15 September, 2006
WAR CRIME INDICTMENTS AGAINST UGANDAN REBELS SERVE VITAL PURPOSE, SAYS UN AID OFFICIAL
The concern shared by some locals in Uganda that International Criminal
Court (ICC) indictments against leaders of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army
(LRA) could jeopardize the peace process in the country’s north do not
outweigh the need to ensure there is no impunity for mass murder, the top
United Nations humanitarian official said today.
Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland told the
Security Council that during his recent visit to Uganda, where the LRA and
Government forces have signed a ceasefire after 20 years of conflict, that
the indictments dominated his discussions with internally displaced persons
(IDPs), refugees and civil society groups.
Many IDPs told Mr. Egeland, who is also the UN Emergency Relief
Coordinator, that if the indictments were not lifted, they could threaten
the outcome of peace talks to permanently end the conflict.
“I said I believed the indictments had been a factor in pushing the LRA
into negotiations, that the indictments should not disrupt the talks, and
that there could be no impunity for mass murder and crimes against
humanity,” he told Council members in his briefing.
Mr. Egeland called on the parties to “look now at the different ways to
develop a solution that meets local needs for reconciliation and universal
standards of justice and accountability. I believe this can be done, and
that peace and justice can work together.”
Last October the ICC issued its first-ever arrest warrants against Joseph
Kony, the LRA leader, and four of the group’s commanders, on charges of war
crimes and crimes against humanity. Those commanders are Vincent Otti, Okot
Odhiambo, Dominic Ongwen and Raska Lukwiya.
During the brutal civil war, the LRA became notorious for abducting
children and then using them as soldiers and porters, while subjecting some
to extreme violence and allocating many girls to senior officers in a form
of institutional rape.
In his briefing Mr. Egeland described the situation in northern Uganda as
“more promising than it has been in years,” with improvements on almost
every key indicator.
The number of “night commuters” – children who leave their homes every day
after dusk to avoid being abducted by the LRA – has fallen from last year’s
high of 40,000 to an estimated 10,000. Security has also increased so
drastically in some areas that humanitarian workers have won access to
camps they had not been able to reach for years.
Mr. Egeland urged the Council to consolidate those promising signs by
demonstrating strong support for the peace talks between the Government and
the LRA and by prodding the two sides to strike a final agreement as soon as possible.
* * *
FIRST GROUP OF SPANISH TROOPS ARRIVE IN LEBANON AS UN FORCE LEVEL NEARS 5,000
Spanish troops today arrived for the first time in Lebanon, helping to
boost the United Nations force to around 4,600, while Israel’s withdrawal
from the south is continuing and Lebanese troops are expected to deploy
into more areas tomorrow, the world body announced today.
Some 500 officers and soldiers and approximately 100 vehicles from Spain
brought the total number of troops serving with the UN Interim Force in
Lebanon (UNIFIL) “up to around 4,600,” the Force said in a press release.
It said that 200 extra French troops had also arrived yesterday, while the
Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) withdrew from more areas of the south. UNIFIL
is continuing to coordinate the force movements as stipulated by Security
Council resolution 1701, which ended the fighting last month.
“On 14 September, The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) withdrew from the
general areas of Naqoura, Alma ash Shab, Ayta ash Shab, Rmeich and Yarun.
By this morning, the Ghanaian battalion confirmed that there were no IDF
present there. Lebanese Armed Forces are planning to deploy in these areas
tomorrow, 16 September,” UNIFIL said.
Resolution 1701 mandated strengthening UNIFIL up to a maximum of 15,000
troops although UN officials have spoken of a “general understanding” that
the IDF will completely withdraw from Lebanese territory once the UN Force
reaches 5,000 troops and the Lebanese army is ready to deploy at the full
strength of 15,000 troops.
On Thursday, UNIFIL Commander Maj. Gen. Alain Pellegrini said he expected
all Israeli forces to have left southern Lebanon by the end of this month.
* * *
CôTE D’IVOIRE: ANNAN CONCERNED AFTER PRESIDENT REPORTEDLY REJECTS PEACE PROCESS
With Côte d’Ivoire already reeling from a toxic waste disaster that has
claimed at least half a dozen lives, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today
expressed concern that the country’s president’s reported decision to
abandon the ongoing peace process could lead to further instability there.
In a statement issued by his spokesman, Mr. Annan expressed regret at
reports that President Laurent Gbagbo yesterday said he was rejecting the
peace process, which Ivorian leaders and their international partners had
developed over the past three years.
