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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, 28 APRIL 2014

 

SECRETARY-GENERAL ALARMED BY DEATH SENTENCES, BAN ON YOUTH MOVEMENT ACTIVITIES IN EGYPT

  • The Secretary-General is alarmed by the news that another preliminary mass death sentence has been handed down today in Egypt, the first of which was on 24 March. Verdicts that clearly appear not to meet basic fair trial standards, particularly those which impose the death penalty, are likely to undermine prospects for long-term stability. As such, the Secretary-General is conscious of the regional and security implications of such sentences. Stability in Egypt is essential for the overall stability of the entire North Africa and Middle East region.
  • Separately, the Secretary-General is concerned about a court case today banning the activities of the April 6 Youth Movement. He was disappointed that the appeals court on 7 April upheld the jailing of three emblematic figures of the 2011 uprising, including two founders of the youth movement. While respecting the independence of the judiciary, he recalls that both he and the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concerns before and after the law regulating protest was promulgated, believing that it could lead to serious breaches of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
  • The Secretary-General intends to discuss these concerns and other issues with the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Egypt, Nabil Fahmy, later this week.

SECRETARY-GENERAL CONDEMNS DETENTION OF MONITORS IN UKRAINE

  • The Secretary-General strongly condemns the recent capture and detention of OSCE military monitors as well as a number of accompanying Ukrainian staff. He urges those responsible for their abduction to release them immediately, unconditionally and unharmed. The Secretary-General underlines that those who continue unlawful acts will be held accountable for their actions. He appeals to all those with influence to assist in the urgent resolution of this matter.
  • The Secretary-General stresses that international missions working in Ukraine must be allowed to perform their duties unimpeded.
  • The Secretary-General urges all parties concerned to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine. He also calls on them to find a way back to the spirit of compromise exhibited during the Geneva talks on 17 April. A diplomatic and political solution to this crisis is imperative and long overdue.

U.N. , OLYMPICS COMMITTEE CHIEFS CELEBRATE POWER OF SPORT FOR DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE

  • The Secretary-General took part in an event, also attended by Olympians and other athletes, to celebrate the power of sport for development and peace.
  • He noted that sport can be used to bridge cultural, religious, ethnic and social divides.
  • The Secretary-General quoted the United States basketball player, Magic Johnson, who said that we all play with different races of people in sports, which is what makes it so beautiful.
  • The Secretary-General announced that the United Nations and the International Olympic Committee, or IOC, will sign a Memorandum of Understanding.
  • He also said that he has decided to appoint the former and Honorary IOC President, Jacques Rogge, as his Special Envoy on Youth Refugees and Sport.
  • The Secretary-General and the current President of the IOC also spoke to the press afterwards.

SECRETARY-GENERAL HIGHLIGHTS U.N.’S ASSISTANCE TO SECURITY INSTITUTIONS

  • The Secretary-General spoke at the Security Council open debate this morning on security sector reform.
  • He told Council members that when he visited the Central African Republic earlier this month, he saw the terrible consequences of disintegrating security institutions. The Secretary-General said that the United Nations has assisted in developing and implementing national security strategies in Côte d’Ivoire and Mali.
  • It has also contributed to public financial management of the security sectors in Liberia and Somalia. And it has supported defence sector reform in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • But he noted that there is an increasing gap between the growing expectations of what the United Nations could and should do, and the resources to meet them. 

SOUTH SUDAN: U.N. MISSION EXTRACTS OTHER CIVILIANS IN BENTIU, ACCEPTS MORE DISPLACED PEOPLE IN WAU

  • The UN Mission in South Sudan, known as UNMISS, reports fighting between Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and Opposition forces in Mayom in Unity State, with the town reportedly changing hands twice over the weekend.
  • According to the latest reports received, the town is currently under SPLA control, although fighting persists. The Mission also says there was fighting near Manga, north of the state capital, Bentiu. 
  • In Bentiu, peacekeepers extracted 16 civilians, including one female and one child, from various locations around town and brought them to the protection of civilians site in the UN compound. The mission also accepted 200 patients from Bentiu hospital who arrived at its gate on Sunday. Currently, some 22,500 civilians are seeking shelter at the Mission site in Bentiu.
  • Over the weekend, the Mission says that there were clashes in Mapel in Western Bahr el Ghazal State. Fighting between youth and some soldiers, involving heavy weapons and mortars, was reported in the centre of the State capital of Wau.
  • On Sunday, the Mission received over 650 internally displaced civilians at its protection site in Wau, with reports of more civilians on their way to seek shelter.
  • UNMISS once again reiterates the need for fighting to stop and for both sides to abide by the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement and urgently reinvigorate peace talks.
  • Asked about problems with sanitary conditions at the UN base in Bentiu, the Spokesman said that the United Nations was facing a challenge in housing tens of thousands of people at its camps to protect them from violence. He said that the United Nations was doing its utmost to improve conditions at the camps, despite the problems with financing and the conditions brought on by the rainy season.

