DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
1 July 2004
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Associate Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Secretary-General in Sudan
I have a report from the Secretary-General’s travels. As you know, he is currently in N’Djamena, the capital of Chad, where he is to be briefed this hour by the UN country team. Afterwards, he will meet with Chadian President Idriss Deby, and attend a dinner hosted by the President.
This morning the Secretary-General flew out of Khartoum, to travel to El Fasher, the administrative capital of north Darfur, in the western part of the Sudan.
At the airport, he was briefed by the Governor of the province, Osman Yousif Kibir. The Governor described the impact of the fighting in his region and the efforts he was making to deal with it, including the search for a peaceful solution.
The Secretary-General then drove to the Zam Zam camp, where about 12,000 internally displaced persons are to be found.
At the camp, he sat under a thorn tree with about a dozen elders, who said they had been there for about four months and described their needs to him. “And what would induce you to return home?” the Secretary-General asked. One old man responded, “Give us security and food and we would go.”
The Secretary-General then went on a walkabout in the camp, stopping at a well installed by UNICEF, after which he sat down with community women and midwives.
He limited his delegation to three of his senior advisers and asked all others to stay away so that the women could speak freely. And they did, describing the murderous attacks on their villages that drove them into the camp, as well as conditions in the camp, especially problems relating to childbirth.
One woman mentioned a series of rapes, but gave no specifics. They all emphasized the need for more security. The Secretary-General pledged to them that no one would be forced to go home without adequate protection.
He and his party then drove to the site of a second camp, at Meshtel, where 1,000 families had been as recently as yesterday evening. Meshtel was not a viable site for a camp and had been shut down months ago, but in the last week, over 5,000 people had reoccupied it, most likely in the hope of getting registered as internally displaced and being moved into an established camp.
When the Secretary-General’s convoy arrived at Meshtel, no people were there. A government official said that the camp’s residents had been transferred to a better location, but aid workers were stunned by the sudden disappearance of so many people.
The Secretary-General then made a quick drive by to a large, well-organized camp at Abu Shouk, which is home to some 40,000 people and is often shown to foreign visitors. After that, he went for a briefing by African Union military observers who are in the process of deploying to Sudan to monitor the ceasefire.
And we do expect the Secretary-General to have a press encounter later on today and we will have a transcript of that as well.
**Statement Attributable to the Spokesman
I now have a statement on Colombia:
“The Secretary-General notes the opening of formal talks between the Government of Colombia and paramilitary forces. He recognizes the important role of the Organization of American States in this endeavour and urges that the declared ceasefire be respected fully, and that the proposed concentration of forces take place, allowing the negotiations to proceed. These negotiations should result in the disarmament and demobilization of paramilitaries, with the ultimate aim of ending paramilitarism in Colombia. The process should not permit blanket amnesties or de facto impunity.
“The Secretary-General reiterates his belief that the rights of truth, justice and reparations for victims must be fully respected.”
**MONUC - Investigations
The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is investigating the killing of ethnic Tutsis within the ranks of the country’s national army in recent weeks.
The investigations stem from reports that more than two dozen ethnic Congolese Tutsis, known as Banyamulenge, have been killed by fellow government soldiers in eastern Congo. The Mission’s human rights section is aware of these allegations and is looking into them. The reported killings were in the towns of Walungu, Shabunda and at CampSayo in Bukavu in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Turning to Sierra Leone, next Monday, the trial of three alleged members of Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front will begin in that country’s capital, Freetown.
The Special Court for Sierra Leone will begin the trials of Issa Hassan Sesay, who succeeded the late Foday Sankoh as the RUF’s leader; Augustine Gbao, its former chief of security; and Morris Kallon, an RUF commander. They will be tried on charges that include terrorizing the civilian population, unlawful killing, forced marriages and attacks on peacekeepers.
And we have a press release upstairs.
Also on Sierra Leone, the UN Mission in Sierra Leone says the remains of those who perished in the helicopter crash were transported to a hospital in Freetown last night. Forensic and medical teams are in the process of identifying the bodies. A memorial service at the UN mission in Sierra Leone is planned as soon as the process is completed.
Ambassador Mihnea Motoc, Permanent Representative of Romania, today succeeds Ambassador Lauro Baja, Permanent Representative of the Philippines, as President of the Security Council for the month of July.
There are no meetings or consultations of the Council scheduled for today. The President is holding bilateral meetings on the month’s programme. And tomorrow at 12:45 p.m., Ambassador Motoc will brief you here in this room on the programme of work.
Hartisheik in Ethiopia, once the world’s largest refugee camp with over 250,000 Somalis, has closed down after the final return convoy left for Somaliland yesterday, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. UNHCR says this marks a milestone in the Somali repatriation movement, which can only be sustained with international assistance to areas of return.
Turning to Afghanistan, the UN Mission in that country said today that discussions continue among the Government and political parties on when Afghan elections will be held.
The Mission said that three important elements must be kept in mind as those discussions continue: the integrity of the electoral operation; security for voters and candidates; and the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process.
The Spokesman for the Mission said that if elections are to take place in September, a date will have to be announced fairly shortly.
A few more items: we have upstairs a press release from the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) on a visit to the occupied Palestinian territory by the actress and human rights activist, Vanessa Redgrave.
Louise Arbour today took up her duties as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, after having stepped down as a member of Canada’s Supreme Court. She is expected to have a press encounter tomorrow afternoon in Geneva.
**Ethiopia – Humanitarian
Ethiopia has received only 20 per cent of the funds it needs this year for necessary basic supplies, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. By contrast, it has received 62 per cent of its funding requirements for food. That imbalance has been acutely felt in the country’s HIV/AIDS sector, which received no funding. And you can read more about it in a press release upstairs.
