The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**International Women’s Day
In his message for International Women’s Day, the Secretary-General says that we can only address gender inequality by empowering women as agents of change. Although the Secretary-General remains outraged by the denial of rights to women and girls, he is touched by people everywhere who act on the secure knowledge that women’s empowerment leads to society’s advancement. He calls on the world to devote solid funding, courageous advocacy and unbending political will to achieving gender equality around the world, adding that there is no greater investment in our common future. We have his full message online.
We also have a message from the Executive Director of UN-Women [Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka] who is currently participating in an event in the Trusteeship Council as we speak. And apparently, according to UN-Women, many events are taking place in more than 60 countries around the globe to rile up support for several of the organization’s campaigns. At headquarters, the event that I just mentioned is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality” which is the theme of this year’s commemoration. And also on the UN News Centre site there is a compilation of statements of other heads of UN agencies.
**Secretary-General in Germany
The Secretary-General was in Berlin this morning where he met with Chancellor Angela Merkel. They discussed the situation in Ukraine, as well as Syria and the refugee crisis in Europe. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, the Secretary-General said that Chancellor Merkel had shown great statesmanship and compassion in trying to ensure an effective, rights-based approach to the refugee challenge. He said that at a time when many want to build walls and turn their backs on people in need, she has stood firm in defence of international law, human rights and our common humanity.
And while in Berlin, the Secretary-General also received the order of merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. And he met with the President of the Parliament and the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. The Secretary-General is now in Bonn where he just took part in an event to mark the twentieth anniversary of the presence of UN offices in the city of Bonn, and he is also meeting with Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier later today.
**Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has expressed its concern at last night’s statement of the European Union Heads of State and the Government of Turkey. It is particularly concerned about any arrangement that involves the blanket return of all individuals from one country to another without sufficiently spelling out refugee protection safeguards in keeping with international obligations. However, it welcomes the EU's financial contribution to support Turkey and the refugee communities in Turkey. UNHCR stresses that Turkey currently hosts 3 million refugees and has made enormous contributions for years and just recently adopted a work regulation for Syrian refugees, but in light of the enormity of the task, it still struggles to provide all the basic needs for the swelling Syrian population.
Also, UNICEF [UN Children’s Fund] reiterated that in the implementation of the decisions such as the one taken by the EU and Turkey, the fundamental humanitarian principle of ‘do no harm’ must guide authorities across Europe, the Balkans and Turkey at every step when it comes to the care of refugee and migrant children.
And the UN Independent Investigation on Burundi, created by the Human Rights Council last December, ended its first visit to the country today. Speaking to the press in Bujumbura, Pablo de Greiff, one of the three members of the investigation noted that the visit was aimed at gathering information and views from all relevant actors. During the eight-day visit, they met with Government officials, including one of the country’s two Vice Presidents as well as other political leaders, civil society groups, and victims of human rights violations. And they also visited a prison in Gitega, two hours away from Bujumbura, and met with detainees allegedly involved in a failed coup d’état in May of 2015. They are expected to go back to Burundi in June and July this year. Meanwhile, as part of the investigation, a team of monitors will also be deployed to Burundi in the coming weeks. And in September, they are scheduled to submit their report in full.
I also wanted to flag that the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for South Sudan, Ellen Margrethe Løj, visited Malakal today to assess the situation there and to meet with parties on the ground, including community leaders within the protection site and Malakal town. During the visit, she reiterated the UN’s commitment to the mission’s mandate to protect civilians and urged all responsible parties to refrain from any actions or statements that escalate tensions and to respect the rules governing UN protection sites, including the no weapons rule inside the sites. More information is available online.
I know you have been asking in recent days about the activities of the Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. I can tell you that he is just concluding a four-day visit to Riyadh today. The Special Envoy while there met with the Yemeni President [Abd Rabbo Mansour] Hadi, and several ministers in the Government of Yemen. He also had constructive meetings with members of the diplomatic corps and the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council [Dr. Abdellatif Ben Rashid al-Zayyani], in addition to a number of Saudi counterparts. The Special Envoy will continue his diplomatic efforts in the region before announcing a new date for the next round of the peace talks.