HUMANITARIANS CALL ON ALL PARTIES TO RESPECT LAW PROTECTING RELIEF WORKERS IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

  • In response to questions, the Spokesman said that the entire humanitarian community in the Central African Republic strongly condemns the attack at a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) health facility in the Central African Republic’s Ouham Province.
  • He said that 16 unarmed civilians were killed, including three national MSF staff members.
  • Dujarric said that aid agencies are calling on all parties to the conflict to abide by the principles of international humanitarian law protecting aid relief personnel.

SYRIA HAS REMOVED 92% OF DECLARED CHEMICAL WEAPONS STOCKPILE

  • Sigrid Kaag, the head of the Joint Mission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations, said yesterday that Syria has now removed from its territory or destroyed in-country more than 92% of its declared stockpile of chemical weapons material. She said that this is a significant achievement, which has been accomplished in a short period of time and in difficult security conditions.
  • However, she added, nearly 8% of Syria’s declared chemical weapons material remains on its territory. This should be removed in the shortest possible timeframe, despite the difficult security situation.
  • Ms. Kaag added that in recent weeks there have been renewed allegations of toxic chlorine gas attacks in several different parts of the country.  All necessary steps should be taken to establish the facts surrounding these unsubstantiated allegations. According to the Chemical Weapons Convention, to which Syria is now a State Party, the OPCW is the appropriate body to assess these allegations.
  • Asked about any investigation into the use of chlorine, the Spokesman said it would have to be decided by the OPCW.
  • In response to earlier questions, the Spokesman said that the Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, would be in New York on 2 May, this Friday. He will meet with the Secretary-General and other senior officials then and is expected to brief the Security Council while he’s in New York.
  • Asked about the plans for presidential elections in Syria, the Spokesman said that the Secretary-General and Mr. Brahimi have made clear their concerns about the election and its timing. Those concerns are unchanged.

SECRETARY-GENERAL MARKS 10TH ANNIVERSIRY OF TEXT TO PREVENT PROLIFERATION OF WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION

  • In a video message, the Secretary-General marked the tenth anniversary of the unanimous adoption of Security Council resolution 1540, which seeks to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or their acquisition by non-State actors.
  • He said that the use of poison gas in Syria was an alarming reminder of the continuing threat of weapons of mass destruction. The Secretary-General noted that it is particularly important to prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

IRAQ: U.N. PROVIDES ASSISTANCE TO PEOPLE AFFECTED BY FLOODS

  • The UN Country Team in Iraq, its implementing partners and Iraqi authorities delivered humanitarian assistance yesterday to the population affected by the floods in Abu-Ghraib district.
  • The World Food Programme mobilized 1,500 food parcels, UNICEF distributed 1,500 hygiene kits and the UN Refugee Agency mobilized 300 core relief items. The World Health Organization is currently coordinating with the Ministry of Health to deliver health and trauma kits.
  • The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, said that the United Nations will continue to address the immediate needs of the thousands of families affected by the flooding.
  • Asked about sectarian violence in Iraq, the Spokesman said that UN officials, including the Special Representative, have clearly condemned the recent violence, including killings on sectarian lines.

GEOGRAPHICAL NAMES GROUP MEETS IN NEW YORK

  • The twenty-eighth session of the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names, opened today at Headquarters in New York.
  • The United Nations recognizes the importance of an international agreement on geographical names as a way of promoting good communication and a more peaceful world.
  • This Group of Experts does not have the mandate to decide on geographical names; it respects the authority of each UN Member State to decide its own names for national and international use. However, it provides a forum for discussion of good practices and methods for naming locations.
  • Its work covers a wide range of issues; from naming some 17,000 islands in Indonesia to promoting the recognition of indigenous names in countries such as Canada and Australia. So far, a great part of this work has focused on the conversion of names to the Roman alphabet.

ON SAFETY AND HEALTH AT WORK DAY, LABOUR AGENCY SAYS STILL TOO MANY INCIDENTS

  • Today is World Day for Safety and Health at Work, with a focus this year on issues related to the use of chemicals.
  • In a message, the Director General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Guy Ryder, said that there were still too many serious incidents fatal or highly damaging to human health and the environment. These incidents must spur us to act with a sense of urgency, he said, globally, regionally, nationally and at workplace level.
  • In that context, the ILO also marks the first anniversary of the garment industry's worst-ever industrial accident, the collapse of Rana Plaza, which killed more than 1,100 workers in Bangladesh.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

  • The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Kosovo today strongly condemned an attack last week on two vehicles from the European Union’s Rule of Law mission. Farid Zarif said that such acts against the international community as a whole and must never be tolerated. The UN Mission in Kosovo is urging full cooperation with the investigation in to the attack so that those responsible are swiftly brought to justice.
  • Asked about Israel, the Spokesman noted the Secretary-General’s consistent view on the need for a two-State solution for Israelis and Palestinians. He noted that UN Special Coordinator Robert Serry would brief the Security Council on the Middle East peace process soon.
  • Asked about a mass grave found in Serbia, the Spokesman reiterated that any mass atrocities would need to be investigated and those responsible brought to justice.
  • In response to a question about George Clooney, the Spokesman noted that Mr. Clooney has ended his service as a UN Messenger of Peace.