We also have a press release from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on the issue of illegal fishing.
And UNESCO, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, added five new natural sites to its World Heritage List.
And those include a glacier-fjord in Iceland and a rainforest in Indonesia. And there is more upstairs in a press release.
**ICTY – Sir Richard May
Also, it was with great sadness today that the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia announced the death of Sir Richard May, who died earlier this morning at the age of 65.
Sir Richard May served with great distinction as a Judge of the ICTY for over six years, from 1997 to 2004. And, as you will remember, he presided over the trial of Milosevic from February 2002 until his retirement in May of this year.
**World Chronicle TV Programme
“World Chronicle” programme no. 942, featuring a special discussion on Youth with guests Julie Larsen of the UN Youth Programme, DESA, and Luis Davila Ortega of Global Youth Action Network, will be shown today at 3:30 p.m. on in-house channels 3 and 31.
And my colleagues at UN Radio asked me to announce that the latest edition of “UN in Africa” will carry the second half of the interview done with the Secretary-General, where he discusses HIV/AIDS, Africa’s economy and efforts to improve the UN’s work in Africa.
And you can listen via UN Radio’s internet site and its audio bulletin board, Ext 3-3377.
**Press Briefing Tomorrow
Tomorrow at 12:45, as I already mentioned, the President of the Security Council will be here to brief.
**Guest at Noon Tomorrow
And Javier Ruperez, the Executive Director of the Counter-terrorism Executive Directorate will be joining us as a guest at the noon briefing tomorrow.
That’s it from me. Bill, then Edie.
Questions and Answers
Question: I just want to be sure I get this straight about the scenario in Darfur. The Secretary-General intended to go to a camp, identified that he was going to go there, the security probably went ahead of time to go and check it out. He goes to this camp and the camp is basically gone and “x” number of people have been moved to another camp, or... Can you sort of spell out the details?
Associate Spokesman: That camp, we’ve been told, was not a viable camp. We understood from our humanitarian colleagues that there had been people in the camp. We went there, and none were there. Obviously it’s something that the UN humanitarian staff on the ground will look into, as to where those people went.
Question: How many people are we talking about?
Associate Spokesman: I’ve got to check my note. [Continues after consulting notes] As many as a thousand families had been there very recently. So, it’s something that our UN humanitarian staff will look into on the ground. But the Secretary-General, today and tomorrow, when he will go to other sites is in a fact-finding mode and he will tomorrow return to Khartoum in the afternoon to meet with the Sudanese leadership and obviously bring up all the things that he’s been able to see first hand.
Question: But he’d chosen to go to this particular campsite because up to a thousand families had been there in the site, that was really apparently pretty bad and not in a good location; that’s why he chose it. And no one knows why they were moved or why they weren’t there.
Associate Spokesman: No. Obviously we went there thinking these families would be there and they weren’t there when we came.
Question: Steph, is the SG any closer to naming a Special Representative for Iraq?
Associate Spokesman: We expect an announcement shortly.
Question: This week?
Associate Spokesman: I don’t want you to box me into any time frame. Mohammad, let me start with you.
Question: Has the Secretary-General recognized Saddam Hussein as a prisoner of war and will he have any statement regarding his trial?
Associate Spokesman: No. Today he’s really been focusing on the Sudan, but if you remember, I think two days ago, he was asked the question and he said it was important that the Iraqis see justice being done and being done as close to the scene as possible. And I can give you the full quote when we go back upstairs. Mr. Abbadi?
Question: Mr. Saddam Hussein has been charged with many crimes, including crimes against humanity. Does the Secretary-General think that he should be tried by an international tribunal?
Associate Spokesman: No. I think, as he says, it’s important that Iraqis see that justice is being done and if he can be tried by the Iraqis and that it be done as close to the scene as possible. So, I think that reflects his feelings. Edie?
Question: Steph, was there any read out on the Secretary-General’s meeting with Colin Powell?
Associate Spokesman: We did have something on that. That was yesterday. Most of yesterday...(interrupted).
Question: It was sort of like, very late yesterday.
Associate Spokesman: Yes. Most of yesterday is already blank in my mind. But I’ll have to check when we get back upstairs. Yes, sir? [The Spokesman noted that the Secretary of State had discussed his visit to Darfur, while the Secretary-General discussed his meeting with Sudanese Cabinet ministers.]
Question: We know that no one survived in the Sierra Leone helicopter crash. I just wonder, are there any final investigation results or the reason for the crash?
Associate Spokesman: No, the investigations are still being done by the UN, by the local authorities and by the Russian Federation experts, since this was a Russian-registered plane. The helicopters were grounded, the MI-8s were grounded for 24 hours after the crash, but we still don’t have a definitive answer on why it crashed.
Question: Prime Minister Iyad Allawi was reported indicating that elections in January 2005 would be postponed or might be postponed. Does the Secretary-General still believe that they should be held on time in January 2005?
Associate Spokesman: I think the decision to hold the elections will be up to the electoral commission of Iraq, the recently set up one. Obviously, they will seek our advice. But I think it’s too early to predict what the situation will be on the ground in 2005 at this point. Bill?
Question: Is there a list of the people who were killed, nationalities or...?
Associate Spokesman: Yes, we do have the breakdown of the nationalities. I have it upstairs. Evelyn?
Question: On the same helicopter crash, did you find out how many others in the same firm have crashed? Like, I hear this isn’t the first, and...(interrupted).
Associate Spokesman: Okay, we’ll find out.
Question: ...and if so, the question is why are we still using them?
Associate Spokesman: We’ll find out. Thank you very much.
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