The country has been divided between Government and rebel forces since
fighting broke out in 2002.
Mr. Annan said he was also “deeply concerned about the increase in
inflammatory rhetoric in Côte d’Ivoire, which is fuelling serious tension
as the country approaches the end of the transition period at the end of October.”
He urged all Ivorians to exercise restraint, adding that he hoped President
Gbagbo would accept his invitation to join regional and other Ivorian
political leaders at next Wednesday’s high-level meeting in New York to
discuss the way forward in Côte d’Ivoire.
Meanwhile, the first members of the World Health Organization’s (WHO)
international team have arrived in Abidjan to help Côte d’Ivoire’s Ministry
of Health and the WHO country team deal with the environmental health
emergency caused by last month’s dumping of toxic waste.
During the night of 19 August, a ship unloaded around 400 tonnes of
petrochemical waste into a number of trucks that then dumped the waste at
more than 12 sites around Abidjan, WHO says. A few days later the local
population started complaining of nosebleeds, nausea and vomiting,
headaches, skin lesions, eye irritation and respiratory symptoms.
Some 15,000 people have sought medical care so far, and many hospitals are
seeing at least twice their usual number of patients, the agency said. As a
result, medical services have been severely disrupted, and medicine is in short supply.
“This has put a double burden on the already weak health system,” said WHO
in a statement, adding that the crisis “has shown that the country does not
have the capacity to deal with such an emergency.”
* * *
GLOBAL INSTITUTIONS FAIL TO REFLECT EVOLUTION OF THE DEVELOPING WORLD, ANNAN SAYS
To reflect the profound changes that have taken place in the developing
world over the last few decades, global institutions must evolve to give
nations of the South a greater voice, and those countries must exercise
greater responsibility at home and abroad, United Nations Secretary-General
Kofi Annan told the annual summit meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)
in Havana today.
Mr. Annan said that NAM has transformed itself into a movement for the
developing world and contributed to changing the entire dynamic of
Nowhere has that transformation been more dramatic than in trade and
investment, he said, noting that South-South trade has grown twice as fast
as world trade in the last quarter century and that foreign direct
investment from developing countries has outpaced that from developed ones
over the past five years.
Nonetheless, he noted a “growing and disturbing” gulf in income between the
world’s richest and poorest countries, which he said needs to be addressed
decisively through new forms of international governance.
“The voice of the global South is not always heard as it should be,” he
said, noting “lamentable setbacks” in the Doha trade talks and the
unfairness of the existing relative quotas in the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
At the same time, the UN Security Council continues to suffer from a
“democracy deficit,” as efforts to reform the body and expand its
membership have failed to move forward, the Secretary-General said.
“The perception of a narrow power-base hanging on five countries is
difficult to sustain and it risks leading to an erosion of the UN’s
authority and legitimacy – even, some would argue, its neutrality and
independence,” he said.
Along with NAM’s growing influence comes a need to exercise greater
responsibility, both internationally and at home, Mr. Annan added.
On the positive side, he noted that many developing countries have
succeeded in building vibrant civil societies, with a free and active
press, strengthened democratic institutions, and progress in human rights
and the empowerment of women.
Nonetheless, governments of the South still need to do more to fulfil their
obligations to their people by taking action on extreme poverty,
corruption, suppression of opposition groups and the media, the
environment, and HIV/AIDS.
Developing countries also need to work together more effectively to protect
other populations from genocide and crimes against humanity, especially now
with a major crisis looming in Darfur, he added. There was a need for real
progress in the greater Middle East, where governments the root causes of
ongoing conflicts must be addressed.
While in Havana, the Secretary-General is also meeting bilaterally with
many of the leaders attending the summit.
After arriving in Havana last night, Mr. Annan met with ailing Cuban
president Fidel Castro in the Palacio Nacional. Today he told the plenary
that “I can assure you that he is mending well.”
* * *
18 COUNTRIES TAKE 29 TREATY ACTIONS AT ANNUAL UN EVENT
Eighteen countries have taken 29 actions signing and ratifying
international pacts during the first three days of a special event taking
place at United Nations Headquarters in New York.
Yesterday Austria became the sixth country to ratify the 2005 International
Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. Austria also
partially withdrew one of its reservations to the Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, relating to women
in the workforce.
Also yesterday, Armenia and Peru deposited instruments of accession to
become parties to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture
and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which
establishes a system of visits by independent experts to places of detention.
Several countries signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the
Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, which extends protection
by the Convention to UN humanitarian personnel serving in the field.
