REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE
9 May 2014
Alessandra Vellucci, Chief of the Press and Public Relations Section of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing, which was also attended by Spokespersons for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Refugee Agency, the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization, the Human Rights Council, the World Food Programme and the United Nations Children’s Fund.
Jens Laerke of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said there would be a pledging conference in Oslo, Norway on 20 May for South Sudan. It would be hosted by Norway in coordination with OCHA. The gravity of the situation in South Sudan and the impact on neighbouring countries called for immediate life-saving actions, and they needed to increase the humanitarian funding and scale up delivery. There were almost 5 million people in need of aid; 1.2 million had been forced to flee their homes, many of them refugees. Due to the conflict, people were not able to cultivate their land, and this would increase food insecurity. Almost 1 million people could face famine if the situation did not change. The United Nations Coordinated Crisis Response Plan requested $ 1.3 billion, and it was currently only 40 per cent funded. The conference in Norway would be co-chaired by the Norwegian Foreign Minister and Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs. His press notes which would be sent out would include information on how journalists could get accreditation for this conference.
In response to a question Mr. Laerke said that this was not a new appeal, it was simply aimed at drawing more donors and more funds to the existing appeal, which was underfunded.
Rupert Colville of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said journalists should have received by now a press release by High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on South Sudan. The High Commissioner was commenting on a new UN report released yesterday by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) describing gross violations of human rights in South Sudan “on a massive scale,” including possible war crimes and crimes against humanity, which she said underscored the extreme urgency of bringing the conflict to an end. Ms. Pillay said she had already warned of the gravity of the situation after visiting South Sudan two weeks ago, but said the UNMISS report provided further proof of how extraordinarily dangerous the situation in South Sudan had become over the past five months. The report provided detailed accounts of ethnic-based mass killings and revenge attacks, including direct and deliberate murder of civilians, and a litany of other serious violations such as summary executions, rape and other forms of sexual violence, including sexual slavery.
The report, based on interviews with more than 900 victims, witnesses and others, illustrated just how quickly a political struggle within the ruling party was allowed – or even encouraged – to metamorphose into an ethnic-based conflict of the most lethal sort. The High Commissioner noted that, as former President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, she recognized many of the precursors of genocide: hate media including calls to rape women of a particular ethnic group; attacks on civilians in hospitals, churches and mosques; even attacks on people sheltering in UN compounds – all on the basis of the victims’ ethnicity. The High Commissioner noted that her own visit, and more recent ones by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, other senior UN officials and top politicians had helped draw attention to the urgency of the situation and put pressure on the leaders of both sides to enter serious peace negotiations as well as to stop their followers committing more serious violations. The High Commissioner said they needed to take immediate concrete actions to stop the killing, before the fires they had ignited brought the entire country down in flames.
In light of what this report revealed, there could no longer be any excuse for either President Salva Kiir or his chief opponent Dr Riek Machar continuing to avoid identifying and arresting their force commanders and other individuals implicated in the commission of serious violations, including war crimes and crimes against humanity. It was simply not credible that the Government was unaware who, among their commanders, was responsible for organizing the slaughter of more than 300 Nuer men herded into a government building in the Gudele neighbourhood of Juba on 16 December. Mr. Colville said this was on the second day after the fighting broke out, and details on this mass killing could be found on page 20 of the report.
Ms. Pillay’s press release said that likewise, it was not credible that Dr. Machar did not know which of his commanders instigated and led the mass killing of several hundred civilians in the mosque, hospital, market and other locations in Bentiu on 15 April. Mr. Colville said a description of that massacre could be found on page 47. In her press release, Ms. Pillay said that unfortunately these were only two of the many examples of the killing of civilians and other grave violations described in the UNMISS report.
The High Commissioner had urged, and continued to urge, both President Kiir and Dr. Machar to publicly, loudly and unequivocally denounce such acts by their fighters and other followers, and to make it clear that anyone committing such crimes would be arrested and prosecuted. As leaders, they had a clear obligation to prevent any further violations being committed by fighters under their command.
The UNMISS report noted how even members of the Fire Brigade and Wildlife Services had taken part in fighting and violations, which indicated just how pervasive the sense of total impunity was, and how urgently it needed to be addressed. The South Sudanese needed a credible and transparent accountability process to restore their confidence in the State and government.
