Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

25 April 2011

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

25 April 2011
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

So, good afternoon, everybody.  Welcome to the briefing.


It is a great pleasure to have as guests at the briefing today, Mr. Ray Chambers, who is the Special Envoy for Malaria, and Awa Coll-Seck, who is the Executive Director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnerships, and on my far right, Singer/Song-writer Mandy Moore.  And they are obviously here to help everybody mark World Malaria Day.  They have a few introductory remarks, and then they are happy to take questions.  And I can also draw your attention to a message by the Secretary-General on the same subject that is available to you already.  So, with that, I’ll pass the floor to you, please, Mr. Chambers.

[Press conference on World Malaria Day issued separately.]

So, I have a couple of other items, and then I am happy to take a few questions.

** Syria

Over the long weekend, we issued a statement expressing the Secretary-General’s condemnation of the violence against peaceful demonstrators in Syria and his call for a halt to the violence there.

He reminds the Syrian authorities of their obligation to respect international human rights, including the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, as well as the freedom of the press.  The Secretary-General reiterates that there should be an independent, transparent and effective investigation into the killings.

The Secretary-General has also taken note of the lifting of the state of emergency and of the programme of reforms announced by President Bashar al-Assad.  The Secretary-General emphasizes his belief that only an inclusive dialogue and the effective implementation of reforms can address the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people and ensure social peace and order.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, says the Syrian Government’s response has been erratic, with paper reforms followed by violent crackdowns on protesters.  Just a few days after the announcement of sweeping and important reforms, she said today, we are seeing disregard for human life by the Syrian security forces.  The killings must stop immediately, she said.

**Security Council

The Security Council is holding consultations at 3 this afternoon to discuss the Secretary-General’s recent report on small arms.  Security Council members will be briefed by Sergio Duarte, the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs.

And the Secretary-General intends to talk to the Security Council tomorrow afternoon about his just concluded travels and other recent developments.  He will speak to reporters at the Security Council stakeout afterwards.  We think that will be at around 4:30 p.m.

** Chernobyl

The Secretary-General will mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster tomorrow with a message, noting that, during his visit to Chernobyl last week, he witnessed the devastation first-hand.  The Secretary-General says it was a moving experience which provided an opportunity to reflect upon the impact of the disaster, the lives lost or changed forever, and to face the harsh reality of illness and environmental damage for generations of the past and future.

On this important anniversary, he says, let us resolve to dispel the last cloud of Chernobyl and offer a better future for the people who have lived too long under its shadow.  We must continue to build an enduring legacy of safety for the future.

That’s it from me.  Questions, please?  Yes, Masood?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  So, while you were away, if you remember about Sri Lankan report.  What is it that it is taking so long to be released?  Why, because already in Sri Lanka, it seems the Government has slowly and slowly leaked it, most of the findings of it, to the press over there.  So what is it that is stopping the United Nations from releasing the report now?

Spokesperson:  Well, I may have been away, but I think you can assume that I was fully aware of what was happening, as indeed was the Secretary-General, obviously.  The report will be published in full, unamended, and we anticipate that that will happen today.  Yes?

Question:  Yes, Martin, how does the United Nations view some prominent Al-Qaida operators joining the rebels to overthrow the [Muammar al-]Qadhafi regime, as this has been reported in The New York Times today, because these rebels are supported by the Western countries?  Does the United Nations also consider these Al-Qaida people joining the rebels acceptable?

Spokesperson:  We are aware of the reports, but that is not something that we have been able to verify.  Yes, Evelyn?

Question:  Will the report on Sri Lanka include any forward-looking action steps that the Secretary-General may recommend?  Or is it the same report that’s now in its seventh part in the Sri Lankan newspapers?

Spokesperson:  Well, the report, I think, will speak for itself.  There will be, in addition, a statement, if you like, that will go with it.  But that’s where we are at the moment.  Yes?

Question:  A follow-up to Mr. [Iftikhar] Ali’s question that there are reports… I think you are also aware that some mercenaries have joined in that… in the struggle over there.  Do you have any idea about that, because some said the mercenaries are coming, like in this case, Al-Qaida, and that there are some from other countries?