The first part of this year’s event coincided with the High-Level Dialogue
on International Migration and Development, and it spotlighted 30 treaties
regulating a broad range of cross-border issues.
In addition to treaties relating to migration, refugees and Stateless
persons, the event will showcase pacts on human trafficking, organized
crime, corruption, climate change, sustainable development, indiscriminate
or excessively injurious weapons, torture and food security.
The annual event, held since 2000, seeks to promote increased participation
of countries in the more than 500 multilateral treaties deposited with the
Secretary-General, and by so doing, to strengthen the rule of law.
The Treaty Event will continue on 19 September and conclude on 20 September.
* * *
SPOTLIGHTING ‘CANCER’ OF SEXUAL ABUSE IN DR CONGO, UN AID CHIEF CALLS FOR GLOBAL PRESSURE
Describing sexual abuse as “a cancer in Congolese society that seems to be
out of control,” the United Nations’ most senior humanitarian official
today urged the Security Council to exert pressure on the Democratic
Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) armed forces to end the impunity for soldiers
who commit sex crimes.
Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland told the
Council, during a briefing following his recent visit to the DRC and other
central African countries, that he does not believe the national armed
forces are seriously tackling the problem.
“Military and civilian authorities are still virtually unaccountable for
crimes against civilians… Although some military prosecutions have
occurred, often because of the efforts of MONUC [the French acronym for the
UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC], far too little is being done,” he said.
Council members and those countries involved in security sector reform in
the DRC must step up the pressure on the Congolese military “to end this
pattern of abuse and violence against civilians.”
Mr. Egeland outlined some of the harrowing crimes endured by women in the
DRC, where the national Government has struggled to maintain authority
following decades of civil war and misrule.
One woman told the Under-Secretary-General how she was raped repeatedly for
more than a week by a group of soldiers who bound her so tightly that she
has permanently lost the use of her hands. Another doctor explained how
many women require extensive surgery because they are mutilated after they are raped.
Mr. Egeland visited a hospital in Bukavu in the DRC’s South Kivu province,
where this year alone more than 1,000 women have been treated after they were raped.
“We don’t know how many more suffer without treatment in inaccessible parts
of the province,” he said, adding he is also concerned about the impact of
Congolese military operations in the east of the vast country. At least
500,000 people have become displaced this year, mainly because of an attack
by Government forces against a militia group.
But Mr. Egeland said he was heartened by some improvements on the
humanitarian front, especially the fact that aid workers could now reach
areas that had been inaccessible for years because of security problems.
He called on the Council to maintain the troop numbers and resources of
MONUC, and to remember that the recent historic presidential and
parliamentary elections represent “the beginning of the rebuilding process, not its end.”
* * *
DIVIDED UN SECURITY COUNCIL AGREES TO FOCUS ON SITUATION IN MYANMAR
In a landmark decision today, the United Nations Security Council voted by
10 votes to four against with one abstention to focus on the situation in
the isolated Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar, where democracy leader Daw
Aung San Suu Kyi has been detained for over 10 of the past 16 years.
Ten nations, including the United States, voted in favour of adding Myanmar
to the Council agenda, while China, Russia, Qatar and the Democratic
Republic of Congo (DRC) voted against it. Tanzania abstained.
The move came after US Ambassador John Bolton wrote in a letter to the
President of the 15-member body that his and other delegations were
concerned about the deteriorating situation in Myanmar, saying it was
likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security.
However China’s Ambassador Wang Guangya told the procedural meeting, in
which no member has the right to veto, that neither Myanmar’s neighbours
nor most Asian countries recognize the situation in the country as any
threat to regional peace and security.
Along with the US, the other countries voting in favour of putting Myanmar
on the Council agenda were Argentina, Denmark, France, Ghana, Greece,
Japan, Peru, Slovakia, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan has consistently worked over the years for the
release of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Ms. Suu Kyi, who has long been a
peaceful advocate of fundamental democratic freedoms. And Mr. Annan
reaffirmed this commitment when Myanmar’s authorities extended her house
arrest for another year at the end of May, despite his personal appeal to
the head of State, Senior General Than Shwe, to free her.
* * *
DR CONGO SUPREME COURT RULES RUNOFF ELECTIONS CAN GO ON AS SCHEDULED – UN MISSION
The Supreme Court of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) today
validated the results of July’s historic presidential vote and ruled that
the runoff election can take place as scheduled on 29 October, despite a
constitutional provision that would have required it to be held much
sooner, reports the UN mission in the DRC.