The High Commissioner welcomed the increased attention given to South Sudan in recent weeks, including by the Security Council, which she briefed two days after leaving Juba. She called on the international community – especially regional powers and processes - to focus even more attention on the dire human rights situation in South Sudan as part of their efforts to stop the country from collapsing into catastrophe. Both leaders would apparently meet in Addis Ababa for peace talks today, for the first time since the fighting started last December. The High Commissioner called on them to make a concerted and genuine effort to bring these talks to a speedy and successful conclusion. In the meantime, they should call an immediate halt to the fighting.
Ms. Vellucci added that the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in South Sudan, Hilde Johnson, had also said that accountability was critical to end the legacy of impunity in the country and that there could be no reconciliation without it. A press release with more quotes from Ms. Johnson was also available.
A journalist regretted that the press release by the High Commissioner and the UNMISS report were not made available yesterday in Geneva, as they could have had a simultaneous release with Juba. He added that given the emphasis on accountability, the report was pretty unclear on the question of what mechanisms should be created to pursue the denunciations. Was there any further action or discussion underway at the moment about specific mechanisms that could be set up and time lines for setting them up? Responding, Mr. Colville said the report was issued by UNMISS in Juba, and technically it was not a joint UNMISS and OHCHR report. So the decision was taken that OHCHR would pick it up today, when the peace talks would hopefully start. Mr. Colville understood the journalist’s complaint, but the report was powerful enough to warrant more than one day’s attention. On accountability, this was a huge issue in South Sudan. Recommendation five on the last page, actually highlighted that issue, that there needed to be a credible legal framework established, the capacity of judicial and law enforcement institutions needed to be enhanced, and their independence respected. That recommendation implied that none of that had actually happened. The report also made an interesting recommendation that if the government proved unwilling or unable to pursue genuine accountability, a special hybrid tribunal with international involvement should be considered. That was similar to what had been proposed for the Central African Republic.
A journalist said the report made a point that there was not much interest in accountability from the Government, so was this a concrete proposal for a joint tribunal, and were there discussions underway on how this could be set up? Mr. Colville said this was not a decision that a report like this could make on its own. It would need major international backing. There was a possibility that the authorities could get their act together and start prosecuting cases properly in South Sudan, so space was left for them to do that.
Answering a question on whether Ms. Pillay was saying that the two leaders were personally responsible for war crimes, Mr. Colville said before a comment like that could be made, there had to be a proper investigation and there should be proof to back up this very serious allegation. Both leaders told the High Commissioner that they had launched investigations into these events.
It was probable, even likely, that some more minor events could take place without the top command being aware of them. The report included the two mentioned attacks, as well as a litany on attacks on churches, the UNMISS camp, repeated attacks in Malakal and killings, lots of horrendous events. The two that were focused on in the press release were two of the biggest. It was very hard to see that the leading commanders were not aware of the two main attacks. At the same time, to prove a case of war crimes and crimes against humanity, one needed to prove knowledge, ability to prevent and other issues like those detailed on page 55 of the UMISS report, such as that a crime needed to be widespread and systematic.
Mr. Colville expressed the hope that the meeting between the two leaders could lead to something swiftly. Maybe this was a product of all the pressure that had been going on in the past two weeks, as the two leaders had shown no sign of talking when the High Commissioner was in South Sudan. Maybe this was a glimmer of hope that the peace talks would take off as the pressure on both sides was really intense.
Asked if OHCHR had any account on the total number of people having been killed for ethnic reasons in this conflict in South Sudan, Mr. Colville said they did not. If they looked at the report, it contained thorough investigations and some figures. However, South Sudan was very big, there were only dirt roads which were impassable when the rains started. It was a huge area and villages were isolated. There had almost certainly been things going on in smaller villages and other parts of the country that OHCHR was not aware of, and that was why there were no proper casualty figures. However, from the list of attacks in the report, there were clearly thousands of casualties.
Responding to more questions on qualifications of war crimes and crimes against humanity, Mr. Colville said the killing of a single person could be a war crime; it all depended on the nature of the crime. However, war crimes were a little bit easier to prove than crimes against humanity, as the latter had to be widespread and systematic, and motivation and intent had to be proved. He referred journalists to page 55 of the report. There was no doubt that war crimes had been committed in South Sudan as the conflict had been going on. Crimes against humanity were more difficult to prove, but given the repeated targeting of people for ethnic reasons, they were very much in the area of crimes against humanity: systematic, intentional, deliberate, organized killings of people on the basis of some aspect of their identity.
Mr. Colville said OHCHR was clearly casting doubt on the idea that the two leaders did not know the identity of the people who had carried out the attacks. Both sides continued to blame each other for the worst crimes, and did not accept blame themselves. The International Criminal Court had laid down the criteria for commander responsibility, it could be actually ordering crimes, it could be knowing that they were happening and not preventing them, and a range of other criteria, but this all had to be proved. It was for a court to do this, and before that, there had to be an investigation, and they were a long way from that.