Spokesperson:  Well, the answer is pretty much the same, and that is that we are aware of the reports, but we are not in a position to verify them and therefore we don’t have anything further to say on that.  Yes, Erol, and then I am coming to you.

Question:  Just a follow-up, actually, but a small part, even if New York Times did not write about that, what is the understanding of the United Nations?  And I did pose this question before about the mercenaries, since there is all over reports, I did the story also that there are mercenaries definitely from Serbia, Ukraine and Russia.  So, what is the latest from UN that we can have here on that issue?

Spokesperson:  What I just said, Erol, is that we cannot verify these reports independently.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  In leaks that came out over the weekend, there is a letter… I mean, I have seen the letter from Palitha Kohona to Lynn Pascoe dated 16 February asking for a 22 February meeting between the panel and Mohan Peiris, and I guess Mr. Kohona, as well.  I wanted to… I’d rather ask you directly, it seems like I’d asked you before if there had been a meeting outside of the one with the Secretary-General, and I had understood you to say, “You were there with the camera”, there was no meeting.  Can you now state whether there was a meeting between the panel and Mohan Peiris?

Spokesperson:  As I said to you, there was a meeting, which you witnessed, which was with this high-level delegation with the Secretary-General.  And I understand that there was a meeting that involved UN officials that included the panel members.  But that’s what I have for you on that.

Question:  I wanted to ask you about that meeting, that’s what I wanted; I don’t want to misunderstand it.  Did you know that the meeting took place or did you not know, because I was very much trying to find out if the meeting took place between…?

Spokesperson:  As I say, I receive information, and when I have information I am able to give it to you.  Yeah?

Question:  I also wanted one thing, if you don’t mind, in terms of this delay, there is, again, as leaked over the weekend, there are two paragraphs about the so-called white flag killings, people that sought to surrender and ended up being shot, and it talks about a “UN intermediary” that, on information and belief, is Mr. Vijay Nambiar.  And I just wonder:  has Mr. Nambiar played any role in the delay of the release?  Has he spoken with Mr. Kohona, with G.L. Peiris, or has he been recused, as I think many people would think, not to say that he is a defendant of any kind, but he is a witness to one of the incidents described in the report.  Has been recused or has he been involved?

Spokesperson:  This is something that is dealt with by a range of senior officials; the final decision rests with the Secretary-General and he has made it very clear that the report will be made public, in full, unamended.  And that’s what will happen.  And as I said, I anticipate that that will happen today.  Yes, James?

Question:  Thanks, Martin.  The SG was doing the stakeout…

Spokesperson:  Tomorrow.

Question:  Tomorrow?

Spokesperson:  After the Secretary-General has spoke to the Security Council about his recent visits to various countries including Qatar, Egypt and most recently Russia.  But it’s not just on his travels, but on recent developments and after that, as I say, we anticipate it will be around 4:30 p.m., but as you know, sometimes that can be a little bit elastic.  Yes?

Question:  I had a second question, Martin, a diary thing.  Mr. [Luis Moreno-]Ocampo, the ICC [International Criminal Court] Prosecutor, was scheduled to file his report, first report on alleged war crimes in Libya, I believe tomorrow — I’ve got the date in my diary.  Do you know if that date still stands; is that the date the report is going to be submitted to the Security Council?

Spokesperson:  Well, the ICC is not a part of the United Nations.  So I think you need to speak to them directly.  Yes, Sylviane?

Correspondent:  Thank you, Martin and welcome back.  My question is on Bahrain and involvement of Hizbullah plots in the protests.  There is now a report of the UN receiving a letter from the Government of Bahrain, saying that Hizbullah has tried to overthrow the ruling family in Bahrain.  Do you have any reaction on that?  Can you have some more information on that?

Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, the Secretary-General has been in touch with the authorities in Bahrain on a number of occasions.  Most recently, he met the Foreign Minister when he was in Doha for the Contact Group meeting on Libya and the message in speaking to Bahraini leaders has been extremely consistent and quite strong.  And I think you are fully aware of what that is.  It is not for me to characterize what the interlocutors have said to the Secretary-General.  I think that would be for the Bahraini authorities to speak about it.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you.  The Secretary-General will brief the Security Council tomorrow, so will Syria be part of his remarks or discussions?  Does he believe that certain action should be taken in the United Nations, because he called for independent and transparent and effective investigations?  Did he mean international investigations or national?  What kind of investigations?

