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

21 November 2011

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

21 November 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.  And welcome to the briefing.


I am very pleased to welcome Bertil Lindblad, the Director of the New York Office of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, known as UNAIDS, and also Kim Nichols.  And they are here to brief you on a new report by UNAIDS, which is showing that 2011 was a game changing year for the AIDS response.

But I shall hand over to both of you to provide more details on that.  And then once my guests have completed their part of the briefing I will have a few more items for you, and then happy to take questions.

So, please, the floor is yours.  Welcome.

[Press conference by Mr. Lindblad and Ms. Nichols is issued separately.]

So I have a couple of other items for you, and happy to take some questions.  I do realize that there are others competing for our time today for important reasons.

**Secretary-General’s Statement on Egypt

So I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the violence in Egypt.

The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the violence in Egypt during the last few days, particularly in Cairo.  He deplores the loss of life and the many injuries.

The Secretary-General calls on the transitional authorities to guarantee the protection of human rights and civil liberties for all Egyptians, including the right to peaceful protest.  He urges restraint and calm by all parties to enable a peaceful and inclusive electoral process as part of Egypt’s transition to democracy and the early establishment of civilian rule.

**Fallen Staff

The Secretary-General spoke at a memorial this morning for fallen UN staff members, saying that we are beginning a new tradition today, in which, each year, we will have a memorial ceremony for all staff who die while serving the United Nations.  He paid tribute today to 197 recently fallen staff, including 195 men and women who have perished since March of last year.

The Secretary-General said that we continue modernizing our security operations and strengthening what we do for families in the aftermath of death and disaster.  And we are also pressing Governments to uphold their responsibility not only to provide security, but to prosecute those who target UN staff for violence.  He added that the best tribute to fallen staff, beyond today's memorial, is to continue the life-saving and life-enhancing work for which they gave their lives.  His speech is available in my office and online.

**Security Council

Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, briefed the Security Council this morning on the latest developments in the region.  He said that the Israelis and Palestinians have worked with the Quartet recently, but he noted that provocations continue to damage consultations.  He pointed to the need for an environment conducive to direct engagement.

Mr. Serry noted that Israel had withheld some $100 million of Palestinian funds following the Palestinian membership in the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  He called for a de-escalation of the current climate and the unfreezing of the withheld funds.  And he appealed to the parties to refrain from provocations, enter direct negotiations and come forward with concrete and negotiable proposals.

Mr. Serry will speak to reporters at the stakeout after those consultations finish.  And in the afternoon, the Security Council will discuss the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

** Libya

Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has welcomed the capture in Libya of Saif al-Islam Qadhafi and former chief of intelligence Abdullah al-Senussi, both of whom are subject to International Criminal Court arrest warrants.

Ms. Pillay welcomed the announcement by the Prime Minister that Saif al-Islam Qadhafi will be treated humanely and tried fairly in line with international standards.  She said that Libyans have the right to see that justice is done, and added that the Libyan authorities should ensure that the suspects are detained in humane conditions.

** Cambodia

And Navi Pillay has also welcomed the opening today of a landmark trial of three top Khmer Rouge leaders in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.  She emphasized the need for vigilance to ensure the rights of victims in cases before the tribunal are respected.

Despite the progress marked by the start of this second trial, the High Commissioner noted the tribunal continues to face challenges, particularly with regard to the need to safeguard the integrity of its proceedings.


The Secretary-General will host a meeting tomorrow with high-level delegations from Cameroon and Nigeria to review the progress of the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission.  As you know, this Commission was established in November 2002 by the United Nations, at the request of Cameroon and Nigeria, to help implement the decision of the International Court of Justice (10 October 2002) on delimiting the border between the two countries.  And that meeting will take place in the afternoon, here at United Nations Headquarters.

**Children and Armed Conflict

Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, is in the Central African Republic.  Today she witnessed the signing of an action plan for the release of child soldiers with the CJP, an armed rebel group.  During her visit, the Special Representative also met with child victims and local authorities in the area of Obo, where the Lord’s Resistance Army has been active.  And she will brief reporters here in New York next week upon her return.

Questions, please.  Yes, Masood?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  In case of Egypt in which the Secretary-General has issued a statement showing concern but on [inaudible], Egypt so many people have been killed.  Does the Secretary-General also intend to ask the Arab League or some other commission to go to Egypt to find out because this is now going this movement is going and the violence is increasing substantively, is there any way the Secretary-General can ask Arab League to go there?

