DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OF OFFICE OF SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
27 May 1999
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Manoel de Almeida e Silva, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Noon Briefing Guest
I see some new faces, other faces that are known but not always here. They are here for our guest at today's briefing, Francesco Strippoli, United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Angola. You may recall he briefed the Council yesterday and, at the end of our briefing here today, he'll be available. He'll make a short remark and then answer some of your questions.
**International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia
This morning, Louise Arbour, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, announced that, on 24 May, an indictment was confirmed against Slobodan Milosevic, President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and four others, charging them with crimes against humanity; specifically, murder, deportation and persecution, and with violations of the laws and customs of war, based on crimes committed since the beginning of 1999 in Kosovo.
Ms. Arbour said in her statement that arrest warrants have been issued against all five accused and are being served on all Member States of the United Nations and Switzerland. The warrants are accompanied by a court order requesting all States to search for and freeze assets of the accused under their jurisdiction. In the statement, Ms. Arbour also said that there is a credible basis to believe that these accused are criminally responsible for the deportation of 740,000 Kosovo Albanians from Kosovo and for the murder of over 340 identified Kosovo Albanians. At a news conference in The Hague, where she made the announcement, Ms. Arbour also said the Tribunal is "still actively investigating other incidents in Kosovo, as well as the role of the accused or of some of them in Croatia and Bosnia in earlier years".
The Secretary-General, continuing his official visit in Lund, Sweden, issued a statement following the announcement in The Hague. He said: "The Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Louise Arbour, informed me in person of the court's decision to indict President Milosevic and other officials of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The Tribunal was established by the Security Council. According to its statute, it acts independently. The Prosecutor, therefore, must go where the evidence leads her. Justice must be allowed to take its course."
Meanwhile, on the ground around Kosovo, no significant flow of refugees reported so far today by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which says it is concerned about the sudden halt in the influx into the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Since 300 Kosovo Albanians crossed into the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Wednesday morning, that border area has remained empty. There is no sign of the thousands who had reportedly massed on the Serbian side of the border.
On the Albanian side, fighting in the border area earlier today prevented aid workers from getting to the area, the UNHCR reported. Of the more than 800 refugees who had arrived on Wednesday at the Morini crossing were 200 to 250 ex-detainees, released from a prison in Kosovska Mitrovica municipality. So far, more than 2,000 prisoners have arrived in Albania after being freed from Kosovo jails, apparently to make room for new detainees, according to previous arrivals reporting to the UNHCR. The UNHCR also reported continuing tension along the border between Montenegro and Kosovo, following the takeover of the area by the Yugoslav army two weeks ago.
In Sweden this morning, the Secretary-General flew from Stockholm to Malmo in the southernmost part of Sweden en route to the University of Lund, where he will deliver an address this evening and receive an honorary degree tomorrow.
On the way to Lund, the Secretary-General visited Backäkra, the summer residence of Dag Hammarskjöld, the second United Nations Secretary-General. He toured the home, then walked across the fields, where the Secretary-General had a brief moment alone at Hammarskjöld's meditation site -- a circle of fieldstones overlooking the sea. He later commented: "Given what Dag Hammarskjöld represents for the United Nations and for me personally, it's a great inspiration to be here. It's a wonderfully peaceful place."
The Secretary-General then spent over a half hour with students from the University's Raoul Wallenberg Institute, responding to their questions. This evening, he is to give an address at the University on the subject of "Human Rights and Humanitarian Law" and then attend a dinner hosted by Vice-Chancellor of the University Boel Flodgren.
In his speech tonight, which should be occurring about now, as we speak, the Secretary-General said that all members of the international community, especially governments, must give support and cooperation to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals on Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. "As human beings, we cannot be neutral, or at least we have no right to be, when other human beings are suffering", he said, adding that each person has a duty to intervene, even though it would be much safer to do nothing. Copies of the speech are available in our Office upstairs.