According to the mission, known by its French acronym MONUC, the court
accepted a request from the Independent Electoral Commission for an
exemption to a constitutional requirement that the second-round vote be
held 15 days after the certification of the first round.
In extending that period to 50 days, the court accepted the IEC’s argument
that it would not have all the materials in place to hold the election
before 29 October.
The court today also certified the first-round elections, finding that
President Joseph Kabila received 44.8 per cent of the vote to Vice
President Jean-Pierre Bemba’s 20 per cent.
MONUC said that the UN and the international community stood ready to
provide technical and logistical assistance to the IEC, notably in
deploying election material the vast interior of the country.
MONUC’s deputy spokesperson Jean-Tobie Okala called that a “gigantic task”
involving more than 100 plane and helicopter sorties to distribute some
60,000 electoral kits to more than 50,000 polling stations spread across a
country the size of western Europe.
* * *
WORSENING CONDITIONS IN DARFUR PROMPT ALARM FROM UNICEF CHIEF
The head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today joined her
voice to the growing chorus of UN officials expressing alarm about the
deteriorating situation in the strife-torn Darfur region of western Sudan.
UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman in a press statement condemned the
“senseless loss of life” in Darfur and called on all sides in the conflict
to protect families and children.
“It is estimated that more than 400,000 people have lost their lives in the
continuing conflict. About 1.9 million people have been displaced and
nearly 3 million people depend on international aid for food, shelter and
basic health,” she noted.
Ms. Veneman said the increasing violence made it harder for humanitarian workers to reach those in need, causing a sharp rise in acute malnutrition rates as a result.
“Sexual violence against women and children is widespread and people yearn
for a place where they can feel safe,” she added.
Ms. Veneman’s call comes amid mounting concern about the fate of Darfur’s
civilians after the end of the month, when African Union (AU) soldiers are
slated to leave the region.
Last month the Security Council voted to deploy more than 17,000 UN
peacekeepers to take over from the AU, but the Sudanese Government has been
adamant that it is opposed to blue helmets in Darfur.
This week Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned that Darfur is headed for a
disaster unless Khartoum changes its mind, and Deputy Secretary-General
Mark Malloch Brown and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan
Egeland have voiced similar concerns in recent weeks.
Yesterday, Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel and actor George Clooney
briefed the Security Council, urging them to take “real and effective
measures” to ensure to prevent the situation from deteriorating.
* * *
ALL SIDES HAVE ‘LARGELY COMPLIED’ WITH CESSATION OF HOSTILITIES IN LEBANON: ANNAN
Israel and Hizbollah have “largely complied” with the cessation of
hostilities agreement that in mid-August ended more than a month of
fighting in Lebanon, but while a start has been made toward broader peace
in the region much still remains to be done, United Nations
Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a report issued today.
In his latest report to the Security Council on resolution 1701 that ended
the fighting, Mr. Annan points out that while there have been violations of
the agreement, these have not been “of an offensive and hostile character,”
apart from one severe incident when Israeli forces carried out a raid in
eastern Lebanon on 19 August.
“Since my previous report of 18 August, the parties have largely complied
with the cessation of hostilities. UNIFIL (the UN Interim Force in Lebanon)
has, however observed numerous minor incidents and violations in its area
He adds that the “tragic 34-day conflict has thrown the region back into
the instability that prevailed for decades” Stressing that security,
stability and comprehensive peace remain the overarching goals, he said “a
start has been made” while cautioning that “many other steps are required.”
Since the cessation of hostilities, the UN and other agencies have assisted
Lebanon’s Government with needs assessments and other urgent tasks, while
the humanitarian response has moved through early recovery efforts and
short-term intervention to providing assistance to the estimated one
million Lebanese who were displaced, the report notes.
Mr. Annan also points to “significant progress” regarding the gradual
withdrawal of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and deployment of Lebanese
troops, with UNIFIL playing the coordinating role between the two sides.
“A general understanding has been reached that the IDF will completely
withdraw from Lebanese territory once UNIFIL strength is increased to 5,000
troops and the Lebanese army is ready to deploy at the full strength of
15,000 troops,” he notes in the report that was officially released today.
On Thursday, UNIFIL Commander Maj. Gen. Alain Pellegrini said he expected
all Israeli troops to have left southern Lebanon by the end of this month
while in his report Mr. Annan said that a “second wave” of troops for the
UN force was expected to arrive by mid-October as stipulated by resolution
1701 that allows for up to 15,000 UN personnel.
In his report, Mr. Annan again stresses the need for the “unconditional
release” of the captured Israeli soldiers and the issue of Lebanese
prisoners detained in Israel, while also reiterating that he has appointed
an experienced facilitator to deal with these issues, although he again
declined to give details.
