Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, 17 October 2012
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon. Welcome to the briefing.
The Secretary-General spoke at the Security Council’s open debate on peace and justice this morning, saying that we now live in an age of accountability. He said that rulers and warlords who perpetrate atrocities can no longer trade their power for an amnesty and then slip away, unpunished, to some safe haven.
The Secretary-General discussed the accomplishments of the International Criminal Court during the past decade, saying that when the Court takes up a situation — whether because of a Security Council referral or otherwise — the whole landscape changes. He added that it is likely to keep changing as cases are investigated and arrest warrants are issued; as suspects are detained and transferred to The Hague, trials are opened and verdicts and sentences are handed down.
The Secretary-General said that we have seen the value of an International Criminal Court that pursues justice in all regions. We have seen how the actions and inactions of the Court and the Security Council can have an impact on the other. But, most importantly, we have seen how the activities of each can assist the other. We have the Secretary-General’s remarks in my office.
The Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, was in Lebanon today, where he met with the President, the Speaker and the Prime Minister.
Speaking to reporters in Beirut, Mr. Brahimi said that he had listened to the views and concerns of the officials with whom he met. They had also discussed the Secretary-General’s appeal for a ceasefire that would be initiated by the Government and to which the opposition would respond positively. And he reiterated the Secretary-General’s call for all countries that provide arms to the various parties in Syria to stop doing so.
Asked about the views of neighbouring countries, Mr. Brahimi said that countries in the region must realize that this crisis cannot remain within Syria's borders forever. He said that either it is resolved or it will spill over and consume everyone.
**Democratic Republic of the Congo
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, six UN peacekeepers and an interpreter were wounded near the town of Buganza in northern North Kivu yesterday evening after an exchange of gun fire with unknown assailants while on a patrol in an area where a number of armed groups are active. The UN Mission, MONUSCO, immediately sent reinforcements from a nearby base and evacuated the wounded. One peacekeeper was critically wounded and has been evacuated to Goma.
The Secretary-General is concerned for the welfare of the wounded peacekeepers. Any attack on peacekeepers is unacceptable. We firmly condemn the perpetrators of the attack and call for them to be held accountable. MONUSCO is actively following up with local authorities to investigate the incident.
The Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, will visit North Africa and Europe from 27 October to 15 November to continue his mission. His focus during this trip will be to exchange views with key interlocutors on how to accelerate progress towards the central objective set forth in successive Security Council resolutions; in other words, a mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara. He is due to brief the Security Council following his trip.
A high-level humanitarian mission with delegates from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) wrapped up the first leg of its visit to West Africa's Sahel region today.
The mission left Niamey for Mali after holding talks with the Government of Niger and humanitarian and civil society organisations. The mission also visited aid assistance programmes in some of the areas most affected by the humanitarian crisis in the country.
The food and nutrition crisis in Niger has pushed more than 5.5 million people there to the edge of survival. The situation has been exacerbated by flooding affecting more than half a million people, as well as a persistent cholera epidemic in parts of the country and insecurity in neighbouring Mali.
The UN Humanitarian Chief, Valerie Amos, is scheduled to visit Benin tomorrow and Friday. Heavy floods have affected the north of Benin and other West African states since the end of August. The visit takes place at the invitation of President Boni Yayi, who is also the Chairperson of the African Union.
The Human Rights Section of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) has released its first biannual report, covering the period from January to June of this year.
The report notes that the first half of 2012 witnessed some important efforts by the Government of Haiti to put in place or strengthen key structures for the promotion and protection of human rights. These include establishing the Supreme Council of the Judiciary, appointing all the members of the Supreme Court, and establishing the post of Minister for Human Rights and Extreme Poverty.
However, the report also adds, two and a half years after the 12 January 2010 earthquake, the number of people remaining in camps is high. Many, particularly those on private land, are at risk of eviction, and the report flags the need for a comprehensive rights-based housing and urban development policy. The Human Rights Section of the Mission says action is needed regarding human rights violations allegedly committed by the Haiti National Police.
And finally, you may have seen reports about a soldier from the South Sudan army (SPLA) attacking a police station in the Lakes State capital, Rumbek, on Tuesday. The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has been informed that a joint investigation involving South Sudanese military, police and Lakes State authorities is being conducted to determine the facts.
