HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC,
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
FRIDAY, 26 MAY 2017
 
SECRETARY-GENERAL VOICES PROFOUND REGRET FOR LEAD POISONING SUFFERED BY DISPLACED PEOPLE IN NORTHERN KOSOVO

  • The Secretary-General would like to reiterate his appreciation for the valuable work of the Human Rights Advisory Panel (HRAP), which examined alleged violations of human rights by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).
  • The Panel was a unique human rights mechanism established in the context of a United Nations peacekeeping mission that had an executive mandate in a post-conflict environment.  It became operational in November 2007, receiving and reviewing over 500 complaints. In a number of cases, the Panel concluded that there had been failures to uphold human rights standards. The Panel completed its work and subsequently provided a Final Report in July 2016.
  • Successive UNMIK SRSGs have issued decisions in response to HRAP’s findings and recommendations and have expressed deep regret for the suffering endured by the individuals identified by the Panel. The Panel’s work has also received attention in the Secretary-General’s regular reporting on UNMIK to the Security Council.
  • Among the cases reviewed by the Panel was a complaint submitted by 138 individuals from the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities that they suffered lead poisoning and other serious health consequences as a result of their relocation to internally-displaced persons (IDP) camps in northern Kosovo.  The Secretary-General is keenly aware of the particular plight of those individuals, as well as the other members of these most vulnerable communities who also lived in the IDP camps. The Secretary-General wishes to express the Organization’s profound regret for the suffering endured by all individuals living in the IDP camps.
  • In view of the unique circumstances in Kosovo, the Secretary-General has decided, as an exceptional measure, to establish a Trust Fund. The Trust Fund will implement community based assistance projects, primarily in North Mitrovica, South Mitrovica and Leposavić, which will benefit more broadly the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities.  The assistance projects will focus on the most pressing needs of those most vulnerable communities, including with respect to health services, economic development and infrastructure.  
  • The Secretary-General believes that it is our shared duty to support the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities in Kosovo and ensure that they receive the assistance that they need.  In this connection, the Organization will make every effort, in consultation with Member States, to mobilize the necessary resources in support of the Trust Fund.  The Secretary-General calls upon the international community to support this initiative through the provision of resources to the Trust Fund.
  • The Organization will also continue to draw lessons from its experience in Kosovo and from the work of the Panel and take action to prevent such situations from happening again.
U.N. MIDDLE EAST ENVOY WARNS OF HUMANITARIAN CRISIS IN GAZA
  • Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said that during the past month, the complex dynamics on the ground in the region have created an explosive environment. In Gaza, he warned, we are walking into another crisis with our eyes wide open. Since April, the majority of Palestinians in Gaza are receiving about four hours of electricity per day.
  • For months, Mr. Mladenov said, the UN has warned that without addressing the structural problems of Gaza's electricity supply, we would face a humanitarian crisis. Those warnings are now a reality. He added that the UN is working to mitigate the humanitarian impact of this crisis. A UN managed emergency fuel operation is delivering fuel to essential services for water, health and sanitation - but reserves will run out in the coming weeks.
  • The Special Coordinator is also very concerned by the ongoing hunger strike by Palestinian detainees protesting against their conditions in Israeli jails, which, on the eve of Ramadan, has now entered its 40th day.
  • Mr. Mladenov noted that his briefing follows on the heels of the terrorist attacks in the Sinai and in Manchester. He offered his deep condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims and to the Egyptian and UK Governments and people. There is no justification for terror.
  • The Security Council members also held a moment of silence in honour of the victims of the Sinai attack.
U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS CHIEF URGES ALL FORCES IN SYRIA TO SPARE CIVILIANS
  • The High Commissioner for Human Rights warned today that civilians in Syria are increasingly paying the price as airstrikes against Da’esh escalate while it cracks down on those in and around areas remaining under its control.
  • High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein urged all States’ air forces operating in Syria to take much greater care to distinguish between legitimate military targets and civilians. He said that all parties to the conflict must uphold their obligation to take every feasible measure to spare the civilian population from the effects of the armed conflict.
  • The High Commissioner said that the same civilians who are suffering indiscriminate shelling and summary executions by Da’esh are also falling victim to the escalating airstrikes, particularly in the northeastern governorates of Raqqa and Deir Ezzour. 
IRAQ: AID AGENCIES PREPARING FOR MASS EXODUS FROM MOSUL – U.N. RELIEF WING
  • The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that aid agencies are preparing for a potentially imminent mass exodus of civilians from Mosul’s Old City area.
  • Since last night, Government has been asking civilians, over the radio, to leave the area and seek safety across government lines.
  • Mosul's Old City and some adjacent neighbourhoods remain under the control of Da’esh, and humanitarian agencies are deeply concerned for the safety of some 200,000 civilians thought to still be living in the area.