And a Special Task Force of UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), has issued its latest report on Yemen, saying that more than 2.4 million people have been forcibly displaced in Yemen since the start of the conflict almost one year ago. They add that the situation is likely to get worse, amid increasingly dire humanitarian and socioeconomic conditions with no political settlement in sight. UNHCR and IOM have stressed the need to keep humanitarian access routes open for all aid deliveries.
And you may have seen yesterday we issued a statement in which the Secretary-General condemned the terrorist attacks that took place on police and army posts in the town of Ben Guerdane in Tunisia. He expressed his heartfelt condolences to the families and the victims as well as to the people and Government of Tunisia.
And in case you were wondering, I wanted to update you on the whereabouts of the Security Council. Council members today wrapped up their three-day mission to West Africa with a final stop in Dakar, in Senegal, where they met with President Macky Sall and the leadership of the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWAS). They arrived in Mali on 5 March and spent most of the day in Mopti and Timbuktu. They also met with Prime Minister [Modibo] Keita in Bamako. On 7 March, they travelled to Guinea-Bissau, where they met with Prime Minister [Carlos Correia] and members of his Government. They are expected to arrive back in New York tomorrow, 9 March.
And I wanted to flag that UNICEF and the UNFPA [UN Population Fund] today launched a new multi-country initiative to accelerate action to end child marriage and help protect the rights of millions of the world’s most vulnerable girls. More information is online.
And we also want to say today “thank you” to Malta, which has paid its regular budget dues in full, making it the…? Who said 46? Anybody? You all lost. What? You said 46? All right. Let’s go. Lou?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thanks, Stéphane. Two questions. The UNHCR has expressed concern about the idea of returning Syrian refugees to Turkey and has… there are questions about the legality of such a mass return of people. Did the SG raise this in his discussions in Germany? I saw his remarks at the press conference, but it was all quite vague. And then the SG is supposed to brief the Security Council on Thursday on sexual exploitation and abuse problems with UN peacekeepers. Can you give us a sense of what he's going to say? Will there be anything new? Thanks.
Spokesman: Sure. Second question last. He will, in fact, brief the Security Council on his… obviously on the latest report and the general issues concerning peacekeeping. His message will be what he has been saying for quite some time on zero tolerance for abuse by peacekeepers, that those who are sent to protect people should not be in a position to abuse them. But, the message will be one of the partnership, that this is not just the Secretary‑General's fight. This has to involve, not only troop contributors, but the Security Council which mandates these peacekeeping missions. Your first question… oh, on the… on the migrants. Obviously, you know, I think we were going to take a look at what was agreed to in Brussels. Our colleagues at UNHCR and UNICEF have reacted, and we obviously are in line with those… with their comments. I think the Secretary‑General's… and yes, the issue of refugees and migrants was discussed. I think the Secretary‑General wants to see a rights‑based approach to the issue. That's what he said publicly, and that's… those are the discussions he's had with… with Angela Merkel. Mr. Lee.
Question: Two questions, as well. One on Yemen, one on sexual abuse. On Yemen, you'd said that… that the envoy had been in… in Riyadh. I wanted to ask you, yesterday, I'd asked Farhan about this email that the… that the envoy had written to Jeff Feltman about his discussions with the Houthis. And now there's a report that the Houthis are, in fact, now in Riyadh and met at some level with the Saudis. So, I wanted to… since the Houthis weren't listed in your readout of interlocutors, does he have anything to do with that, or is that a… that a track outside of mediation…?
Spokesman: We've seen these reports. This is something that the Special Envoy has been encouraging for quite some time. What's your second question?
Question: Okay. And the second one has to do with Code Blue, a group I'm sure you know, their critique of the report at least officially launched here on Friday by Atul Khare was that it radically understates the level of sexual abuse. They say that… that, in the first two months of this year, given that there have been 25 allegations, if you annualize that, the number would be 150, which would be a massive increase over 2015. And I just wonder… they also critique the UN's kind of spin of that report of withholding it, putting it out on a Friday, not… I'm going to add this. I'll say not having Mr. Ladsous here. So, what… I would assume you've seen this, and you've previously responded to Code Blue. What do you think of what they're saying?