Spokesperson:  Well, as I think you’ll recall, President [Bashar al-]Assad spoke to the Secretary-General and the Secretary-General made clear that there should be an investigation.  And it was…

Question:  When was that?

Spokesperson:  I can’t remember the exact date, I’d have to tell you afterwards, I can’t remember the exact date.  But part of that conversation was that the Secretary-General thanked President Assad for explaining that there would be an investigation.  Obviously, accountability in the first instance rests with national authorities, and the search for accountability, in other words, investigations.  That doesn’t preclude other measures, but in the first instance it’s a national requirement.  Should this be raised in the Security Council?  Let’s wait and see.  You will have the opportunity to hear from the Secretary-General tomorrow afternoon.  Yes, Anita?

Question:  I was wondering if Libya has proposed any other diplomat after one of their candidates defected and the other one, the Nicaraguan that was pulled back.  Have there been any more efforts, and what’s happening with the Libyan diplomats at the mission?

Spokesperson:  Not to my knowledge on the first question.  On the second, I am not quite sure what you mean?

Question:  The Libyan delegation; what’s the situation?  Are they not allowed to come here or they’re into special pass or…?

Spokesperson:  Well, the last that I understood was that they had courtesy passes; the former Permanent Representative and Deputy Permanent Representative.  I don’t know what the situation is with the other members of the delegation.  Yes?

Question:  Just on Syria, the Secretary-General, does he now feel that with Syria wanting to join the Human Rights Council, does he feel that’s a good idea?  Some nations want Syria to maybe drop.  Will he think about asking Syria to drop its candidacy, given the terrible human rights conditions…?

Spokesperson:  That’s really not for the Secretary-General to suggest to a Member State; it’s Member States on the Human Rights Council who decide on the membership of the Human Rights Council.  It’s the membership of the United Nations, not for the Secretary-General.

Question:  Was that part of his conversation with President Assad?

Spokesperson:  As I say, that is not really something that the Secretary-General would raise specifically, because it is for other Member States to decide on the membership of the Human Rights Council.  What I can tell you is that, as you’ve heard me say already, that the Secretary-General has been quite clear on what needs to happen on the human rights front in Syria.  First and foremost that the killing and shooting has to stop, and secondly, and fundamentally, people have the right to demonstrate peacefully without fear of reprisals, or indeed lethal fatal intervention by security forces.  Matthew?

Question:  I want to ask about Côte d’Ivoire and also the UAE [ United Arab Emirates].  In Côte d'Ivoire, there are these pre-travelling accounts, and again they may… who knows, there are a lot stories going around, but that the former, you know, director of the central bank, the BCEAO, [Philippe-]Henry Dacoury-Tabley, was sort of beaten, photographed and humiliated by the pro-Ouattara forces.  And I am wondering if UNOCI [United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire] is aware of that and also there seem to be other former Gbagbo people in this hotel, the Golf Hotel, they said that they are not being protected, that they have essentially been put in custody.  Is UNOCI aware of that?  What is it doing to actually protect against these reprisal attacks?

Spokesperson:  Let me ask.

Question:  And also, on the UAE, there is a fair, pretty [inaudible] the UAE has dissolved this jurist association, a pretty high-profile human rights group.  Human Rights Watch has condemned it.  But I wonder whether the UN system, particularly the Secretary-General, is aware of that and has any view if that’s a positive development or negative?

Spokesperson:  Let me find out about that, I am not aware of that.  I’ll ask the relevant folks.  Okay, right, yes, final question, okay?

Question:  Has the Secretary-General talked to these Saudi authorities of the report that the…

Spokesperson:  Which authorities, Masood?

Question:  Saudi Arabian authorities about reports that Saudi mercenary forces have been send to Bahrain for, I mean… in support of the Khalifa of Bahrain?

Spokesperson:  Well, the answer is the same as with Libya.  We don’t have any independent confirmation or we are not able to verify reports that we have seen, like you have, on mercenaries in Libya, or in other locations.  We just do not have that information, okay?  All right, I wish you a good afternoon.  Thank you.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.