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Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC,
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

MONDAY, 21 APRIL 2014

U.N. MISSION CONDEMNS TARGETED KILLING OF CIVILIANS IN SOUTH SUDAN’S BENTIU

  • Human rights investigators from the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) have confirmed that on 15 and 16 April, when SPLA in Opposition forces captured Bentiu, they searched a number of places where hundreds of South Sudanese and foreign civilians had taken refuge and killed hundreds of the civilians after determining their ethnicity or nationality.
  • The Mission strongly condemns these targeted killings. It also condemns the use of Radio Bentiu FM by some individuals associated with the opposition to broadcast hate speech.
  • The Mission calls for these atrocities to be fully investigated and for the perpetrators and their commanders to be held accountable.
  • Between 15 and 17 April, the Mission extracted hundreds of civilians who were facing threats of violence in several places in Bentiu and Rubkona where they had taken refuge. Over 500 civilians, including many wounded, were extracted from the Bentiu Hospital and other places, while thousands were escorted as they walked to the UNMISS base.
  • The Mission is currently protecting over 12,000 civilians in its base. It reminds the parties of their respective obligations to protect civilians and calls on them to immediately stop targeting unarmed civilians and to respect the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement they signed in January.
  • In response to further questions, the Spokesman said that the situation in South Sudan was dire for civilians outside of the UN Mission’s protection of civilians sites and challenging for those in the UN compounds. He said that the United Nations was doing its best to assist them.
  • In response to a question the political process in the country, Dujarric said that the negotiations were under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD). He added that the  Secretary-General had repeatedly encouraged both parties to live up to the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement and had stressed their responsibility to protect civilians.
  • Asked about the announcement that South Sudan would review the mandate of the UN Mission there, the Spokesman said that the UN had not received any formal request from the Government of the Republic of South Sudan on the subject.
  • He added that a change in the mandate would have be taken up and agreed upon by the Security Council.
  • Dujarric also said that the United Nations was doing its utmost within the available resources to protect civilians and that the overall responsibility to protect civilians remained with the government.

FORTHCOMING SYRIA ELECTIONS WILL DAMAGE POLITICAL PROCESS – TOP U.N. OFFICIALS

  • In response to a question on the announcement of elections to be held in Syria, the Spokesman said that the Secretary-General and the Joint Special Representative, Lakhdar Brahimi, have repeatedly warned that the holding of elections in the current circumstances, amid the ongoing conflict and massive displacement, will damage the political process and hamper the prospects for a political solution that the country so urgently needs. 
  • Dujarric added that such elections are incompatible with the letter and spirit of the Geneva Communiqué.  He said that the United Nations would nonetheless continue to search and build upon any opening for a solution to the tragedy in Syria.

TERMS OF REFERENCE OF JOINT U.N., HAITI COMMITTEE ON CHOLERA FINALIZED

  • Asked about the UN’s efforts against cholera in Haiti, the Spokesman said that over the weekend, the terms of reference establishing the High-level Committee on Cholera between the United Nations and the Government of Haiti had been officially agreed on.
  • He noted that this Committee aims at further improving the coordination response to the epidemic. Dujarric said that an official announcement was expected in the coming days.
  • He added that the establishment of this Commission was very important in the overall efforts to address cholera and the associated water and sanitation issues.
  • Asked about vaccination, the Spokesman said that a campaign targeting 200,000 people is planned to start in June.
  • He also said that there was an urgency to fight cholera but also to support the Haitian government’s efforts towards improving sanitation and access to safe water. He added that 30% of Haitians did not have access to sources of safe drinking water and that several structural issues concerning water and sanitation needed to be addressed in the country.
  • Dujarric said that lack of funding was hampering the Government and the UN’s capacity to pursue and scale up ongoing efforts.