Spokesman: Look, you know, Code Blue, I think, does a very important advocacy work in fighting against sexual abuse. We are going by the numbers that we have, that are reported. It is important that people feel… that victims feel safe enough to report the crimes and the abuse. We have, as the Secretary‑General has said, increased our outreach through local… local NGOs. We obviously stand by… stand by the numbers.
Correspondent: They're going by the numbers actually on the website. They're saying that the numbers that were presented by Mr. Khare didn't take into account new numbers that the UN has…
Spokesman: We're going by the numbers that were provided by peacekeeping. Joe.
Question: Yes. Iran just tested several intermediate‑range missiles that are capable of carrying nuclear weapons. And reportedly, these missiles are a derivative from North Korean technology. So, my question is whether the Secretary‑General intends to condemn Iran's tests, continuing tests, which violates Security Council resolutions, as he has done with respect to North Korea?
Spokesman: Obviously, we've just seen this report. So, we're taking a… we're taking a look. Obviously… and it will be up for the Council to decide whether or not they violated. But, as… as of this time, we're still taking a look at these reports.
Correspondent: Well, if I may follow up… thank you. The Secretary‑General did not hesitate to condemn North Korea's testing and other actions by different Member States that he believes are violative of either international law…
Spokesman: No, I understand. I think it's important…
Question: So why does he feel he has to wait…?
Spokesman: It's important that Iran live up to its… its obligations under the deal. I say we're taking a look at these reports, and we should have something to say soon. Go ahead.
Question: Yes. The Special Representative [Martin] Kobler for Libya, did he give any deadline to the party to meeting to Tunisia in order to legitimize the government that didn't get the vote from the parliament yet?
Spokesman: I'm not aware of a deadline that was given. I think, as the Secretary‑General said in Algiers, it's important that all the Libyan leadership, the senior Libyan leadership, put their personal and narrow interests aside and support the work of the Special Envoy and support the agreement.
Question: Follow‑up. There is any way, a legal way, to recognize the Government even without the vote of the parliament? That's… there is any UN position on that?
Spokesman: You know, I think we would want to see as a… an agreement that has the broadest possible base and support. Mr. Avni.
Question: Stéph, first of all, follow‑up on the Iran question. Specifically, does the Secretary‑General believe that a launch of ballistic missiles, as was seen on TV, is a violation of the Security Council resolutions?
Spokesman: Obviously, we would want to see Iran live up to its obligations. As I said, we're looking at these reports. We should have something to say soon.
Question: And, secondly, there were three separate attacks in Israel today, much more than has been in the last few days, one fatality, one of them… one of the attacks was near where [United States] Vice-President [Joseph] Biden was at. Question is, is there anything new for the Secretary‑General to say about the situation there and what…?
Spokesman: We were in touch with our… our office in Jerusalem just a short while ago. Obviously, reports of these types of violence against civilians is to be condemned. We're also still trying to get a bit more of the details of what's happened today. Yes, sir.
Question: I have two questions, one on Western Sahara and one on Palestine. On Western Sahara, is there any concern that the new report will not be balanced since the Secretary‑General had managed to visit one side of the conflict, meet with the refugees? Maybe he was influenced by the humanitarian… human suffering of the thousands of refugees, met with the President of the Polisario. How is the report would be balanced since he was influenced by one part but not the other?
Spokesman: Well, I… you know, I… I take… I don't agree with your word "influenced". I think anyone who went to… spent even the little amount of time that we did in the camp and could not see the… the anger and the frustration and the despair of these people who have been living in camps for almost 40 years would have a heart of stone. And I think the Secretary‑General was very moved… very moved by what he saw and, again, underscored how this is one of the great forgotten humanitarian crises of our time and severely underfunded, as well. The Secretary‑General's report will be based obviously on what he's seen but also very much on the inputs of his personal envoy, who has spent time in Morocco, as well, so it is… it is… it will be… it will report on everything that's happened since the last report.
