the Security Council expects to hold consultations on that subject on Thursday, and the Secretary-General was expected to brief the Council and the media that day.
***The guest at today’s noon briefing was John Ging, the Operations Director of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, who briefed reporters on his recent visit to Somalia.