U.N. AFGHANISTAN ENVOY UNDERSCORES NEED FOR WOMEN’S PARTICIPATION IN POLITICAL PROCESSES

  • The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Afghanistan, Ján Kubiš, today highlighted the importance of continued meaningful engagement and inclusion of women in Afghanistan’s political processes.
  • After meeting with Afghan women parliamentarians, Mr. Kubiš congratulated the country’s women for participating in the recent elections as voters, electoral workers, observers and candidates.
  • He said that through such actions, women can help to improve the country’s political life, adding that women’s participation is central to promote development and economic growth.
  • Mr. Kubiš also noted that voters expect the next Afghan President to honour pre-election pledges and to ensure that there is an improvement in the lives of Afghan women and girls.

U.N. MISSION REPORTS 100,000 PEOPLE UPROOTED IN EASTERN D.R. CONGO SINCE START OF 2014

  • From the Democratic Republic of the Congo, humanitarian organizations reported that some 100,000 people have been newly displaced since the start of this year in Katanga Province, due to clashes between the Congolese army and armed groups.
  • This brings the number of people currently displaced in Katanga to an estimated 500,000 people.
  • Insecurity has also affected food production and access to markets, leaving over 80 per cent of displaced families food insecure. During the first three months of 2014, the World Food Programme (WFP) reached nearly 70,000 displaced people with food.  
  • The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners are providing support on cholera prevention and treatment, in response to some 3,500 cholera cases recorded since January in the Province. A recent measles vaccination campaign also targeted over 7 million children under ten.

U.N. ENVOY CONDEMNS AGAINST MURDER OF SOMALI POLITICIAN

  • The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Somalia, Nicholas Kay, has condemned in the strongest terms the murder of Isaak Mohamed Rino, a member of the country’s Federal Parliament. He also called for a full investigation of the attack and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
  • Mr. Rino was killed this morning in Mogadishu when an improvised explosive device planted in his vehicle detonated. Another parliamentarian and several civilians were reported also to have been injured in the incident.

IRAQ: U.N. OFFICIAL CALLS BAGHDAD SUICIDE ATTACK “VICIOUS, COWARDLY”

  • The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq spoke out against yesterday’s suicide attack on the Imam Kadhim University in Baghdad, calling it a vicious and cowardly attack on innocent civilians.
  • Nickolay Mladenov said that this incident is yet another example of sectarian-based violence that the people of Iraq need to fight in order to bring the country to tranquility.
  • Mr. Mladenov also noted that this is happening at a time when the Iraqi people are preparing to go to the polls.

SECRETARY-GENERAL CONTINUES TO APPEAL FOR END TO FIGHTING IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

  • Over the weekend, the Secretary-General sent a radio message to the people of the Central African Republic, in which he continued to appeal for an end to the fighting.
  • He said many had fled their homes and must feel safe to return to their communities.
  • The Secretary-General called on the people of the Central African Republic not to let extremists destroy their country and their children’s future.
  • He said that Central Africans would not be able to build their future through partition or bloodshed.

SYRIA: SOME 80 PER CENT OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS MATERIAL REMOVED FROM SYRIA

  • On 19 April, Sigrid Kaag, Special Coordinator of the OPCW-UN Joint Mission in Syria, issued a statement in which she says the Syrian Arab Republic has removed or destroyed in-country approximately 80 percent of its chemical weapons material.
  • Further engagement is expected to sustain momentum and to complete removal operations during the next few days, with a view to concluding the entire elimination of the country's chemical weapons programme within the deadlines set by the OPCW Executive Council.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

  • Asked about human rights monitors in Ukraine, the Spokesman said that the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) mission and the UN mission were separate but were working on building closer collaboration and sharing of information as much as possible.
  • Asked about two UN staff abducted in Pakistan over the weekend, the Spokesman said that they had just been released.
  • Asked about the an incident with the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Dujarric said the United Nations was aware of this incident on Saturday in the Old City, and the ensuing statement that Robert Serry issued in this regard. He said that the issue had been discussed between UN and Israeli authorities.