The Secretary-General also highlights his recent talks in Syria, repeating
that the President had pledged to work with the Lebanese authorities to
secure their border. He also emphasizes that the disarming of Hizbollah
required a political process and urges Lebanon’s Government to move ahead with this.
“I remain convinced that the disarming of Hizbollah and other militia
should take place through a political process that will lead to the full
restoration of the authority of the Government of Lebanon so that there
will be no weapons or authority other than its own.”
The report also discusses the UN’s other assistance efforts in Lebanon,
including helping with an interim naval force and clearing the masses of
unexploded ordnance that litter the countryside and represent a “serious
threat” to the deployment of the Lebanese troops and UNIFIL.
“These efforts have already resulted in the destruction of over 15,000
individual cluster munitions as well as hundreds of other unexploded ordnance.”
The Secretary-General reiterates that while “short-term measures” are now
being put in place to ensure that the cessation of hostilities is converted
into a permanent ceasefire, a sustainable long-term solution requires
regional issues to be taken into account.
“In order to prevent a resurgence of violence and bloodshed, the underlying
causes of conflict in the region must be addressed. Other crises cannot be
ignored, especially in the occupied Palestinian territory, as they are all
interlinked. Until the international community insists on a just, lasting
and comprehensive peace in the Middle East, any one of these conflicts has
the potential to erupt and engulf the entire region.”
* * *
GAZA FACES MAJOR FOOD PROBLEMS, WARNS UN AGENCY ASSISTING OVER 200,000 PEOPLE THERE
Palestinians face major difficulties in Gaza, including shortages of food
and a crippled fishing industry because of the continued conflict with
Israel, the United Nations food agency warned today, as it distributes aid
to almost a quarter of a million of those most in need.
“Gaza's food security remains an issue of serious concern, the World Food
Programme (WFP) says. Naval restrictions continue to block all boats from
fishing off-shore, crippling the fishing industry,” UN spokesman Marie
Okabe told reporters in New York.
“Furthermore, Gaza's agricultural markets continue to suffer from access
restrictions. WFP is distributing food to 220,000 of the most vulnerable
people among Gaza’s non-refugee population.”
Also on the humanitarian front, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has
delivered five water tankers to municipalities in Gaza with damaged water
networks, and also stepped up support for vaccination services in the
northern West Bank, she added.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Wednesday that following an agreement
between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas on forming a unity
Government, the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East, which includes the
UN, will meet next week to discuss these developments and possible ways to
provide humanitarian assistance to the occupied territory.
International donors have baulked at funding the Hamas-led Palestinian
Government because it has yet to renounce violence and the continuing
conflict with Israel has led to what Mr. Annan described as a “very
desperate and serious situation” in the occupied territory.
The diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East – comprising the UN, United
States, European Union (EU) and the Russian Federation – are sponsoring the
Road Map plan for a two-State solution, with Israel and Palestine living
side by side in peace, however Mr. Annan has lamented its lack of progress.
Over the past few months there have been several high-level UN meetings on
the worsening plight of the Palestinians in the occupied territory and last
week a UN conference of Civil Society in Support of the Palestinian People
adopted a plan of action aimed at addressing their plight.
* * *
REVERSING ITS POLICY, UN AGENCY PROMOTES DDT TO COMBAT THE SCOURGE OF MALARIA
Nearly 30 years after safety concerns led to the phasing out of indoor
spraying with DDT and other insecticides to control malaria, the United
Nations health agency said today it will start promoting this method again
to fight the global scourge that kills more than one million people every
year, including around 3,000 children everyday.
“The scientific and programmatic evidence clearly supports this
reassessment. Indoor residual spraying is useful to quickly reduce the
number of infections caused by malaria-carrying mosquitoes,” said Dr Anarfi
Asamoa-Baah, World Health Organization (WHO) Assistant Director-General for
HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria.
“Indoor residual spraying has proven to be just as cost effective as other
malaria prevention measures, and DDT presents no health risk when used
properly.” Indoor residual spraying is the application of long-acting
insecticides on the walls and roofs of houses and domestic animal shelters.
“We must take a position based on the science and the data,” said Dr Arata
Kochi, Director of WHO’s Global Malaria Programme. “One of the best tools
we have against malaria is indoor residual house spraying. Of the dozen
insecticides WHO has approved as safe for house spraying, the most
effective is DDT.”
