HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY FARHAN HAQ,
DEPUTY SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
FRIDAY, 28 JULY 2017
 
MALDIVES: SECRETARY-GENERAL VOICES CONCERN OVER EROSION OF DEMOCRATIC NORMS

  • In a statement issued yesterday, the Secretary-General said that he is concerned about recent developments in the Maldives with the gradual erosion of basic democratic norms and principles in the country.  He calls on the Government to uphold the constitutionally guaranteed rights of speech and assembly.
  • The Secretary-General urges the Government to refrain from all acts that result in the harassment and intimidation of Members of Parliament, political parties, civil society and the media.
  • The Secretary-General encourages effective dialogue and consultations on political issues.
SITUATION IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC NEARING ‘TIPPING POINT,’ U.N. PEACEKEEPING CHIEF WARNS
  • The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, yesterday warned the Security Council that the increased intensity of attacks on civilians and peacekeepers in the Central African Republic risks bringing us rapidly to a tipping point, which we must forestall at all cost. He was referring to the worsening security and humanitarian situation in Bangassou, where three peacekeepers were killed since last Sunday.
  • Mr. Lacroix noted that the UN Mission had made efforts to reinforce Bangassou through re-deployments of additional peacekeepers in order to stabilize the situation, stop the attacks on internally displaced persons, enable the delivery of humanitarian assistance and address the threat of the anti-Balaka affiliated groups.
  • However, Mr. Lacroix stressed yet again that a military solution to the problem of the armed groups will not suffice to address the root causes of the conflict. The absence of tangible progress in the peace process risks further worsening the situation, he warned.
  • Mr. Lacroix is heading to the Central African Republic over the weekend to convey a message of support to the UN Mission and engage with national authorities.
U.N. SUPPLIES REACH SYRIA’S BESIEGED EASTERN GHOUTA
  • The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) say that, yesterday, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent delivered medical and nutrition items from the UN and the Red Cross in besieged eastern Ghouta in Rural Damascus, with a second batch of supplies planned in the near future to complete the delivery.
  • The situation in eastern Ghouta remains extremely difficult overall, with limited access to basic services, such as health care.
  • However, the delivery yesterday, in addition to the access the UN had to Duma in May and to East Harasta in June, is not enough to support the increasing needs of civilians in the area.
  • The UN has requested access to towns in eastern Ghouta as part of its proposed inter-agency convoy plan for August and September, and stands ready to provide additional immediate humanitarian support to the area as soon as access is authorized and security permits.
AHEAD OF SUNDAY ELECTIONS, U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS VOICES CONCERN OVER RISK OF FURTHER VIOLENCE IN VENEZUELA
  • The UN Human Rights Office said today that it is deeply concerned at the risk of further violence in Venezuela, where Constituent Assembly elections are due to be held on Sunday.
  • The Office said that the wishes of the Venezuelan people to participate or not in this election need to be respected.
  • It also urged the authorities to manage any protests against the Constituent Assembly in line with international human rights norms and standards, and is therefore concerned that demonstrations that the authorities regard as disturbing the elections have been banned from today until 1 August.
  • The Office reiterated its appeal to the authorities to guarantee people’s rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, and called on all in Venezuela to use only peaceful means to make themselves heard.
SENIOR U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICIAL WRAPS UP HONDURAS VISIT
  • Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour wrapped up a three-day visit to Honduras today.
  • He stressed the paramount need to increase protections for human rights defenders in the country, welcoming the strengthened cooperation between the Government and the newly-established UN Human Rights Office in Tegucigalpa.
  • While in Honduras, Mr. Gilmour met with Government officials, civil society representatives, and diplomats.
VIETNAM: U.N. AGENCY DISQUIETED BY STEPPED UP CRACKDOWN ON HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
  • The UN Human Rights Office said today that it is concerned about the intensifying crackdown against human rights defenders in Vietnam who have questioned or criticised the Government and its policies.
  • The Office said that it has serious concerns over the severity of the sentence handed down this week to a well-known activist, Tran Thi Nga, for so-called “anti-State propaganda” over comments posted online.
  • Over the last six months, at least seven other human rights defenders have been arrested and face prosecution, several dozen are currently detained, and two have been deported or sent into exile abroad. Many others have been intimidated, harassed and brutally beaten.
  • The Office stressed that human rights defenders should never be treated as criminals who are a threat to national security.
  • It urged the Vietnamese authorities to immediately release all those detained in connection with their exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, and to amend the overly broad ill-defined laws that are used – under the pretext of national security – to crack down on dissent.
ON WORLD DAY, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION URGES COUNTRIES TO TURN COMMITMENTS INTO ACTION TO ELIMINATE HEPATITIS
  • Today is World Hepatitis Day, and according to the World Health Organization (WHO), new data shows that efforts to eliminate the disease are gaining momentum.
  • WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that it is encouraging to see countries commitment into action to tackle hepatitis.
  • Viral hepatitis affected 325 million people worldwide in 2015, with 257 million people living with hepatitis B and 71 million people living with hepatitis C - the two main killers of the five types of hepatitis.
  • Viral hepatitis caused 1.34 million deaths in 2015 – a figure close to the number of TB deaths and exceeding deaths linked to HIV.