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

30 August 2011

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

30 August 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 Farhan Haq, Acting Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

All right.  It’s noon, so I should get started.

** Libya

The Secretary-General expects to talk to the Security Council this afternoon in an open briefing, followed by consultations, about post-conflict planning in Libya.  After the consultations have ended, we expect that Ian Martin, the Special Adviser dealing with that matter, and Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe will talk to the press at the Security Council stakeout.

Meanwhile, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed its alarm at the emerging reports of atrocious human rights violations in Libya, including what appear to be mass summary executions, mostly apparently carried out by the forces of the Qadhafi Government during the last few days before they lost Tripoli.

The Office is also deeply concerned about reports that there are still thousands of people unaccounted for who were arrested or taken prisoner by Colonel [Muammar al-]Qadhafi’s security forces, either earlier in the conflict or before it even started.

Also on Libya, the World Food Programme (WFP) is scaling up its food assistance to help the most vulnerable among the uprooted in Tripoli, the coastal areas of the country and the Nafusa Mountains region.  It is sending some 600 metric tons of staple food items, such as wheat and vegetable oil, to the capital, enough supplies for 35,000 people for one month.

At the request of the National Transitional Council, the World Food Programme is looking to procure 250,000 metric tons of gasoline to cover immediate needs for one month.  The fighting has disrupted fuel supplies, with water and electricity supplies depending on fuel-run generators.  A World Food Programme vessel carrying 500,000 litres of water on behalf of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is en route to Tripoli, following a shipment of 23,000 bottles of water earlier this week.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is concerned about the lack of water in Tripoli and other areas, with 4 million people at risk of potentially not having access to potable water.

** Nigeria

At 4:30 this afternoon, the Secretary-General will speak to the Member States at the General Assembly about last Friday’s bomb attack on the UN compound in Abuja, Nigeria.  He will reiterate that there can be no justification for terrorism anywhere, by anyone, for any reason.

The Secretary-General will also discuss our efforts to examine the security implications of the attack, which appears to be the first of this nature against an international or foreign institution in Nigeria.  He will point out that this attack is cause for serious reassessment, not just in Nigeria and not just at high-threat locations, but worldwide.


The situation in Kosovo remains tense and unpredictable, the Secretary-General’s Acting Special Representative, Farid Zarif, told the Security Council this morning.

He said that last month’s events in northern Kosovo were the most serious security incidents since the violence in 2008, serving as a stark reminder that the issues underlying these incidents remain unresolved and constitute a serious threat to Kosovo’s peace and security.  It remains essential that all sides refrain from any unilateral action which could escalate existing tensions, he stressed.  We must all work together to avoid any further deterioration of the situation and allow progress to be made through dialogue.

** Bahrain

The UN Human Rights Office continues to hear reports of small protests in Bahrain.  It notes that more than 260 cases involving protesters are still pending before the courts, with many potentially being tried in the Court of National Safety, which is effectively a military court.

The Office stresses that civilians must be tried in civilian courts and that all people detained must be charged with a recognizable criminal offence, have adequate access to a lawyer and have enough time to prepare a defence.  It voiced concern that most of the defendants may have been detained only for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association, and called for their release.

** Nepal

In a statement we put out yesterday afternoon, the Secretary-General welcomed the election on 28 August of Babu Ram Bhattarai as Prime Minister of Nepal, and extended his congratulations to the Prime Minister.  He hopes to see the early establishment of an inclusive Government through consensus and compromise.

The Secretary-General once again calls on the parties to regain the spirit of consensus and cooperation that has been the foundation of their collective effort to bring sustainable peace to Nepal, and to carry out all outstanding commitments without delay.  He reaffirms the continued support of the United Nations to these efforts.  And the full statement is available online.

**UN Headquarters Closed for Holiday

And there won’t be a briefing tomorrow for the UN holiday, but they will resume on Thursday.

That’s it from me.  Any questions?  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yeah, I wanted to… a couple of questions on Libya.  One, I just wanted to… to… I know on Friday I had asked you about this the Martin report; you’d said it was an internal document.  I just want you to… there have been something saying that the UN refused even to state that it was that.  Can you provide, as I asked you by e-mail yesterday, what is… what is this document?  And also, where it mentions having told two Member States of the force requirements, who are those two Member States, and if you won’t say, why… why not?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, the document is a report that is being prepared as part of our planning process by Ian Martin and his team.  As you know, planning is a process that is continuing throughout the course of the coming days and weeks, and the plans are being adjusted as we enter into dialogue with regional organizations, with Member States, with the National Transitional Council and other parties.  Ian Martin, the Special Envoy, Abdel-Elah al-Khatib, and others have been travelling to the meetings with relevant parties, such as the National Transitional Council.  There was, as you know, the Contact Group meeting in Istanbul last week.  The Secretary-General met by video conference with the leaders of the regional organizations last Friday, and, as you are well aware, the Secretary-General will also meet many different Heads of State and Government in Paris on Thursday to discuss the matter further.  And the planning will be adjusted accordingly as a result of all the various contacts that we are making in the days and weeks ahead.