Question: My second question is first about… there is a woman, a 50‑year‑old Palestinian. She was walking in Jerusalem. She was shot and left to bleed to die in front of soldiers, who prevented medical staff to reach her. So, are you aware of this incident on International Women's Day? And second, on the report of UN-Women, there is many paragraphs about the suffering of Palestinian women, and there is a… the Permanent Representative of Israel asked that these paragraphs to be omitted from this report. Does the Secretary‑General stand with the report, and are you aware of also the incident that happened in Jerusalem?
Spokesman: I'm not aware of the first incident you mentioned. Obviously, we'll look into that. I think the Secretary‑General has no… no issues with the report that has been… that has been issued. Sir.
Question: Yeah. Why does the Secretary‑General feel that he has to say something about the missile tests in Iran? Whereas when… Jericho 1, Jericho 2, Jericho 3, Israeli tests were never… there were no statements against them and other tests by Israel. So… if that's a threat to peace, why…?
Spokesman: You know, I think your question and statement is probably best left to an editorial. We speak when we feel we have to speak.
Correspondent: You said he would issue something about that.
Spokesman: I said I may have something to say later on, but I think you're comparing different situations. Madame.
Question: I have two questions about migrants in Europe. There's a lot of reports about migrants… Syrian and Iraqi migrants being beaten, probably, by police forces in, if I'm not mistaken, in Macedonia. So, are you aware of this? And why don't we hear actually a lot from UN organizations regarding the situation there? I mean, I know that there's, from time to time, some statements, but it doesn't seem to be that there's a UN presence…
Spokesman: You know, I would respectfully somewhat disagree with you. I think we have been talking from here about the very troubling situation along the Balkans corridor about the ways that migrants and refugees are treated, the lack of a rights‑based approach. I think the Secretary‑General himself issued a statement that I read out, so not last week but the week before, expressing concern about the fact that a lot of the new policies that are being put in place where it's quota or where people are being rejected just on the basis of nationalities is a violation of the relevant laws and agreements, especially having to do with refugees. Our colleagues in Geneva are, I think… talk about it every briefing. We just mentioned again about the troubling… the… both UNHCR's and UNICEF's issues of what's been agreed upon in Europe. What the Secretary‑General wants to see is a rights‑based approach to managing the problem. He wants to see people's rights and dignity being respected. And, again, I think, in his statements he made either last night or earlier today in Germany reminding Europeans that, I think, what, 86 per cent of the world's refugees are being housed in developing country and that European countries have the means to do it, but it should be done on a rights‑based approach and respect of people's dignity and human rights. Carole. Sorry. Go ahead.
Question: But, do you see that there is… if… there should be more active role for the UN and these migrants and…?
Spokesman: I think… the role of the UN is at different levels. The Secretary‑General has started a process that would lead to a meeting in Geneva in September on dealing with a lot of these issues in a more holistic manner, on the issues of the mass movements of migrants and refugees. We need to look at policies. We need to look at the relationships between destination countries, transit countries, countries of origin. Those are all important issues to deal with. On managing the border crossings, those… that is the responsibility of each sovereign state to manage those crossing. I know our colleagues at UNHCR are there to assist them and are available to assist them. But Member States have a responsibility to manage this issue in line with the Conventions and the treaties they have signed. Carole.
Question: Stéphane, I was just curious about the Secretary‑General's remarks on International Women's Day. He didn't reference the campaign for a woman to be the next Secretary‑General. Would that not have been the opportunity to say something?
Spokesman: I think, as the Secretary‑General himself has said, the decision on… decision on who to elect as the next Secretary‑General is firmly in the hands of Member States. It is not a decision he's involved with. He has also, I think, said, in answer to questions, that he would… he would… you know, it would be high time for a woman Secretary‑General. This is something he's said repeatedly. But, ultimately, the decision's, of course, that of Member States. Yeah.
