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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, SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

TUESDAY, 31 MAY 2016

 

DELIVERY OF JUDGEMENT AGAINST FORMER PRESIDENT MARKS “A HISTORIC DAY FOR CHAD” – SECRETARY-GENERAL

  • The Secretary-General has taken note of the delivery yesterday by the Extraordinary African Chambers in the Senegalese Courts of the trial judgment in the case against Mr. Hissène Habré. The Secretary-General’s thoughts are with the victims of the crimes for which Hissène Habré has been found guilty.
  • Mr. Habré, the former President of Chad, has been found guilty of forced sexual slavery, voluntary homicide, kidnappings of individuals followed by their disappearances, summary executions and torture.
  • The Secretary-General congratulated the African Union and in particular Senegal on the establishment of the Extraordinary African Chambers and expressed his gratitude to all those States who have contributed to this achievement.
  • The delivery of this judgment marks a historic day for the people of Chad, the region and beyond, as well as for international criminal justice. The judgment sends a strong signal to those who would perpetrate serious crimes of international concern, including those at the highest echelons of political power, that they will be held accountable for their actions.
  • The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said that after years of struggle and many setbacks on the way to justice, this verdict is as historic as it was hard-won, with global ramifications.
  • He commended the ground-breaking agreement between Senegal and the African Union which enabled this case to proceed, saying that it is an excellent example of regional leadership and ownership in the fight against impunity for international crimes.
  • The Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, also welcomed the judgment against Hissène Habré, who was convicted of crimes against humanity, including rape and sexual slavery.
  • It represents an important milestone for international criminal justice in Africa and holding former heads of state to account for sexual violence crimes through the use of universal jurisdiction, she said.

SECRETARY-GENERAL STRESSES PIVOTAL ROLE OF NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS AT HIGH-LEVEL CONFERENCE

  • The Secretary-General was in the Republic of Korea over the weekend, where he attended the United Nations 66th Annual Department of Public Information/ Non-Governmental Organizations (DPI/NGO) conference.
  • In his opening remarks, the Secretary-General stressed the pivotal role of Non-Governmental Organizations which, as he put it, are at the vanguard of international action. He recognized their tireless work on landmines, cluster bombs, climate change and human rights, just to mention a few issues.
  • He also reiterated his call on governments to expand some political, economic, social space for NGOs to work freely, without any hindrance.
  • Turning to the situation at the UN, he expressed on his deep disappointed that the Member States on the Economic and Social Council’s (ECOSOC) NGO Committee recently denied the Committee to Protect Journalists consultative status.
  • Furthermore, he re-stated his opposition to the exclusion of LGBT organizations from the upcoming High-level Meeting on Ending AIDS. These NGOs are close to communities affected by the epidemic and they must be part of the response. The UN is a big tent, he said, and NGOs belong inside it.

U.N. CONCERNED OVER FATE OF 8,000 SYRIANS TRAPPED BY FIGHTING IN NORTHERN ALEPPO

  • The United Nations is deeply concerned over the fate of an estimated 8,000 Syrians trapped by fighting around the towns of Mare’a and Sheikh Issa in northern Aleppo Governorate following advances in the last three days by Da’esh into areas controlled by non-state armed groups.
  • An unknown number of people are also unable to flee due to fighting and the closure of the main road leading north towards the town of Azaz in northwestern Syria. The UN is deeply concerned that many civilians in these areas are at risk of attack.
  • The UN Resident Coordinator for Syria, Yacoub El Hillo, called on all parties to the conflict to ensure the unhindered movement and protection of civilians trying to reach safety, as well as their access to life-saving assistance at their current locations or on their way to other destinations.

YEMEN: U.N. ENVOY URGES PARTIES TO REDOUBLE EFFORTS TO REACH SOLUTION TO POLITICAL CRISIS

  • The Yemeni peace talks are continuing in Kuwait under the auspices of the Special Envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who held bilateral meetings with both delegations yesterday. The Special Envoy said afterwards that violations to the Cessation of Hostilities are unacceptable.
  • He added that economic decline, water and electricity shortages should motivate the parties to redouble their efforts towards reaching a comprehensive and peaceful solution. He said that political bickering will only complicate issues and only a political solution will help resolve them.

SPECIAL COORDINATOR IN MIDDLE EAST STRESSES IMPORTANCE OF ARAB PEACE INITIATIVE

  • The United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, welcomed yesterday’s statements by the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Liberman on the Arab Peace Initiative (API). This can help advance negotiations on achieving a two-state solution.
  • Mr. Mladenov noted that the Middle East Quartet has repeatedly emphasized the significance and importance of the Arab Peace Initiative, with its vision for a comprehensive settlement of the conflict and as an opportunity for building a regional security framework. This opportunity should not be missed and must be followed up with concrete and timely action.

GAZA: U.N. RIGHTS CHIEF CONDEMNS EXECUTIONS, UNDERSCORES NEED FOR FAIR TRIAL STANDARDS

  • The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) condemned the execution of three men by authorities in Gaza today despite serious and widespread concerns that international fair trial standards were not respected, and in spite of appeals by many local and international actors to halt the executions.
  • These executions were carried out without the approval of Palestinian President Mamoud Abbas as required under Palestinian law, effectively denying these men their right to seek pardon or commutation of their sentence.
  • The Human Rights Office remains deeply concerned about further planned executions in the near future. It reiterates that death sentences carried out pursuant to unfair trials are in violation of international law.

