HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY MARTIN NESIRKY,
SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
WEDNESDAY, 19 FEBRUARY 2014
UKRAINE: SECRETARY-GENERAL, U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS CHIEF URGE FOR RESTRAINT, DIALOGUE
- The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, called on all parties in Ukraine to exercise maximum restraint after 22 people were killed during violent clashes in Kiev between riot police and protesters on Tuesday.
- She strongly condemned the killings and urged the Government and protesters to act to defuse tensions and to take swift action to find a peaceful solution to the ongoing crisis. She also called for an urgent and independent investigation to establish facts and responsibilities, including the possible use of excessive force, and to ensure accountability for these deadly clashes.
- In a statement issued on Tuesday night, the Secretary-General reiterated to all sides that the use of violence is unacceptable.
- The Secretary-General urged both sides to redouble efforts to build on recent positive measures, including an amnesty for those detained as a result of the protests and the vacating of Government buildings by protesters. And he called for the immediate renewal of genuine dialogue leading to rapid results.
- In response to questions, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General had not called President Yanukovych recently but added that he had met the President in Sochi and had talked to him about the need for a peaceful resolution of the dispute.
- Asked about a UN envoy, Nesirky said that the recent understanding was that President Yanukovych did not see a need for an international mission.
- He said that the violence that has been seen has no place in the ancient European capital of Kiev.
IN VISIT TO C.A.R., HUMANITARIAN CHIEF STRESS COMMITMENT TO HELP PEOPLE, NEED TO RESTORE SECURITY
- On the Central African Republic, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has reminded leaders in positions of authority that they have legal obligations and will be held personally accountable for the serious human rights violations committed in country as a result of their actions or omissions.
- She said that most of the ongoing human rights violations are being committed by anti-Balaka elements who are deliberately targeting the Muslim population of the capital. She also said that the situation was also evolving dangerously outside Bangui with ex-Séléka forces now regrouping in the north. She noted that given the strong feeling of resentment among ex-Séléka forces and the displaced Muslim population, the large non-Muslim community was is clearly exposed to possible retaliatory violence.
- The Office of the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that clashes across the Central African Republic continue to threaten the lives of civilians, including aid workers, and hamper aid efforts. A UN Humanitarian Service (UNHAS) flight scheduled to take Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos and the head of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibe, among others, to Bossangoa in the north, was cancelled due to the ongoing violence.
- In Bangui today, Ms. Amos met with the transitional President, Catherine Samba-Panza. She reiterated the humanitarian community’s commitment and stressed the need for a political solution and the restoration of security.
- The Spokesperson added that the Secretary-General will speak to the Security Council on Thursday about options for the way forward in the Central African Republic.
EVACUATIONS IN HOMS CONTINUE; U.N. WORRIED BY ATTACKS NEAR SCHOOLS
- The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today that eleven more civilians, including a child, were evacuated by the Syrian Government and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent from the Old City of Homs. UN staff on the ground observed the arrival of the people at a hospital in Homs, where they were brought because a number of them were sick.
- An estimated 600 males, including some children under 18, have been brought to the Al Andalus shelter facility for screening since evacuations began on 7 February. About half of them have been released so far.
- The United Nations continues to advocate for the speedy release of all children from the facility and calls for the protection of all civilians under international humanitarian and human rights laws.
- Filippo Grandi, the Commissioner General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) expressed his outrage that at least 18 people were killed on Tuesday, when an explosive struck near the Zeitoun school in Muzeirib, 11 km north-west of Dera'a in southern Syria. Among the dead were five Palestine refugee school children and a staff member of the Agency. At least 20 other people were injured, including two staff members and eight school children, two of whom have lost limbs.
- This comes just eight days after the Relief and Works Agency condemned an explosion that injured 40 school children at its Turaan School in the same town.
- Mr. Grandi expressed his revulsion at this wanton disregard for civilian life and international law and added that all parties to the conflict are obliged to ensure that civilians and UN installations are protected.
- Meanwhile, the Relief and Works Agency says that the first aid deliveries were allowed to Yarmouk camp since 7 February. Between 18 January and 7 February, the Agency delivered more than 6,500 food parcels to Yarmouk.
- Asked about the situation on the ground in Syria, the Spokesperson said that the fighting was continuing even as the political process works its course. He said that the intense level of bloodshed in recent months was unacceptable. At the same time, Nesirky said that the political process remains crucial.
- Asked about Lakhdar Brahimi’s travels, the Spokesperson said that it was planned for him to visit New York but no specific dates have been set yet.
U.N. MISSION IN SOUTH SUDAN WORKING TO LOWER TENSIONS AT MALAKAL PROTECTION SITE
- The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) reports that, in Malakal, Upper Nile State, sporadic gunfire this morning coming from the north of Malakal town.