In response to another question, Mr. Colville said an element of genocide was targeting people on the basis of their race. Genocide was even more difficult to prove than crimes against humanity, as intent to destroy in whole or in part a people had to be proved. There were elements of this in South Sudan, such as the radio broadcast in Bentu calling on people to rape Dinka women and the use of hate radio. That was not the only example. Genocide was a term used far too widely and easily, there had been very few cases in history where genocide was officially declared, and only a court could do that. This was a term the High Commissioner used very rarely, but the fact that she was prepared to use it in this case was a measure of how grave she saw the situation.
Mr. Colville of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said that the murder of prominent human rights lawyer Rashid Khan Rehman in Pakistan this week had brought into stark focus the climate of intimidation and threats that permeated the work of human rights defenders and journalists in the country. Mr. Rehman, who had worked with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan for more than 20 years, and had also been on the Board of Amnesty International, had received numerous death threats for working on the defence case for a university lecturer charged under the country’s blasphemy laws. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan last month urged the Government to investigate the threats that had reportedly been made to Mr. Rehman and to take effective measures to ensure his safety. Sadly, he was gunned down in his office in Multan, Punjab Province on Wednesday.
During her visit to Pakistan in June 2012, the High Commissioner was already expressing concern about the many journalists, human rights advocates and public officials who had been subjected to death threats for their opposition to the blasphemy law and urged the Government to take all appropriate protective measures to ensure that their security and work was not compromised. OHCHR condemned the killing of Mr. Rehman and urged the Government to ensure a prompt investigation and to bring the perpetrators to justice. Pakistani authorities had the responsibility to ensure that human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists were able to carry out their work without fear of intimidation, harassment and violence.
Pakistan prided itself on its vibrant, free media, but there had also been a worrying number of attacks and threats in recent months against television presenters, other journalists as well as human rights defenders, particularly those expressing views critical of the military or security establishments. During its most recent Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review in October 2012, Pakistan’s Government accepted recommendations to make further efforts to prevent attacks against journalists and human rights defenders and to effectively investigate such acts and prosecute the perpetrators. OHCHR urged the Government to redouble its efforts to prevent and investigate such attacks, whether committed by State or non-State actors, and to send a strong message that perpetrators would be held accountable.
On Pakistan, Ms. Vellucci said the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Kung wha-Kong, had just wrapped up a visit to this country and she had expressed the need for more support to millions of people affected by insecurity, natural disasters and chronic malnutrition in the country.
Mr. Colville of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said that OHCHR was concerned at renewed violence in Venezuela in the context of demonstrations against the government. On Wednesday night and early Thursday, Venezuelan troops rounded up more than 200 youth movement protesters who had been camping peacefully outside the UNDP offices in Caracas and other parts of the city. According to official figures, a total of 243 people were arrested. The government had claimed that the camps were being used as bases for staging violent protests, and that they had found Molotov cocktails, arms and drugs there.
The majority of those detained, who included 18 minors and one pregnant woman, had reportedly been taken to Tiuna military premises. Lawyers and families had complained about lack of information about the whereabouts of those detained as well as lack of access to them. Hundreds of other demonstrators took to the streets to protest against the arrests of the youths and the dismantling of the camps. Barricades were set up and roads blocked. A policeman was shot dead and three others reportedly injured during clashes. Protesters were also reportedly injured. Further arrests were reported throughout Caracas yesterday evening.
OHCHR was also concerned at reports of violence and attacks -- usually started by armed individuals -- in and around Venezuelan universities, which had been taking place since the beginning of the week. The Library of the Fermin Toro University in Barquisimeto was set on fire, and police used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse demonstrations inside and outside the premises of the Catholic University in Puerto Ordaz.
OHCHR unequivocally condemned all violence by all sides in Venezuela. OHCHR was particularly concerned at the reported excessive use of force by the authorities in response to protests. OHCHR therefore reiterated the High Commissioner's call to the Government to ensure that people were not penalised for exercising their rights to peaceful assembly and to freedom of expression and for sustained and inclusive, peaceful dialogue based on Venezuela's human rights obligations.
Answering a question, Mr. Colville said that OHCHR did not have an office in Venezuela, but people did contact OHCHR and reported about the situation. OHCHR had talked publicly about it before, which had brought quite a few people, families and lawyers, to provide the Office with information on protestors. OHCHR had a regional office in Panama and it had representatives in neighbouring countries as well. There were other UN agencies who were present in Venezuela, so OHCHR was in touch with UNDP and others.