Question: Thank you. I would like to ask you about the comfort women issues between South Korea and Japan. The UN Committee on the elimination of discrimination against women criticized Monday the agreement on comfort women between two countries because it didn't adopt a [inaudible] centred approach. On the other hand, Secretary‑General has welcomed bilateral agreement in his statement. There seems to be a gap in understanding between Secretary‑General and the panel committee. Why are they cross‑purposed?
Spokesman: I don't know if they're cross‑purposed. The Secretary‑General made his comments when the agreement was signed, also that, obviously, the welfare of the women was extremely important. The committee you're referring to is an independent committee over which the Secretary‑General has no authority or no link with. So, it's just… it's an opinion. The Secretary‑General, for his part, has expressed his opinion. Luke.
Question: Thanks. Sort of a slowly developing story here. There's been an oil spill in the Peruvian Amazon. And an indigenous community has now taken hostages. Government officials from Peru, they are saying they're being cut out of the process here. Do you have any response… has the UN been watching this oil spill? Any reaction to the hostage taking…?
Spokesman: I have not seen anything from where I stand, but I'm sure others have. Olga. Yes, please, if you could ask your colleagues to stop chatting.
Question: Thank you. Actually, on the talks in Geneva on Syria, not all of the parties of the talks are still there. So, what exactly will happen tomorrow?
Spokesman: You know, I think the way to put it is that they're open for business starting tomorrow. We understand that delegations will be arriving in subsequent days, I think 12, 13 and 14 March. So, they will get on the… they will get… they will start as the people arrive. There is, as my understanding is, a meeting of the working group, the ISSG [International Syria Support Group] working group on humanitarian issues tomorrow in the presence of both Mr. [Jan] Egeland and Mr. [Staffan] de Mistura. Also a… my colleagues in Geneva said there would be a meeting of the working group on the cessation of hostilities as well tomorrow. Yes, ma'am.
Question: I was wondering, do you have any updates on deliveries of aid? In particular, has there been another attempt to do an airlift in Deir ez‑Zor?
Spokesman: I'm not aware of any other… of any other effort to do an airdrop. And I will try to get you… hmm? I will try to get you an update on the general humanitarian front. Edie?
Question: Another follow‑up. Is the media going to be given the list of who the delegates are from both the opposition and from the Government, the complete list?
Spokesman: It will be the same list that was used last time. And I would encourage your colleagues in Geneva to also raise those issues directly with Mr. de Mistura and his office, because I think they have a press encounter tomorrow. Oleg.
Question: Stéphane, Farhan yesterday announced that there are going to be convoys sent to Kafr Batna, I believe, or they were sent yesterday so… did they go through?
Spokesman: As I said, I don't have an update on those. We'll try to get one. Joe.
Question: Yes. I… just back to the refugee situation, which the Secretary‑General, as you said, is characterize… should be characterized by a rights‑based approach. He also said in his remarks at the press conference with Chancellor Merkel, "I am deeply worried by growing anti‑migrant and anti‑refugee rhetoric and by violent attacks against these communities." Is he equally worried about the prevalence of violence against citizens of European countries? Particularly in Sweden and Germany, which have been very open to welcoming refugees, there's been rampant crime allegedly committed by refugees particularly from the Middle East and North Africa that have led Sweden, for example, to retrench somewhat. So I'd like to know whether he's cognizant and willing to also criticize the... you know, the prevalence of violence from the refugees…
Spokesman: I think… I don't… you know, you're characterizing the level of violence in a way that I don't have the facts to. What is important is that, obviously, people respect the law. And if people commit crimes, they should be prosecuted. What is equally important is that communities, whole communities, should not be stigmatized for the acts… the acts of a few. And that goes across the board.
Correspondent: But, in balancing the rights‑based approach that he's talking about, first of all...
Spokesman: I mean, rights‑based… I'm sorry. Go ahead, Joe. I don't mean to interrupt you.
Correspondent: Okay. Thanks. I'll try to make it pithy.
Spokesman: You'll get an "A" for effort.