- The situation within the Mission’s protection of civilians site in Malakal remains tense, as a result of clashes over the past two days between civilians sheltering in the site. The Mission reports six civilians dead and at least 43 injured.
- This morning, the Mission reports that fighting between civilians resumed at the Malakal site, although on a significantly smaller scale. The situation is currently reported to be under control.
- The Mission is working with elders and community leaders from all ethnic groups to reiterate the need for peaceful coexistence in the camp and adherence to camp rules.
- At its Malakal site, more than 1,000 UN military and police personnel are protecting some 22,000 civilians seeking shelter. Overall, approximately 75,000 civilians continue to shelter at UN bases across the country.
- Asked about the fighting in Malakal, the Spokesperson said that the intensity of the fighting on Tuesday had briefly made it difficult for UN peacekeepers to intervene.
- He said that a significant number of wounded anti-government forces were admitted to the UNMISS hospital in Malakal for treatment on Tuesday.
- Today, all of the approximately 35 walking wounded who had been discharged by the physician on duty left the UNMISS compound in the late morning. Approximately 35 severely wounded anti-government forces left by mid-afternoon, and only a handful of wounded people remained in the Mission’s Malakal compound hospital as of 1600 hours South Sudan time.
- Asked about the use of cluster munitions, the Spokesperson noted that the UN Mission had confirmed that they had been used in South Sudan.
U.N. LEBANON ENVOY CONDEMNS DOUBLE BOMBING IN BEIRUT SUBURBS
- The UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Derek Plumbly, condemned the double bombing in southern Beirut suburbs today that killed and wounded a number of people. He extended his condolences to the families of the victims of this bombing.
- Mr. Plumbly called on the Lebanese to remain united in the face of such appalling and indiscriminate terrorist actions and to build on the positive step taken a few days ago with the formation of a new government. He reiterated the commitment of the international community to supporting Lebanon in these efforts.
- He welcomed the recent efforts of the Lebanese army and security forces in detaining terrorist suspects and preventing attacks and hoped those responsible for today’s bombing and all other acts of terrorism will be brought to justice as soon as possible.
U.N. ENVOY IN IRAQ WELCOMES COUNCIL OF MINISTERS’ DECISIONS ON ANBAR PROVINCE
- Nickolay Mladenov, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, welcomed the decisions by the Council of Ministers of Iraq concerning the Anbar Province. In a statement today, he called it a positive step in addressing the security and humanitarian situation in the province.
- He said that the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) is ready to support all initiatives that will allow the people of Iraq to live free of fear of terror in a democratic society that is built on the rule of law and the protection of human and minority rights.
- Mr Mladenov also expressed his support to the people of Anbar in their fight against terrorism and called for continued cooperation in the delivery of humanitarian assistance to those affected by the fighting.
LIBYA: U.N. REJECTS USE OF FORCE IN THE POLITICAL PROCESS, SUPPORTS CALL FOR EARLY ELECTIONS
- Tarek Mitri, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Libya, issued a statement today reaffirming the clear rejection by the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) of any threat to use force in the political process, which is contrary to basic democratic principles.
- The Mission also reiterates its firm stand of supporting the legitimacy of democratically elected institutions and their role in ensuring the transfer of power to an elected body. In this regard, the UN Mission values the decision by the General National Congress to call for early elections as soon as possible in order to prevent any potential constitutional vacuum.
- The Mission commends the huge efforts being exerted in and outside the Congress to reach an agreement on the details and mechanisms for holding the elections. It is communicating with all sides to contribute to the efforts aimed at reaching an agreement that ensures the continuation of the democratic path and prevents the country from sliding into chaos and violence.
SECRETARY-GENERAL WELCOMES COMMITMENT TO RULE OF LAW
- The Secretary-General spoke at today’s Security Council meeting on the rule of law, a subject which he said is at the heart of the United Nations’ work. He noted that strengthening the rule of law is now an integral part of the mandates of peacekeeping operations and special political missions. Today, 18 Missions around the world currently mandate rule of law support.
- He added that he is encouraged by the Security Council’s continued commitment to ensuring that the United Nations makes the most and the best of rule of law assistance in peacekeeping and peacebuilding missions.
HEAD OF WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME VISITS ZIMBABWE: The Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), Ertharin Cousin, begun a visit to Zimbabwe today. She will meet senior government officials and local representatives of donor governments to discuss WFP operations and issues of food and nutrition security in the country.
SECRETARY-GENERAL CONCERNED ABOUT SITUATION IN VENEZUELA: In response to questions asked about the situation in Venezuela, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General has learned with concern about recent developments in Venezuela and regrets the loss of life and the incidents of violence. He takes note of the concerns expressed by the Governments of the region and hopes that an inclusive dialogue can be established among relevant stakeholders in order to peacefully address the current challenges facing the country.