On the possibility for OHCHR to send a human rights officers to Venezuela, Mr. Colville said it was not so easy as the Office needed to have the Government’s agreement.
Adrian Edwards of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said that the Agency shared the great alarm also expressed by others at the recent wave of attacks on civilians in northeast Nigeria. The brutality and frequency of those attacks over the last few months was unprecedented. They had seen reports of multiple kidnappings and deaths and this had created population displacement both inside Nigeria and into neighbouring countries. From refugees and internally displaced people alike, UNHCR was hearing reports of extreme violence, and people were showing clear signs of distress and fear. Some had witnessed friends of family members who had been singled out and killed in the streets. People spoke of homes and fields being burned to the ground, villages completely razed, and grenades being launched into crowded markets, killing people and livestock. There was mention of people being caught in fighting between insurgents and the armed forces, arbitrary arrests under the suspicion of belonging to insurgent groups, and other serious alleged crimes, including, reportedly, summary executions.
Terrorized students who had survived attacks on their schools in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states had told UNHCR how they saw friends being killed or kidnapped. From media reports, the April 14 abduction of more than 200 girls in a school in Chibok in Borno states was clearly just one in a series of similar kidnappings from students in northeast Nigeria in recent months - may be the largest one, but they did not have the full picture.
Next week would see the first anniversary of Nigeria’s declaration of a state of emergency in its northeast states. In all 250,000 people were now internally displaced. Some 61,000 others had fled to neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger. About a third of these were Nigerians who had been made refugees by the crisis, but the others were those who had been working in Nigeria and had been forced to return to their home countries.
Mr. Edwards said the situation in southern Niger was particularly difficult, as poor security and remoteness were compounding the difficulties of providing humanitarian help. In the Diffa region, just across the border from Nigeria, between 700 and 1,000 people were arriving every week. These people were fleeing attacks by insurgents or out of fear of retaliatory action by the armed forces. UNHCR teams in the area said 1,500 people had recently arrived in a single village in the South of Diffa town following an attack on the other side of the border by six insurgents on 20 April. Some lost everything in the attack: 35 houses and 25 shops had been burned, food stocks had been set on fire, and two men were wounded. At present, the refugees were staying in abandoned houses that would be at risk of flooding when the rainy season started in a couple of months from now. UNHCR was working with its partners to try to relocate people.
Including the Diffa region and villages and other sites on Lake Chad, UNHCR and its partner the International Rescue Committee had registered 15,700 people over the past six weeks. These were people who had fled the attacks of recent months, mainly in Borno state. UNHCR was monitoring the situation for possible new displacement in light of the ongoing military operations against the insurgents. A secondary potential worry about new displacement was across the border in Borno state in Cameroon’s Far North Region. Media reports said that more than 100 people had been killed during a market day attack in Gamboru Ngala town in Borno state last Monday. Some 6,800 Nigerian refugees had arrived in the Far North Region since May 2013. Around 2,500 had been relocated. In Chad, smaller numbers were seen arriving from Nigeria, including 550 persons over the past year.
Ms. Vellucci said that yesterday, the UN Secretary-General had spoken with President Jonathan Goodluck who had accepted the Secretary-General’s offer to send a high-level representative to Nigeria to discuss how the United Nations can better support the Government’s to tackle the internal challenges.
In response to questions on other kidnappings of students, and on whether the six insurgents attacking a village in the South of Diffa town belonged to Boko Haram or another insurgent group, Mr. Edwards said UNHCR’s main visibility on what was happening there was coming from accounts from refugees on the one hand and from media reports in the region. Indeed, UNHCR did not have presence in the northeast because of the state of emergency, so they were relying on information they were hearing from others. On the kidnappings, they were looking at accounts appearing in Nigerian and other media, or that they got from partners. On whether the insurgents belong to Boko Haram or others, to UNHCRs knowledge, it was mainly Boko Haram, but he did not have any further detail.
Elisabeth Byrs of World Food Programme (WFP) said that she had just received the latest figures for the WFP food distribution to Syrian people. In March already, WFP had reached 4.1 million people assistance. In April, WFP food assistance reached 3.9 million people inside Syria. This decrease was due to the fighting that prevented food deliveries to Ar-Raqqa and Deir Ezzor. The target for May was still 4.2 million people. During April, WFP sent food to 67,600 people in hard-to-reach areas, most of them in areas controlled by the opposition. On 24 April, 17 trucks loaded with 9,500 WFP family food rations and 7,150 bags of fortified wheat flour had reached the town of Talbiseh in rural Homs. The assistance was handed over to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent for distribution; it was sufficient to assist 47,500 people, out of the 58,000 people in need estimated to be living in Talbiseh. Some of the areas already hit by the conflict, mainly Aleppo, Idleb and Hama in the northwest of Syria, were also facing a looming drought, with rainfall less than half of the long-term average. This would also have a serious impact on the next cereal harvest and the food security of the people in those areas.