Question: As best as I can. The rights‑based approach, I mean, you have a treaty on asylum seekers, not widely signed treaty on economic migrants. So, isn't there a balancing of rights of the destination countries where they see rising violence, safety issues, and not necessarily a legal obligation under international law to treat migrants the same as asylum seekers?
Spokesman: Well, I think the… rights‑based is rights‑based for everyone; right? And people need to… wherever they come from need to respect the law, whether it's at the local law or the international… at international law. What we're seeing, unfortunately, is often the scapegoating of communities by political movements to try to exploit it and to raise fear. Governments obviously need to take a lot of things into account. What we would… what the Secretary‑General would want to see is that people are treated with dignity and according to the rights that have been granted to them through international law. Yes, sir.
Question: Yeah. One on Bahrain and one on Yemen. Bahrain continues to take away the citizenship of some of their citizens and send them abroad. Yesterday, they sent a cleric to Lebanon after depriving him of his nationality. How does… where does the United Nations stand against that or with?
Spokesman: I have nothing on Bahrain today. I will take a look.
Question: On Yemen, where does… UNVIM, is it operational already, the inspection and verification mechanism?
Spokesman: My understanding is that it is.
Question: It is… it has started? When did they start?
Spokesman: I will check…
Question: Did they provide all the names?
Spokesman: Yeah, I will check.
Question: And how about the delivery of this equipment for… into Aden, the…?
Spokesman: We're… I'm trying to get an update on that particular case. Mr. Lee and then Abdelhamid.
Question: Sure. I wanted to ask… on South Sudan, you gave the readout of Ellen Løj's trip to Malakal. And the press release said that she… she paid a courtesy visit to the governor of the newly created East Nile State. So, I wanted to know, one, on that, what is the UN's position on these new 28 states and dealing with the governors? And, in part, I'm asking because there are now reports that the new governor of the new Boma state is charged with the responsibility of having looted the town of Pibor, according to Murle sources. And people went, apparently, to the UNMISS base in Pibor chased by this very looting. So, I wanted to know, what does the UN say about the attack on… this was declared the capital of Boma state, but the person named the governor isn't from that region and looted the town and that people ran to the… to UNMISS. So what's happening with it…?
Spokesman: I will check with UNMISS if they have anything on it.
Question: And I guess… I guess, legally speaking, does this mean… does this courtesy visit mean that the UN is accepting these 28 states…?
Spokesman: It's not… a meeting does not imply any legal recognition. Abdelhamid and then Benny, and then Linda. How could I have ever skip you? If I skip you, I come back to you. Go ahead, Abdelhamid. Go ahead, yes. Sorry.
Question: The daily Zaman… it's a Turkish paper which was overtaken by force, I think, by the Government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. They changed the whole leadership of the paper, and now it's being published in Germany as an opposition paper. So, it's a major development in Turkey, this incident. Is the Secretary‑General aware of it, and did he issue any statement?
Spokesman: Yes, I think Farhan spoke to that yesterday. Mr. Avni, then Linda.
Question: One follow‑up on Syria. I know that Russia and the US are on the lead on this, but does the Secretary‑General… or do you have any updates on how the cessation of hostilities holding up?
Spokesman: Well, you know, there's been a marked… marked reduction in the violence, and we hope that will continue. Linda?
Question: That's it? I mean, there's quite a few reports of violations…
Spokesman: I think the reports…
Correspondent: …and there's questions whether those violations are significant, insignificant.
Spokesman: I think those… those things are being followed through by the ISSG working group, and I will leave my comments as to what I've already said. Yes, Oleg.
Correspondent: I know you will not name who commits the violations, but can you provide a number, at least, since the beginning of the cessation of hostilities, how many…
Spokesman: No. Linda.
Question: Thank you, Stéph. Going back to the whole refugee/migrant issue, can you possibly just clarify or put in simple language what the difference is in UN policy, UNHCR policy, towards the economic migrants and the real refugees? And… then I have a follow‑up.