Spokesperson:  Well, I am not sure what the Arab League…

Question:  Like he did in [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Well, I am not sure that the Arab League actually needs to go there, Masood, the League of Arab States headquarters is right next to Tahrir Square.  So, I think they have a pretty good idea of what’s going on.  So I think the Secretary-General is clearly concerned about what is happening there, and his call on the transitional authorities to guarantee the right of peaceful protest is an important one, and I am sure that others in the international community have similar views on this.

Question:  I mean, what about the United Nations mission to see, because this is now been going on for such a long time?  First it was thought that the election will be held and everything was slowly, slowly return to normal. But that’s not happened.

Spokesperson:  Well, the electoral process is there, and is scheduled to start quite soon.  It is a three-part electoral process, and obviously the Secretary-General is urging restraint and calm by all those involved so that that electoral process can continue.  We’ve had this conversation before; the transition to democracy is obviously not easy.  And the Secretary-General is not only calling for this electoral process to be able to go ahead, but also for the early establishment of civilian rule.

Question:  Yes, but the election, if you recall, was supposed to be held by end of, by September of this year.  [inaudible], obviously that date couldn’t be kept for whatever reasons.  Now we have another schedule.  It is quite possible that that schedule may also be [inaudible].  That’s the reason why one thinks that this is something that the army is deliberately trying to do [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  Well, Masood, that is your point of view.  I think the Secretary-General’s statement is quite clear on what he believes needs to happen.  Okay, next question?

Question:  Thank you.  The situation in Egypt:  the Secretary-General has asked for restraint and calm by all parties, but the reality on the ground is that the security forces and the military — transitional military authorities, Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in Egypt — they are conducting a campaign against the peaceful demonstrators in Tahrir Square, including direct shooting into the eyes — there are several hundred who have lost their eyes — and into the necks and in the backs of the demonstrators…

Spokesperson:  Well, Ahmad; Ahmad, you’re quoting selectively from the statement that I just read to you, because in the preceding statement, the sentence before the one that talks about the need for restraint and calm by all parties says that the Secretary-General calls on the transitional authorities to guarantee the protection of human rights and civil liberties for all Egyptians, including the right to peaceful protest.  I think that answers your question.

Question:  What is going to happen to…?

Spokesperson:  Matthew, next question?  Next question, Matthew?

Question:  Okay, since I asked this on Friday, now the New York Times has reported that Ethiopia has sent in not only troops but tanks into Somalia.  The Somali Government has been saying that they would need an AU mandate, some type of a mandate.  Since the UN does have an envoy on Somalia, Mr. Mahiga, what does the UN have to say about this entry now by two different countries into the country that he is the envoy to?

Spokesperson:  We’re aware of the reports, and I am awaiting information from our colleagues in Nairobi to be able to share that with you.  I don’t have anything at the moment, but we are aware of the reports.

Question:  And I want to ask you — to some degree it is a follow-up on the Secretary-General’s trip — Thein Sein of Myanmar has said that there are no political prisoners in Myanmar; he was quoted as saying that at the ASEAN Summit in Bali, saying that everyone that is in jail is in jail for committing a crime.  So, since the UN Special Envoy, and the good offices envoy, Mr. Nambiar, have called for the release of political prisoners, what do they have to say to the Myanmar authorities saying that there are no political prisoners?

Spokesperson:  The same thing:  the Secretary-General has called repeatedly for the release of all political prisoners.  And that is something that he has repeated.  And Mr. Nambiar has done so too.

Question:  How many, I mean according to the UN or according to those two officials, how many more or less political prisoners are there since there now seems to be a dispute whether there are any by?

Spokesperson:  Well, I mean the simple answer to that is that all political prisoners need to be released, and that needs to take place sooner rather than later.  Okay, I am going to take one more question.  Yes?

Question:  There is a great need for medical supplies for those who are injured in Tahrir, and there is no way for any of the locals to get them from any other area in Cairo and get into Tahrir Square.  Can the UN help in any way, transferring these most-needed medical supplies to the hospital and the field there?

Spokesperson:  Well, I’d have to check on that, but typically this, as we have said, is incumbent on the transitional authorities to guarantee the protection of human rights and civil liberties for all Egyptians, and that would include access to medical care as well.

Thank you very much.  Have a good afternoon.  Thank you very much.

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