That’s what I have. Questions, please? Yes, sir?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you, Martin. I wanted to ask you about Côte d'Ivoire. There were… in recent days, there have been attacks pretty… seemingly coordinated on electrical power plants and other infrastructure in the country. I am just wondering, with the big UN mission there, what’s… what is their read on it? Does it impact in any way what is said to be a plan to remove a battalion from Abidjan or otherwise draw down the mission?
Spokesperson: Well, what I can tell you is that the Mission has informed us that on Monday, at around 1 a.m., about 50 heavily armed individuals attacked an electrical power plant in the Abidjan district of Yopougon, and they damaged a 150-megawatt turbine with a rocket grenade. The Mission says that Ivorian security later arrested nine assailants, and all of them belonging either to the armed forces, the police or the gendarmerie. The Mission has moved in to provide security at the power station. And in another development, I can tell you that, following attacks on police and gendarmerie posts in Bonoua, which is in the east of Abidjan, on Sunday night, the Mission dispatched a special joint patrol to the area to fly the flag, so to speak, to show a UN presence and deter any attacks on civilians.
Question: Does that mean… but, does this cause any rethinking of the… what had been said to be the Mission’s plan or is that…?
Spokesperson: Well, that would be for the Council to deliberate on and determine. But, as you can see, the Mission, which is well equipped and staffed, is in a position to respond to security incidents where it is appropriate to do so. And, as I have just said, they are showing a presence in that part of the city where there was this attack on police and gendarmerie posts and they are providing security at the power station. Okay, other questions, please? Stefano?
Question: Yes, at the Security Council this morning, there is… there has been a debate on the rule of law and International Criminal Court; and is… in the last years there had been a lot of success, but at the same time there is incoherence in the way the Security Council refers to the International Criminal Court cases. What is exactly the opinion of the Secretary-General on this case, especially in the last year, how the Security Council has been referring cases to the ICC?
Spokesperson: Well, I did mention at the outset of the briefing that the Secretary-General did address this open debate in the Security Council, and his full remarks are available for you to look at, if you did not see them. Of course, it is for the Security Council to decide on what matters it seeks to refer to the International Criminal Court. What the Secretary-General said was that, where the Court and the Council are active, then you do see a difference. And I think that’s the overall context of his remarks. But, I would certainly refer you to those remarks; in particular, he is pointing to the key concept of accountability and an end to impunity. And this is the theme that runs through his remarks. I’d refer you to those. Yes?
Question: I have something else, but I want… somewhat related question is new reports come out pretty… pretty… with a lot of detail showing how [Muammar al-]Qadhafi’s supporters in Libya were summarily captured and executed in Sirte. And, are you aware… is this… it is a human rights report that has just come out; and I wonder, given that the Libyans, obviously they have a lot of problems in… not… a lot of steps are taken in Libya, but there doesn’t seem to have been an investigation by the Government of crimes that went in the other direction. Does the Secretary-General or the Secretariat have any response to that report? Do they think that those reprisal killings have been investigated? Should the ICC act on them? What’s the response to it?
Spokesperson: Well, we’re certainly aware of the report that you are referring to. I don’t have any specific comment on that report, which is just out, and so we obviously want to look at it in detail. But, the overall point that I just made applies here, of course: that there should be no impunity. Accountability is crucial. Establishing the rule of law in countries that are in transition is absolutely crucial. So, just as a broader point to be made there, and obviously we are aware of the report and we are looking at it.
Question: And can I… and actually, I’m sorry, because this gives… just gives rise to… I saw the readout of the meeting with the, with the minister from Sri Lanka yesterday, and some have asked, I mean… or at least I have received this question by e-mails, what… what the Secretary-General was referring to when he said he took note of steps to accountability. Does he believe that actually steps have been taken to hold anyone accountable since the killings that took place in 2009?
Spokesperson: Within the recommendations from the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission, steps have been taken by the Sri Lankan authorities and the Secretary-General is simply encouraging the authorities to continue to implement the recommendations that are there in the Commission’s report.
Question: Which… one last one, and maybe… maybe it goes beyond Sri Lanka, just, does accountability necessarily mean, you know, incarceration, punishment, loss of a job? How is there… I mean, I am just asking, that’s the one case I know, in particular, that it doesn’t seem that any steps were taken against any individuals, maybe there are steps for reconciliation, but does accountability mean some kind of, you know, punishment or at least chastising of people found responsible? What does it mean, I guess?
