HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY MARTIN NESIRKY, SPOKESPERSON FOR
SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
WEDNESDAY, 8 AUGUST 2012
AT SECURITY COUNCIL, SECRETARY-GENERAL NOTES RISING EXTREMISM IN MALI
- The Secretary-General discussed Mali with the Security Council on Wednesday morning, saying that the situation there has taken one alarming turn after another, reaching seemingly new depths with every passing week. He said that, in areas where there was once stability and coexistence, we have seen rising extremism, criminal activity and violations of human rights.
- He detailed the mediation efforts by the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) in northern Mali. He added that, as the Malian transitional authorities prepare to initiate a national dialogue, the United Nations stands ready to offer its considerable expertise in designing such processes and facilitating such dialogue.
- The Secretary-General said that he is extremely concerned about reports that armed groups in the north are committing serious human rights violations, including summary executions of civilians, rapes and torture. He encouraged the Security Council to give serious consideration to the imposition of targeted travel and financial sanctions against individuals or groups in Mali engaged in terrorist, religious extremist or criminal activities.
SECRETARY-GENERAL SPEAKS OUT AGAINST ANY HOSTAGE-TAKING
- Asked about Iranian citizens being held in Syria and Libya, the Spokesperson said that a letter from the Government of Iran requesting the assistance of the Secretary-General has been received. As a matter of principle, the Secretary-General condemns any taking of hostages, and calls for the humane treatment, prompt and unconditional release, and safe return of any abductees, Iranians or others, being held against their will.
- Asked about the use of heavy weapons in Aleppo, Syria, the Spokesperson said that UN observers had confirmed the use of such weapons before they were temporarily relocated from Aleppo. The Secretary-General has made his concerns known about the use of heavy weapons in Syria, and he continues to express concerns about the level of fighting.
AFGHANISTAN: U.N. MISSION NOTES DIP IN CIVILIAN CASUALTIES
- The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released its 2012 Midyear Report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict on Wednesday. That report says that, in the first six months of this year, 1,145 civilians were killed and nearly 2,000 injured because of armed conflict – a 15 per cent decrease in overall civilian casualties, compared with the same period in 2011.
- Nicholas Haysom, the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative in Afghanistan, said that the United Nations welcomes the reduction in civilian casualties, but he added that Afghan children, women and men continue to be killed and injured at alarmingly high levels. He called on all parties to the conflict to increase their efforts to protect civilians from harm and to respect the sanctity of human life.
- Anti-Government Elements were responsible for 80 per cent of civilian casualties, while Pro-Government Forces were responsible for 10 per cent, according to the report. In another 10 per cent of the cases, responsibility could not be determined.
U.N. RELIEF CHIEF VISITS CAMP IN EASTERN D.R. CONGO
- Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, visited a camp for displaced people in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) today. She spoke to displaced families, saw the distribution of food and non-food household items and visited a health centre.
- On Tuesday, she met Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo in Kinshasa to discuss the increased insecurity in North Kivu, which in recent weeks has displaced some 270,000 people. They also discussed the Government’s priorities for the relief effort.
- After that, Ms. Amos travelled to the conflict-affected province of North Kivu, where she discussed with the Vice-Governor the urgent need for food, health care and shelter in displaced communities. She also met humanitarian groups to hear about the current situation, the relief efforts, and the remaining challenges.
- Ms. Amos spoke also by telephone with the Secretary-General on Tuesday afternoon to share details about her visit, noting that the situation in the region is dire and that she was there to highlight the concerns of the international community.
U.N. MISSION IN D.R. CONGO SPEAKS OUT AGAINST RECRUITMENT OF CHILD SOLDIERS
- The UN Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) has condemned the recruitment of children by the armed group M23.
- In a press release they issued on Tuesday, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the DRC, Roger Meece, said that using children in armed conflict can only create generations raised in violence and tear apart the social fabric of the DRC. He called on M23 and other armed groups to end this practice immediately.
D.R. CONGO: U.N. MISSION LOOKING INTO UNCONFIRMED ALLEGATIONS
- In response to questions on the UN mission in the DRC, the Spokesperson said that MONUSCO has not received complaints or reports on the three specific cases referred to in the Globe and Mail article of 3 August, but that the Mission is investigating these unconfirmed allegations. The Mission urges anyone with information to come forward and report cases of abuse so that the United Nations can take prompt and appropriate action.
- MONUSCO has taken strong actions to prevent and address cases of sexual exploitation and abuse. The Mission has launched anti-prostitution projects, trained close to 20,000 peacekeepers since 2007 and expanded its conduct and discipline team. Although even one case of abuse is unacceptable, there has been a marked reduction in the number of sexual exploitation and abuse allegations, from 49 in 2007 to single digits in the first half of 2012. Whenever the Mission has substantiated allegations against uniformed personnel, those cases have been promptly addressed with the respective Troop Contributing Country.
- The UN is fully committed to the Secretary-General’s Zero Tolerance Policy. There are 12 Conduct and Discipline Teams in peacekeeping and special political missions and measures such as “curfews,” “non-fraternization” policies and hotlines for anonymous complaints have been established in all peacekeeping operations.
U.N. ENVOY WELCOMES NEW DECREES IN YEMEN
- Jamal Benomar, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Yemen, has welcomed the decrees recently adopted by the President of Yemen concerning the restructuring of the Yemeni security forces and the security sector.
- Special Adviser Benomar supports these measures and calls on all concerned to work together to ensure the effective implementation of these decrees, which are essential to promoting peace and stability in Yemen.
SENIOR U.N. OFFICIALS URGE INVESTIGATIONS INTO VIOLENCE IN MYANMAR’S RAKHINE STATE
- Asked about the treatment of Rohinya Muslims in Myanmar, the Spokesperson noted that the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar, and High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay have called for credible investigations into the violence in Rakhine State.
- Mr. Nambiar said that, while the response by the Government thus far has been prompt and calibrated and while the President has stressed the need to handle the matter with sensitivity, he has called on the authorities, publicly and privately, to make an independent and transparent investigation of these tragic events. Such action should establish accountability as well as the prevalence of the rule of law.
- It should also address the underlying causes of the violence, including with regard to the condition of the Muslim community in Rakhine as an integral part of the national reconciliation process.
SECRETARY-GENERAL’S TRAVEL PLANS UNCONFIRMED: Asked about reports that the Secretary-General would attend the Non-Aligned Movement meeting in Iran, the Spokesperson said that he could not confirm the reports and would not comment on them.
U.N. REPORT WARNS OF IMPACT OF ABUSE OF CHILDREN IN ASIA-PACIFIC: A new report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warns that the high prevalence of physical abuse is causing long-term damage to the lives of far too many children in East Asia and the Pacific. It analyzes a series of studies undertaken by experts and academics over the past decade on child maltreatment in the region.