Question:  Can I just… I mean, one, who are the two Member States and… and how do you choose them and the basis of this statement that NATO will continue to have responsibilities on Libya?  Is that something that is being modified?  What was the basis of an internal UN making… you know, making that as a statement rather than saying if it has a role?  We do x, if they don’t have a role, we do y?  Is that… is that the Secretary-General’s position?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  As I said at the start of this briefing, Ian Martin will be talking to the press following the consultations on Libya that the Security Council is having.  The Secretary-General will present in some greater detail what our state of play is and then after that, Mr. Martin, and Mr. Pascoe will talk to the press and you can talk to him at that point.

Question:  Can I get a question, unlike on Friday?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  You are free to ask whatever questions you want.  You did talk to him on Friday.  Yes?

Question:  There is this legislation in Congress; can you walk us through exactly what is the UN position on the idea of voluntary contributions?  Is there any Secretariat position on that?  What would be a penalty, if at all, in case a country decides to move to a separate… to a different form of payment?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as far as that goes, as you are well aware, we don’t comment on the internal legislative process of Member States.  But as you are also well aware, the United Nations needs its Member States to pay their dues in order to carry out the work that we need to do.  So, of course, if Member States give us the mandate, as they have given us to do on a range of tasks, they need to provide us with the necessary funds and we rely on them for that funding.

Question:  No, the question is, Farhan, whether there is a firm legislation that says: here is how you pay, you pay according to your dues.  Or can a country, any country, say — I don’t know, out of my hat — Pakistan, decide, I am going to move to a voluntary basis?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Interesting choice of country [laughter].  So no, the fact of the matter is that the scale of assessments among all Member States is decided collectively by the Member States.  As you know, periodically over the years, they have adjusted the assessments for different Member States, in agreement with each other.  Once they have agreed to that, of course they are obliged to carry through with their dues payments.

Question:  So if a country with a lot of pull at the UN decides to move to voluntary, then the General Assembly is swayed and says, “Okay, you can do voluntary”, ever, that’s fine with the Secretariat?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I wouldn’t answer a hypothetical question like that.  The basic rule, however, is that the Member…

Correspondent:  It’s not hypothetical…

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  …the basic rule is that the Member States — don’t heckle — the basic rule is that the Member States decide upon what the scale of assessments is.  So that question is in the hands of the Member States.  Yes?

Question:  Okay.  I have one more about Libya.  I wanted to ask, Algeria has said that it has informed the Secretary-General of its hosting of… of… of various Qadhafi family relatives.  Is that true?  How is… was he told, and what is the Secretary-General… what’s his view on… on… the TNC [Transitional National Council] has asked that… for that they be returned?  What’s the Secretary-General’s view of Algeria hosting them?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes, the Secretary-General’s Office was informed of this development by Algeria’s Permanent Representative on Monday, before it was announced.  Beyond that, of course, having received the information, we are evaluating that.  As for any further details, I’ll wait again until the Secretary-General has made his presentation to the Security Council.  Yes, Haider?

Question:  My colleague, Matthew, already asked that question, but a follow-up to that question again; the Secretary-General has been very steadfast in raising his concerns about violations of human rights.  Media reports from the region suggest that Qadhafi’s daughter gave birth to a child and the opposition leader in Libya reportedly stated that it was an act of aggression on the part of the Algerian Government.  So I just wonder what the Secretary-General would do, say to that?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  We don’t have any comment relating to what the NTC officials have said on this.  Regarding questions of human rights, of course we believe that there should be no impunity for human rights violations.  You’ve heard what I just said on behalf of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, about its concerns about actions taken by the Qadhafi Government.  And as you know, three people have so far been indicted by the International Criminal Court; that’s on the basis of a mandate given to them by the Security Council, and we trust that Member States will comply with the resolutions of the Security Council.  Yes, please?

Question:  Farhan, there have been indications that Brazil is considering withdrawing from Haiti, from MINUSTAH [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti], and I was just wondering if you had any confirmation of this that you have heard of?  Any word, or if they did, what would happen?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  No, no, no we have no confirmation of that.

Question:  Can I ask two questions on Kosovo?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  Just now in the Council, Ambassador [Vitaly] Churkin of Russia said that there is a lack of leadership at UNMIK and, and he wondered why the… no new UNMIK SRSG [Special Representative of the Secretary-General] has been appointed.  So I am wondering, is there a response to what he said and more importantly, what’s the process for replacing Mr. [Lamberto] Zannier as SRSG?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  That process is ongoing.  As you know, Mr. Zannier has left for a different position and, as you are also aware, today the office, the UN Mission in Kosovo, was represented in the Security Council by the Acting Special Representative, Farid Zarif.  And he will be in charge of that until a full-time replacement is named.

Question:  Also, this Clint Williamson has been named, I guess, to… to… for now to head of this… the investigation of organ trafficking.  There is at least one report saying that he is an adviser on international justice to the Secretary-General.  Is that… is that true?  What’s his relationship to the UN?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I believe Mr. Williamson did previously work with the United Nations as an adviser regarding our activities in Cambodia.  I don’t believe that that is his position right now in Kosovo.

Question:  And on Sudan, this is something, again, I tried to send to you yesterday.  Is there a UN statement or… or position on Khartoum’s sentencing to death a JEM [Justice and Equality Movement] commander?  Their… the position of JEM is that they’re, you know, recognized some… rebel group in Darfur and that they… he should be treated as a prisoner of war.  Is there… what does the UN think about the sentencing to hanging of a military commander?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  No, we have no comment on that.  You might want to pursue further with UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur].  But we have no comment from here on that particular question.

Have a good afternoon.

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