HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY FARHAN HAQ,
DEPUTY SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
TUESDAY, 1 APRIL 2014
AT GENOCIDE CONFERENCE IN BRUSSELS, SECRETARY-GENERAL NOTES U.N. EFFORTS TO PREVENT HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
- The Secretary-General has arrived in Brussels for a three-day stay.
- This morning he delivered a keynote address at the International Conference on the Prevention of Genocide. The Secretary-General told the participants about the Rights Up Front initiative, which aims to improve prevention through an intense and early focus on human rights violations. He said that the Rights up Front approach has been on display in recent months in South Sudan, where the United Nations opened the gates of its peacekeeping installations, offering shelter to people fleeing violence. He added that the conflicts in Syria and the Central African Republic are nightmares for vulnerable people. But they are also a challenge to everything that has been put in place – the pledges, the mechanisms – to exercise our collective responsibilities to prevent such crimes from happening or recurring.
- In the afternoon, the Secretary-General held a number of bilateral meetings with senior officials of European institutions and the Belgian government. He also attended a gathering to mark the 10th anniversary of the creation of the UN Regional Information Centre (UNRIC). He will finish the day with a private dinner with King and Queen of Belgium.
- Tomorrow, the Secretary-General will attend a number of events focused on Africa, including the EU-Africa summit and a high-level meeting on the Central African Republic. He will also have a number of bilateral meetings with a variety of senior officials also in Brussels.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: U.N. RIGHTS OFFICE VOICES CONCERN OVER SECURITY DETERIORATION IN CAPITAL
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed its concern today about the deterioration of the security situation in Bangui since the High Commissioner’s recent visit, with at least 60 people killed since March 22.
The Office noted that a series of clashes between anti-Balaka and Muslims has taken place in various neighbourhoods of the capital in the past week. Increased tensions and clashes between anti-Balaka elements and MISCA forces have also been reported, with anti-Balaka reportedly directly targeting MISCA military and civilian personnel on several occasions.
- In light of this further deterioration of the security situation, the Human Rights Office once again urges States to support the Secretary-General’s urgent appeal for thousands more peacekeepers and police.
- In a statement we issued yesterday afternoon, the Secretary-General condemned in the strongest possible terms all acts of violence against civilians, and against international forces working in the Central African Republic to re-establish peace and order. He stressed the fundamental importance of protecting civilians at all times.
- The Secretary-General reminds all those who are involved in spreading the violence, including those directly or indirectly supporting or otherwise facilitating the actions of armed groups, that they will be held accountable for their actions and brought to justice. In this regard, he stresses the importance of quickly establishing a list of individuals who act to undermine peace, stability and security in the Central African Republic, as called for by Security Council resolution 2127 (2013).
U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY: RENEWERED VIOLENCE SPARKS FURTHER DISPLACEMENT IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
- The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says that the renewed inter-communal violence in the Central African Republic has triggered further displacement within the country and across its borders. Since the attacks in the capital early last week, the number of internally displaced people in the country has risen to 637,000, including 207,000 in Bangui alone. This represents an increase of nearly 16,000 uprooted people.
- At the height of the crisis, the Refugee Agency says that close to 1 million people were displaced by violence inside the Central African Republic, including 700,000 in Bangui alone. More than 2,000 people have also been killed in the conflict between Seleka and anti-Balaka fighters since December last year.
- Anti-Balaka forces control major routes to and from Bangui, as well as many towns and villages in the southwest of the country. They pose a particular threat to Muslims in the PK12 neighbourhood of Bangui, in Boda, Carnot and Berberati, to the west of Bangui, and in Bossangoa, further north. The UN Refugee Agency fears for the lives of 19,000 Muslims in those locations and stands ready to assist with their evacuation to safer areas within or outside the country.
- The Agency adds that mostly Muslim CAR refugees continue to stream into neighbouring countries. In the past three months, more than 82,000 refugees from the country have found shelter in Cameroon, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the Republic of Congo and in Chad.
AGREEMENT BETWEEN U.N., SOUTH SUDAN VIOLATED, PEACEKEEPING MISSION REPORTS
- The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) continues to express serious concerns about the recurring and numerous violations of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the UN and the Government of South Sudan.
- Despite assurances from the Government, movement restrictions of UN personnel continue, as do forcible searches of UN vehicles, flights, and convoys, and threats and harassments against UN and UN-associated personnel.
- The Mission reiterates that the Government has the obligation to respect the Status of Forces Agreement. Ensuring the freedom of movement for UN peacekeepers and humanitarian personnel remains essential to the protection and assistance of vulnerable populations in the country.
- In Malakal, in Upper Nile State, the Mission observed large numbers of civilians returning from Malakal town to the protection site. Some of the civilians said they were advised by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) troops to not enter the town because the situation was volatile, while others reported to the UN Mission that they had heard gunshots in the southern part of Malakal. The Mission continues to protect more than 21,500 displaced persons at its camp in Malakal.
- The humanitarian situation in the country also remains extremely fragile.
- The Heads of the World Food Programme (WFP), Ertharin Cousin, and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Antonio Guterres, are currently in South Sudan and said they were alarmed at the scale of the needs arising from the crisis.
- Against this backdrop, aid agencies in South Sudan warn of even more dire humanitarian consequences, if urgently needed funds are not raised in the coming weeks. The South Sudan Crisis Response Plan, which covers January to June 2014, is only 30 per cent funded. Of the $887 million shortfall in funding, $232 million is the bare minimum required for the next three months to avoid the humanitarian situation deteriorating sharply.
ACCOUNTABILITY NEEDED TO ADDRESS LEGAL VIOLATIONS IN SRI LANKA – BAN KI-MOON
- Asked about the vote last week by the Human Rights Council on Sri Lanka, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General has consistently underlined the importance of an accountability process for addressing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in Sri Lanka.
- He welcomes the determination by the High Commissioner for Human Rights to advance accountability and promote lasting peace and reconciliation in the country.
- The Secretary-General calls on the Government of Sri Lanka to constructively engage and cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner on the implementation of the resolution adopted last week by the Human Rights Council. He recalls the commitments made to him on accountability by the President of Sri Lanka in their Joint Statement of 2009.
- Haq said that the United Nations will remain engaged with Sri Lanka to support Sri Lanka's efforts to make progress in accountability, reconciliation and a lasting political solution.
INSECURITY IMPEDING DELIVERY OF AID IN MYANMAR’S RAKHINE STATE, U.N. RELIEF WING REPORTS
- The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that UN agencies and humanitarian partners are seriously concerned about the situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, where insecurity, the temporary scaling down of humanitarian staff and an ongoing curfew are affecting the delivery of life-saving aid to those in need.
- Despite the challenges, aid workers remaining in Sittwe are continuing to provide assistance including food, water and healthcare.
- Demonstrations in Siitwe last week caused damage to the premises of UN agencies and international non-governmental organizations. The UN is closely consulting with the Government and local authorities to ensure that the conditions for the return of humanitarian workers are safe and secure.
U.N. MONITORING SYRIA DEVELOPMENTS, URGES END TO VIOLENCE
- Asked about recent fighting in Syria, the Spokesperson said that the United Nations was monitoring the latest developments. The latest violence and displacements once more underscores the need for a halt to all fighting and a negotiated solution, he said.
- Asked about the work of the Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, Haq said that Mr. Brahimi had represented the Secretary-General last week at the summit of the League of Arab States in Kuwait. Mr. Brahimi is continuing his discussions with a range of interlocutors.