WHO actively promoted indoor residual spraying for malaria control until
the early 1980s when increased health and environmental concerns
surrounding DDT caused the organization to stop promoting its use and to
focus instead on other means of prevention. Extensive research and testing
has since demonstrated that well-managed indoor residual spraying
programmes using DDT pose no harm to wildlife or to humans, the agency said.
Views about the use of insecticides for indoor protection from malaria have
been changing in recent years. Environmental Defense, which launched the
anti-DDT campaign in the 1960s, now endorses the indoor use of DDT for
malaria control, as does the Sierra Club and the Endangered Wildlife Trust.
At a news conference today, the WHO also called on all malaria control
programmes around the world to develop and issue a clear statement
outlining their position on indoor spraying with long-lasting insecticides
such as DDT, specifying where and how spraying will be implemented in
accordance with WHO guidelines.
Every year, more than 500 million people suffer from acute malaria,
resulting in more than one million deaths. At least 86 per cent of these
deaths are in sub-Saharan Africa. Globally an estimated 3,000 children and
infants die from malaria every day and 10,000 pregnant women die from
malaria in Africa every year. Malaria disproportionately affects poor
people, with almost 60 percent of malaria cases occurring among the poorest
20 per cent of the world’s population.
* * *
UN ENVOY TO KOSOVO CONDEMNS BLAST THAT DAMAGED MINISTER’S CAR
The senior United Nations envoy to Kosovo strongly condemned an explosive
attack today which damaged the car of the Minister of Internal Affairs but
resulted in no injuries, saying the violence ran counter to the will of the
province’s people, who are seeking peaceful change.
“I am outraged at this criminal act,” said Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s
Special Representative in Kosovo, Joachim Rücker, referring to the blast
which damaged Fatmir Rexhepi’s private car while it was parked outside his
apartment in Gjilan/Gnjilane.
“At this critical juncture in Kosovo’s history, whereas the large majority
of the people and their political leadership are working on the positive
agenda of the status process, there are obviously some persons out there
who continue to espouse the path of violence,” he said.
“Their message is clearly the opposite of what Kosovo wishes to convey to
the world today as it lays the foundations for its peaceful and democratic
future. I am confident that Kosovo’s commitment to the rule of law will prevail.”
Mr. Rücker, who has requested a law enforcement probe, said he received
assurances from officials “that the police will spare no efforts to get to
the bottom of this.”
* * *
TURKMENISTAN: UN RIGHTS OFFICE URGES INDEPENDENT PROBE OF JOURNALIST’S DEATH IN PRISON
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
today expressed serious concern about the recent death of a journalist in a
Turkmenistan prison and urged the country’s authorities to launch a full
and independent investigation into what happened.
At a press briefing in Geneva, OHCHR spokesman José Luis Díaz said the
agency was “very disturbed” about the death of Ogulsapa Muradova, the
correspondent for Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe in Ashgabat, the
Ms. Muradova was arrested in June, tried before being sentenced at the end
of August to six years in prison in connection with illegal weapons after a
trial that was largely reported to be unfair, Mr. Díaz said.
He also expressed concern about the fate of two other people who were
convicted on the same charges at the same time and remain in custody.
Mr. Díaz urged the Turkmen authorities to conduct a thorough, prompt and
independent investigation into the cause of Ms. Muradova’s death, including
an independent medical examination of the body, and to make the findings public.
* * *
TANZANIA’S ANNA TIBAIJUKA NAMED DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF UN OFFICE AT NAIROBI
Anna Tibaijuka of Tanzania, the Executive Director of the United Nations
Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), was today named Director-General
of the UN Office in Nairobi.
Mrs. Tibaijuka, the highest ranking African woman in the UN system, will continue to head the Nairobi-based human settlements agency, where she hasbeen serving at the helm since 2000.
In June 2005, Secretary General Kofi Annan appointed Mrs. Tibaijuka as his
Special Envoy to study the scope of the Zimbabwean Government’s evictions
of informal traders and people deemed to be squatting illegally.
As Director-General, Mrs. Tibaijuka will serve as a direct link between the
UN, the Kenyan Government and the extensive diplomatic community in
Nairobi, and as the host of a wide variety of diplomatic gatherings and
peacebuilding initiatives that take place there.
* * *
DEADLY SMUGGLING OF REFUGEES FROM SOMALIA TO YEMEN PICKS UP PACE, UN AGENCY SAYS
More and more people are being smuggled across the Gulf of Aden from
Somalia to Yemen, the United Nations refugee agency, which has repeatedly
been warning of the dangers involved, said today.