HUMANITARIAN COORDINATOR IN LIBYA CONDEMNS RECENT ATTACK AGAINST HOSPITAL IN BENGHAZI

  • The Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya, Ali Al-Za’tari, has strongly condemned the rocket shelling of the Benghazi Medical Centre, which provides healthcare to almost half a million people.
  • He warned that damage to its infrastructure at this critical juncture will severely compromise health access for a large number of patients who are already vulnerable.
  • Mr. Al-Za’tari added that such attacks against civilians, and in particular against hospitals, are in direct violation of international humanitarian law, and can amount to an international humanitarian crime.

JOINT INVESTIGATIONS INTO ALLEGATIONS OF SEXUAL ABUSE CONTINUE IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

  • The investigations on allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations peacekeepers conducted jointly by the Office of the Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), Burundi and Gabon are continuing in the Kemo prefecture.
  • OIOS informed us that so far, more than 60 out of the 106 complainants have been interviewed by the joint teams. Witnesses are also being interviewed in order to corroborate the testimonies. The interview process is expected to be finalised in the coming few weeks.
  • The allegations date back to 2014 and 2015 and there is a lack of medical, judicial and other physical evidence which means that the work of the investigators relies primarily on the testimonies of the victims and witnesses. There is progress but it is going to take time to identify the alleged perpetrators and carry forward the investigation. While the investigations continue, the United Nations is keeping 8 to 10 staff in the area at all times.
  • In addition, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and their implementing partners continue to provide medical, psycho-social and legal assistance in the area. A UNICEF partner, Association des femmes juristes Centrafricanes (AFJC), is assisting all victims, both minors and adults, during the interviews with OIOS. 

OVER 21,000 PEOPLE DISPLACED BY ONGOING FIGHTING IN SOUTH SUDAN’S WAU COUNTY

  • The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that that following a needs assessment in the Greater Baggari area in the Wau County of South Sudan, humanitarian partners estimate that about 21,400 people were displaced in various locations there after fighting erupted in February.
  • The displaced people are sleeping in the open and they are in need of food, shelter, health services and nutritional support. They said that they were surviving by eating wild roots and cassava leaves.
  • During the assessment, aid workers distributed high-energy biscuits to about 2,000 children and pregnant and lactating mothers. They also treated children suffering from malaria and diarrhoea.

SECRETARY-GENERAL CONDEMNS RECENT KILLING OF FIVE PEACEKEEPERS IN MALI

  • In a statement issued over the weekend, the Secretary-General condemned the attack against a convoy of the United Nations Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) which killed five peacekeepers from Togo.
  • The convoy was ambushed by unknown assailants some 30 kilometres west of Sévaré, in the Mopti region. The Secretary-General called for swift action to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice.
  • He also said that the United Nations would continue to support the stabilization of Mali and the implementation of the peace agreement and expressed his full support to the Malian authorities in their fight against extremist groups.

U.N. AND AID PARTNERS REPORT INCREASE IN ACUTE DIARRHOEA IN SOMALIA

  • The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that there has been a sharp spike in the number of Acute Watery Diarrhoea cases since the beginning of this year in central and southern Somalia. There have been more than 7,000 cases compared to 5,257 cases during the same period last year.
  • A US$2 million funding from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) is expected to help strengthen support for water, hygiene and health assistance to stem the outbreak.

RECENT MEDITERRANEAN SEA CROSSING DEATH TOLL REACHES 880

  • The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said that at least 880 people died the previous week trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea toward Europe. In that regard, 2016 proves to be a particularly deadly year for migrants and refugees using the Mediterranean route: so far 2,510 people lost their lives compared to 1,855 during the same period in 2015, and only 57 in 2014.
  • The North Africa-Italy route is reported to be considerably more dangerous than the other Mediterranean routes: 2,119 of the deaths reported thus far in 2016 had been among people making that journey.
  • According to some unconfirmed accounts, the recent increase in fatality numbers is linked to efforts by smugglers to maximize income before the start of the holy month of Ramadan, in the coming week.

NUMBER OF PEOPLE WITH ACCESS TO LIFE-SAVING ANTIRETROVIRAL MEDICINE DOUBLES SINCE 2010

  • A new report from UNAIDS shows that the number of people accessing antiretroviral medicines has more than doubled since 2010.
  • According to UNAIDS, an estimated 17 million people were accessing life-saving antiretroviral medicines at the end of 2015, with an additional two million people gaining access over a 12-month period.
  • The announcement comes as world leaders prepare to gather in New York for General Assembly’s High Level Meeting on Ending AIDS scheduled to take place between 8-10 June.
  • The report was launched in Nairobi, Kenya, one of the countries showing the most remarkable progress in expanding access to antiretroviral medicines and reducing the number of new HIV infections.

U.N. CALLS FOR USE OF PLAIN PACKAGING FOR TOBACCO PRODUCTS ON INTERNATIONAL DAY

  • On World No Tobacco Day, the Secretary-General said that the United Nations is lending its support to one simple measure with proven effectiveness in reducing demand: the plain packaging of tobacco products.
  • As laid out in the UN tobacco control treaty, this entails restricting or prohibiting the use of logos, colours, brand images or any promotional information other than brand and product names displayed in a standard colour and font.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) added that recent moves to introduce plain packaging of tobacco products can save lives by reducing demand. Plain packaging kills the glamour of tobacco products, which is appropriate for a product that kills people, said WHO’s Director-General Dr Margaret Chan.

 

**The guest at the noon briefing was the Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande, who briefed on the situation in Fallujah.**