Spokesperson: It has a broad meaning that will depend on the national justice system that is in place or, for example, where there has been a referral to the International Criminal Court or there is the involvement of the International Criminal Court. It can mean different things in different contexts. What it means is not letting deeds go unmarked, unnoticed, so that there is no impunity and so that you can move on to reconciliation. Of course, you need to have a system of justice in place. It can mean different things in different contexts, depending on national legislation, very often. Okay, any other questions? Yes, Lou and then Masood, yes? Yes, Lou?
Question: Thanks, Martin. There is a new group of experts report on the [Democratic Republic of the Congo] that’s reached the Security Council and has been officially published, but it is… the contents of it are out there, and there are allegations that have been out there for quite some time, since this spring, about Rwandan and Ugandan support for the M-23 rebels. Tomorrow, the Rwandan Foreign Minister will be there for the Security Council elections, with Rwanda expected to get a seat. I’m wondering if the [Secretary-General] has plans to meet with the Rwandan Foreign Minister and if this… these long-standing allegations about Rwandan support for M-23 might come up in the discussions and what the UN view is on this.
Spokesperson: I am not aware of any meeting planned between the Secretary-General and the Foreign Minister of Rwanda. You mentioned that a report had reached the Council, and I know obviously it reached you, too, but we do not comment on leaked documents as a matter of policy. And, as I understand it, the report you are referring to will be issued in November. You will also know that, more generally, the position of the Secretary-General is well known on what is happening in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo since the start of the M-23 mutiny in April. He has called for an immediate end to all violence perpetrated by armed groups and for any external support provided to the M-23 to cease. And I think you will also remember that during the general debate last month, the Secretary-General hosted a high-level meeting on precisely this crisis, with the aim of finding a political solution. But, as I say, on the leaked report that you are referring to, we are not going to comment.
Question: A follow-up: The meeting that was held on the sidelines of the general debate was inconclusive, and the Rwandan President has denied the allegations; some repeated those denials there, has repeated them since. I’m wondering, have senior UN officials… some have been following up with Rwanda and other countries to sort of, you know, press on their position?
Spokesperson: I think the general point remains that this is… there is the aim of finding a political solution. The Secretary-General has made his views clear on the need for an end to external support to M-23. And, of course, my colleagues who deal with these matters will be speaking to many parties in the region on this topic. But, as I say, on the specific report that you are referring to, we don’t have any comment. Masood?
Question: Yes, sir. On this attack on the Libyan consulate which is now resonating in the United States debates and so forth, I mean, there is… it is said that it was a demonstration which turned violent or in fact it was a terrorist attack. Has the United Nations made any determination about that attack on the US consulate?
Spokesperson: Masood, I think you clearly understand that that would not be something that we made a determination on. The United States authorities and the Libyan authorities have said that they are investigating the matter, and it is for them to do so. We don’t… we have not made a deliberation on this matter.
Question: On another issue, of the drone attacks inside Afghanistan and Pakistan that is going on for a long time, it has been condemned by the Pakistani politicians and so forth, and at some point in time, Ms. Navi Pillay also did not agree with the drone… I mean, campaign launched by United States. So what… has the drone atta-… how does the Secretary-General view this? Has the Secretary-General taken a position on these drone attacks or not?
Spokesperson: I think you are aware of what we’ve said on this, Masood, and I don’t have anything to add to that, okay? Yes?
Question: Sure, I want to ask about this report, as well. The… earlier, it was… Rwanda publicly raised questions about the coordinator of the group of experts, Steve Hege, and… and I know I’ve asked you about it…
Spokesperson: I thought you might raise that, that’s interesting.
Question: Yeah, I know. I know that I have asked you, and there has been some back and forth, it now appears that they have made a more formal filing about these writings in 2009. I just wanted, just very quickly, this Foreign Minister of Rwanda has said that the process for appointing these experts is broken and in need of repair and points also to panels on Côte d'Ivoire and Somalia/Eritrea. So, I wanted to know, first of all, what is the… and they have also talked about taking legal action. I am not sure exactly what that means. What’s the response of the Secretariat to a… to… at least, you know, she is pointing at three… in the case of Somalia/Eritrea, it seems that the leader of the group of experts leaked the report himself, spoke about it before it was public. In this case, they are saying that Mr. Hege has written about the [Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda] in such a way he should never have been on the panel. Is this giving rise to any thinking within [Department of Political Affairs] or the Secretariat about how people were appointed, and what is going to be the response of the Secretariat to this formal filing by Rwanda?
Spokesperson: Well, as you know, the panel of experts reports to the Security Council, so I suggest you speak to them. Okay, thanks, have a good afternoon. Thanks very much, thank you.
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