“If the present trend continues, this month could set a new record for the
number of arrivals,” Ron Redmond, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR), told a press briefing in Geneva.
“These are desperate people – mainly Somalis but also large numbers of
Ethiopians – who are fleeing insecurity and poverty. For a fee of $40 each,
they are crammed into rickety, open fishing vessels. Many making the
hazardous voyage will not survive,” he said.
Those arriving on Wednesday reported that two male passengers had drowned
when they were forced overboard while still in deep water. Four were
reported to have drowned from the first boat to arrive this season in early
September, according to UNHCR.
The smugglers are operating from the commercial port of Bossasso in
Puntland, a self-declared autonomous area of north-east Somalia, over 300
kilometres from Yemen.
“UNHCR has worked in the region to inform people about the dangers and has
called on the international community to press authorities in Puntland to
crack down on smugglers,” said Mr. Redmond, noting that “hundreds die
before reaching shore each year.”
The agency has also asked donors to back international efforts to help in
Puntland, “where living conditions encourage acts like sailing to Yemen,” he added.
There are currently more than 88,000 registered refugees in Yemen, of whom
84,000 are Somalis. UNHCR operates a reception centre and camp in Yemen.
* * *
UN REFUGEE AGENCY APPEALS TO SYRIA FOR RELEASE OF THREE IRANIAN ARABS
Voicing “deep concern” about the fate of three Iranian Arabs being held in
Syria, the United Nations refugee agency today urged their release.
Before being taken into detention last May in Damascus, the three “Ahwazi”
people were recognized as refugees and had been accepted for resettlement
in Western European countries, according to the UN High Commissioner for
“We have been in regular contact with Syrian authorities in Damascus as
well as in Geneva to discuss the situation of the three men,” agency
spokesman Ron Redmond said, voicing “deep concern” about their fate. “Our
staff have been promised several times that they be able to meet with the
three detainees, but so far we have had no access despite numerous requests.”
Appealing for the immediate release of the three Ahwazi, Mr. Redmond said
UNHCR is “also calling on the Syrian authorities to refrain from
extraditing the three refugees to Iran, and instead to allow their
departure to their countries of resttlement.”
He added that the agency is “all the more concerned about these three
detained refugees following Syria's previous extradition to Iran of an
Arab-Iranian Ahwazi last May.” That individual had been recognized under
UNHCR's mandate at the end of 2005 and had been accepted for resettlement
to a third country but was arrested in March and detained by the Syrian
authorities until his extradition to Iran, where he is reportedly detained.
Ahwazi refugees arrived from Iran in Syria and Iraq at various times, most
recently in 2005 following a confrontation between members of the Ahwazi
community and government forces in the Ahwaz region.
Deportation of recognized refugees represents a violation of the principle
of non-refoulement or forced return, the agency pointed out. This principle
of customary international law prohibits states from returning a refugee or
asylum seeker to territories where there is a risk that his or her life or
freedom would be threatened on account of race, religion, nationality,
membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.
* * *
UN REFUGEE AGENCY SAYS SOUTH SUDAN REPATRIATION OPERATION THREATENED BY FUNDING GAP
The United Nations refugee agency today announced that without an urgent
infusion of funds from donors, its operations in Southern Sudan will have
to be drastically curtailed just as the repatriation of tens of thousands
of refugees from countries throughout the region begins to gain momentum.
The funding shortfall could mean suspending, postponing, reducing or
cancelling some South Sudan programmes by the end of this month, the agency
warned. Long-term, the operation is aimed at helping some of the 350,000
Sudanese refugees still in neighbouring countries to go home, and at
providing assistance in Sudan to some of the estimated 4 million internally displaced.
Of $65.9 million sought for the operation for 2006, the UN High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has received nearly $30 million and had
spent some $22 million of that by the end of July. The remainder is now
nearly depleted and only partially covers costs for August and September –
estimated at $15.8 million. And to meet the most critical needs for the
last quarter of the year, UNHCR requires an estimated $5.2 million a month.
Unless additional contributions are received soon, the agency will have to
take measures to avoid overspending. In addition to severe curbs on its
programmes, it may also have to close several offices and reduce staff in
the region. At present, UNHCR has a network of three sub-offices and nine
smaller field offices. It has 175 staff in the area.
High Commissioner António Guterres stressed the “urgency of additional
support to meet crucial needs” until the end of the year.
“We have dedicated available resources to improving conditions in targeted
return areas, which also contributes to the United Nations' overall
collaborative endeavours to stabilize Southern Sudan,” Mr. Guterres said of
UNHCR's operation. “It is crucial that this effort continue for the people
of Southern Sudan who have made the brave choice to return home and rebuild their lives.”