Spokesman: In very basic terms, refugees are people who… people are entitled to refugee status if they meet certain conditions, including fear of persecution or death if they return… if they return home. Migrants are people who migrate more for economic reasons, and if they are not absorbed in their country of… where they're asking to stay, there should be some way for them to be repatriated that respects their rights and their human dignity.
Question: Just following up on that, so are you… I'm trying to read into what you're saying. So, the implication is what, that the UN does not have a policy for returning… migrants to other… their home countries?
Spokesman: There's certain… there's certain international treaties and things having to do with economic migrants, and there is a much more broadly signed‑onto 1951 Convention on the rights of refugees. In the back, and then we'll go to you, Matthew.
Question: Yeah, two civilians killed today in Turkey on the Syrian border by rocket attacks from ISIS and Turkish military [inaudible] against ISIS and [inaudible]. What is UN's…?
Spokesman: I haven't seen that particular… that particular incident. I will see if I can get any information on it. Mr. Lee.
Question: Okay. Burundi, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Sri Lanka, in whatever order you want. In… in… Burundi is the easiest one. It's just… it was said by these three experts that they're going to be sending a team of nine to continue their work, and I wanted to know, is there any relation at all between this work and the work of Special Adviser [Jamal] Benomar and his team on the ground? Is there any… I know that the advisers… the experts are independent, but is this team...
Spokesman: But, obviously, it all falls under one category of restoring calm and positive transition in Burundi.
Question: Okay. I wanted to ask… I've asked before about the Oromo protest, but I'm asking now, it's a… there's a… and it may or may not be, you know, somehow doctored. But, there's a pretty troubling evidence, pictures, circulating about in Ethiopia these tribesmen, [inaudible] tribesmen, also being part of this displacement, basically chained up, in a chain gang situation. Given that the UN has a big office in Ethiopia and given the… some outcry about the actions of the Government of late, is the UN aware of this? And what… what follow‑up has been done since… since the Secretary‑General went through there on trying to either defuse tensions or make sure that people are not chained up…
Spokesman: I think the Secretary‑General had expressed his wish to see people being able to express themselves and demonstrate peacefully in a respectful manner, respect to their rights. I will… on the particular case you mentioned, I haven't seen it.
Correspondent: I can take a break here if you want…
Spokesman: No, I haven't seen it. We'll take one more question.
Question: Okay. Somalia and Sri Lanka very fast. On Somalia, I wanted to know, I'm sure you've seen the reports. The US said it conducted a major drone strike on, they said, Al Shabaab targets. They say they killed 150 people. I'm just… it seems like the UN has a mission there. Like, what's… the Special Representative, does he have any comment on this? What does he think of…
Spokesman: I haven't seen… I don't they have confirmation of the attack, but we'll check with the Mission.
Question: Okay, this… I'm going to try to cite to your thing of not interrupting. I just want to ask very briefly, while you were away, I tried to get an answer on this, and I feel it should be answered. There was a protest in Jaffna of the UN compound having to do with the decision by DPI [Department of Public Information] to remove my accreditation and office. And there was also a letter from a Northern Provincial Councillor that was… to Ban Ki‑moon citing… going all the way back to Shavendra Silva and various irregularities, from their point of view, in the UN thing. And I wanted to know, what is the UN's response that?
Spokesman: If there was a letter written by someone to the Secretary‑General, it will be answered to that person. People are free to demonstrate. Yes, sir.
Question: Yes. Thank you, Stéphane. There are an increasing number of troubling reports of sexual assaults in Germany, Sweden and other countries that are hosting the migrants. In his remarks on International Women's Day, the Secretary‑General referred to deplorably girls being attacked on their way to school. I'm wondering if International Women's Day might be an appropriate time for the UN to deplore attacks on women wherever they may be by whomever they are being perpetrated…
Spokesman: I think that stance… stance is obvious. The Secretary‑General condemns gender‑based violence wherever it occurs. But, I think, from what I understand what you're trying to say between the lines, and I said to Joe, you know, people need to respect the laws. If they commit a crime, they need to be prosecuted. But, it is very dangerous to stigmatize whole communities because of the acts of a few people. Thank you. And hasta mañana.