The Secretary-General's official visit to Sweden is scheduled to conclude tomorrow. He is expected back in New York on Saturday. Due to the rapidly evolving developments, the Secretary-General very much regrets that he will not be able to attend inauguration ceremonies in Abuja, Nigeria. He has conveyed his regrets to President Abubakar and President-elect Obasanjo.
The Security Council members had consultations today on the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) with a view of a formal meeting to further extend the mandate of the mission for six months. Council members were then briefed by the Secretariat on the situation in Somalia and discussed a draft presidential statement.
**Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict
Olara Otunnu, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, undertakes his first mission to Latin America next week. He will visit Colombia from 30 May to 5 June to assess the plight of children affected by its 15-year-old civil war. He will meet with government officials, leaders of the key insurgency movements and members of civil society. He will urge that the protection and rights of children be included in the peace agenda. His office has prepared a press release, which is available in the Spokesman's Office.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that consensus was reached yesterday in Oslo by the Government of the Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement on a number of important humanitarian issues of major concern to Operation Lifeline Sudan and to the population of the Sudan. The final communiqué, signed by these parties and the United Nations at the meeting of the Technical Committee on Humanitarian Assistance, reaffirmed their commitments to the November 1998 protocols relating to security and minimum operational standards for regular and crossline road corridors. For more information, we can set up a link between you and the expert in OCHA on the Sudan.
Luxembourg yesterday ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, bringing the total number of ratifications to 36. The treaty has 152 signatories, but it has not yet entered into force.
We have an announcement here from the General Assembly spokesperson to say that available now is the provisional list of speakers in the debate on the overall review and appraisal of the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development.
And this is all I have. Are there any questions before we move to Mr. Strippoli?
Question: What is the position of the Permanent Representative of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia with regard to Mr. Milosevic? Is the legal department studying the situation?
Deputy Spokesman: I am not a lawyer and I will not dare to make any judgement on the Office of Legal Affairs' behalf, but I understand these are indictments against individuals and not the State. The Permanent Representative is a representative of a State.
Question: In light of the shooting down of Indian fighters by Pakistan, there are requests for the United Nations to get involved. Is the Secretary- General sending an envoy?
Deputy Spokesman: The Secretary-General has expressed his concern repeatedly. As recently as last Tuesday, there was a statement by him expressing his concern and calling on all parties to exercise restraint and cease the fighting. We have some encouragement from the fact that the two Prime Ministers were in telephone contact yesterday.
Question: I'm wondering if the Security Council is discussing the indictment of President Milosevic. If there is some information, would you elaborate on that?
Deputy Spokesman: If I have some information I'll let you know. I haven't heard anything on that.
Question: Now that Milosevic has been indicted, who will the two United Nations envoys deal with? Secondly, will this Arbour also prosecute Tudjman and others, or is it only Milosevic?
Deputy Spokesman: The second part of your question, I'm not in a position to answer. You should address that to the Tribunal on the former Yugoslavia. Of course, the two ad hoc Tribunals, the one on the former Yugoslavia and the one on Rwanda, have jurisdiction only over the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, respectively. The Secretary-General's special envoys had no plans to go to Belgrade. And we have never announced any plans for either the Secretary-General or the envoys to go to Belgrade.
Question: I understand justice has to take its course, but there's also a question of timing. Milosevic is a survivor. What incentives does he have now to make a deal, if he knows that as soon as he signs one, he could be arrested?
Deputy Spokesman: I would not be able to comment on that.
Question: Does the Secretary-General not think it might have been better to wait until the war is over?
Deputy Spokesman: It's not his decision to indict. The Tribunal is independent.
Question: But he could have commented or not commented to signal that this was a mistake --
Deputy Spokesman: Which is your judgement, not his.
Question: What is his judgement?
Deputy Spokesman: His judgement is expressed in his statement, which is very clear. Any other questions?
Question: Can we not expect another statement from the Secretary- General today about the shooting down of these two planes? I mean, things are getting out of hand at this point and things have escalated since Tuesday.
Deputy Spokesman: At this point, we have what I have given as an answer to the same question asked before. If there's anything else, you'll get it, of course. Thank you very much. We go now to our guest.
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