Since December 2005, UNHCR has helped over 12,000 Sudanese refugees to go
home from neighbouring countries. With the approaching end of the rainy
season, thousands more are expected to return by the end of the year with
the agency’s help. Together with other agencies, UNHCR also assisted 12,000
internally displaced Dinka Bor people return home, along with their 1.5
million head of cattle.
The signing of a Comprehensive Peace Agreement in January 2005 ended 21
years of war in the south and paved the way for the return of millions of
internally displaced people and refugees in surrounding countries. The
South Sudan repatriation operation is viewed as one of the few bright spots
in a strife-torn region struggling to cope with enormous suffering and
displacement – in Darfur, Chad, the Central African Republic and elsewhere.
* * *
RAPID RECOVERY IN LEBANON ALLOWS UN FOOD AGENCY TO WIND DOWN RELIEF EFFORT
Lebanon will soon be food secure again and its commercial sector is
bouncing back quicker than expected, paving the way for the withdrawal of
the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) from the country by the end
of October, according to a report issued today.
“I have to say, it’s a very positive development for us to be able to close a food aid programme and leave,” said WFP’s Emergency Coordinator in Lebanon, Zlatan Milisic.
Compiled from the findings of a two-week assessment mission across Lebanon
at the end of August and beginning of September, the WFP report also noted
that while some parts of the population still suffer the effects of war,
foodstuffs are available at affordable prices and nutritional levels are
good throughout the country.
Even in the south of Lebanon – the area worst hit by the recent conflict –
consumers are managing, the agency said. Limited product choice and price
hikes have failed to close down the market, which shows encouraging signs
of recovery from the combined effects of more than a month of hostilities
and the just-lifted Israeli naval blockade.
“All the indications were that the situation was improving fast after the
end of the fighting but, until the conclusion of this assessment, we didn’t
have enough hard evidence,” said Mr. Milisic.
“Now we have data giving a clear picture of people’s food needs over the
coming months. The general outlook is good and confirms our view that we
should not stay in Lebanon a moment longer than necessary.”
The assessment team noted that some population groups, however, are still
vulnerable and face continuing hardship. They include daily wage labourers,
fishermen and some farmers in the south of the country, particularly
growers of fruit, vegetables and cash crops such as tobacco. Major factors
in sustaining people in these categories will be the levels of support
offered by local communities and remittances sent by family members.
The report recommends that WFP continue its food assistance programme to
those most in need until 24 October – the date that will mark the end of
the three-month emergency operation launched by the agency after the
outbreak of war in July.
“We have done our best to assist the Government and the people of the
country – and we have been successful. Even at the height of the fighting,
we were operational, bringing relief supplies to those areas we could
access. Now the situation is stabilizing and people are resuming their
lives, it’s time for us to say goodbye,” said Mr. Milisic, welcoming this development.
WFP has reached more than 700,000 people since the start of its Emergency
Operation in July and is now targeting some 350,000 of the most affected
people in Lebanon, the majority of them in the south of the country and in
the southern suburbs of the capital.
In all, WFP has distributed an estimated 480,000 monthly rations and helped
the Government of Lebanon import 12,300 tons of wheat during the blockade
period. It also helped to move some 1,900 tons of humanitarian supplies in the country.
* * *
UN COMMISSION CHIEF IN BEIRUT SAYS LEBANON SHOULD STEER RECONSTRUCTION EFFORT
Returning to her Beirut headquarters following a disruption caused by the
34-day war between Israel and Hizbollah, the Executive Secretary of the
United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) has
stressed the need for Lebanon to steer the reconstruction process based on
a vision for the country’s development.
“I salute the Lebanese people for their solidarity in the face of this
destructive war,” Mervat Tallawy said on arrival Wednesday.
Since the start of the war, ESCWA documented the military operations and
their impact in detail, she recalled, pledging that the Commission will
also analyze the data gathered. “This will be a cautionary document that
serves as a reference point in the discussion of international laws that
need to protect the rights of civilians during armed conflicts,” she said.
Responding to questions, she said the death of civilians in Lebanon would
provide a push towards activating international laws concerned with
safeguarding children and civilians during armed conflicts.
Questioned whether the UN had plans to accomplish this, Ms. Tallawy said
that this demanded a great amount of collective effort on the part of
countries, governments and civil society organizations “because humanity is
for all nations and knows no boundaries.”
* * *