U.N. AID OFFICIAL VOICES CONCERN OVER REPORTS OF FIGHTING IN YEMEN’S TAIZZ
  • The Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, today expressed his concern over reports of continued fighting in Taizz.
  • He said the escalation of violence over the last four days has resulted in deaths and injuries.
  • Mr. McGoldrick said that innocent civilians trying to go about their daily lives have been swept up in the violence and indiscriminate shelling that is all too frequent in Taizz city and its surroundings. Some 70 per cent of the war-wounded are women and children.
  • He calls on all parties to the conflict to uphold their duties under international humanitarian law and to protect civilians, as well as to facilitate access to medical facilities for all the sick and wounded and to allow humanitarian and medical supplies into all areas.
U.N. LIBYA ENVOY VOICES CONCERN OVER FIGHTING IN TRIPOLI
  • The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya, Martin Kobler, said today that he is gravely concerned about reports of ongoing fighting in Tripoli. He called on rival groups to stop fighting immediately and to put Libyan national interest first.
  • Mr. Kobler reiterated that political aims must not be pursued through violence. He stressed the need to protect civilians and reminded all parties of their duty to respect the provisions of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. He also urged all parties to engage seriously in the political process and towards national reconciliation.
U.N. MISSION IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC LAUNCHES OPERATION TO STOP FLOW OF WEAPONS IN BRIA
  • The UN Mission in the Central African Republic reports improvement in the security situation in Bria, in Haute-Kotto prefecture, with the resumption of economic activity. Yesterday, the Mission launched a one-week operation in Bria town to stop the flow of weapons, protect civilians and allow the return of internally displaced persons. Meanwhile, peacekeepers continue to patrol the town.
  • At the political level, the Mission is engaging armed group leaders and working with the community to promote reconciliation.
  • The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that an estimated 100,000 people have been displaced in May in the country. This includes 38,500 who fled the recent violence in Bria and 3,000 who were already displaced there. An estimated 19,000 people have fled over the border to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
SOUTH SUDAN: U.N. MISSION WELCOMES RELEASE OF STAFF MEMBER HELD WITHOUT TRIAL
  • The UN Mission in South Sudan has welcomed the release of George Livio, its national staff member who had been in detention since August 2014 without trial. 
  • The Mission calls for the release of its two other national staff members who are currently also being held in detention without trial since 2014.
  • The UN Mission continues to urge the South Sudanese authorities to respect national laws and the fundamental principles of due process under international human rights law.
U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS WING VOICES CONCERN OVER TREATMENT OF MEN PERCEIVED TO BE GAY IN INDONESIA
  • The UN Human Rights Office said today that it is concerned by the recent prosecution, arbitrary arrest, detention and ill-treatment of men perceived to be gay in Indonesia.
  • The Office said that in the past two months, more than 150 men were reportedly arrested in Aceh, Surabaya and Jakarta on the basis of alleged consensual relations between adults of the same sex.
  • The men arrested have been subjected to public humiliation and stigmatization, with some of their names and photos released to the media in some cases.
  • The Office said that while high-level officials had previously spoken out in defence of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, there has recently been widespread hate speech in the media and by some religious groups and some public officials.
  • The Office stressed that attitudes towards LGBT people may vary from country to country, but human rights standards are invariable. International law is clear: all people, without exception, are entitled to protection of their human rights – and that includes LGBT individuals.
U.N. AGENCY SOUNDS ALARM OVER VIRUS AFFECTING TILAPIA FISH
  • The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) issued an alert today over a lethal virus affecting tilapia fish, one of the world's most important fish for human consumption.
  • Tilapia Lake Virus has now been confirmed in five countries on three continents: Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, Israel and Thailand.
  • While the pathogen poses no risk to human health, and no public health concern, it can decimate infected populations.
  • The FAO stresses the need for countries importing tilapias to take appropriate risk-management measures – and for producing countries to initiate an active surveillance programme.
1,530 MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES DIED CROSSING THE MEDITERRANEAN IN 2017 – U.N. MIGRATION AGENCY
  • The UN migration agency (IOM) reports that 60,521 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by sea this year, with over 80 per cent arriving in Italy and the remainder divided between Greece, Cyprus and Spain. This number does not include some 6,000 people who have been rescued over the past 72 hours, the IOM said.
  • In terms of fatalities, there have been 1,530 migrants and refugees who have died this year on this route, a figure that roughly matches those for 2016 for the same period. However, the IOM warned that the deadliest season is starting right now.
SECRETARY-GENERAL TO SPEAK AT G7 SUMMIT TOMORROW
  • The Secretary-General has arrived in Sicily. He will speak at the outreach session of the G7 Summit tomorrow before returning to New York later this weekend.
  • On Monday, 29 May, UN Headquarters will be closed for a US holiday.  The office will re-open, and briefings will resume, on Tuesday, 30 May.