Ms. Byrs also drew the attention of journalists to the growing internally displaced persons inside Syria. WFP was doing its best to help those people. Fighting in several areas, including north- and south-western Aleppo, Quneitra, Dar’a and central Hama had resulted in large-scale population displacements. In the last few weeks, more than 120,000 people had fled to the relatively safe areas of Idleb. WFP was allocating more food assistance to the areas receiving displaced families.
Regarding the funding, WFP needed to raise $ 41 million every week to meet the food needs of people affected by the conflict both in Syria and in neighbouring countries. WFP required $ 186 million from May to June to feed displaced Syrians inside Syria and refugees in neighbouring countries. Altogether, WFP needed to raise $ 949 million until the end of the year to feed the WFP target of 4.2 million people in Syria and over 2.9 million in neighbouring countries. There were more details in the briefing notes.
Answering to a question about the internally displaced persons, Ms. Byrs said that people were moving from one location to another safer place all the time, and WFP needed to reach those displaced people, whose estimated number was 6.5 million.
Central African Republic
Christophe Boulierac of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said he wished to share with journalists the results of a recent study produced by UNICEF and its partners concerning the situation of education in the Central African Republic. According to the study, the educational system in the Central African Republic was on its knees. The report was based on a telephone survey among 355 schools in 16 “prefectures” in Central African Republic. The survey was carried out in February 2014 by the country Education Cluster, led by UNICEF with the participation of the Ministry of Education, the World Food Programme and non-governmental organizations.
Mr. Boulierac highlighted three essential results of the survey. First, the findings painted a grim general picture. On average, since October 2013, schools in the Central African Republic had been open for only four weeks because of the destruction of the classrooms and the absence of professors, among others. Second, one third of the 355 schools consulted for the study had been attacked during recent months, either being looted, burned, or occupied by armed groups. Third, there was a drop of the school enrolment rates. One third of the children enrolled in schools last year did not go back to school this year. This was a very worrying situation for the Central African Republic and for other neighbouring countries, and the security problem was the main reason for that.
Only a limited number of development partners worked in the educational sector in Central African Republic. Also, the start of the rainy season would become an obstacle for the delivery of the urgently needed educational materials. In this context, UNICEF and its partners had established 120 temporary learning places in conflict affected areas of Bangui. Some 23,000 children and adolescents between the ages of three and 18 were benefiting from these temporary learning places, where they learned mathematics and French among other subjects, and where they could play sports and receive socio--psychological support.
WHO/Report on Alcohol and Health/MERS Coronavirus
Tarik Jasarevic of the World Health Organization (WHO) reminded journalists of the press conference on Monday, 12 May at 1:30 p.m. in press room 1 on the global report on alcohol and health. This morning, WHO had sent the embargoed report to journalists in pdf form, but it was a big file, so if anyone had not received it they should contact him. The press release on the report would be sent on Monday morning, 12 May. He would try to print some copies of the report and get them to journalists. The report was embargoed until 1:30 p.m. on Monday 12 May 2014.
Mr. Jasarevic said that on Tuesday, 13 May, the Emergency Committee would convene for a fifth meeting on the MERS coronavirus. There would be a press conference after the meeting at WHO with Dr. Keiji Fukuda, but he could not tell journalists at exactly what time because it depended on how long the meeting went on. They did expect the press conference to be in the evening, and journalists would be informed as soon as possible. The last meeting of the Emergency Committee on MERS coronavirus was in December 2013. The recent increase in cases, as well as an increase of public concern and questions on whether the virus had changed, had prompted the meeting.
In response to questions, Mr. Jasarevic said that the meeting of the Emergency Committee should end on the same Tuesday. He could not say whether the Committee would decide to reconvene again or what kind of decisions might come at the end of the day. Asked on how many cases of MERS coronavirus had been confirmed in Lebanon, Mr. Jasarevic said he would have to get back to the journalist on that.
Answering a question about the many reports that WHO was launching, Mr. Jasarevic confirmed that next week would be busy: the global report on alcohol and health on Monday, the MERS coronavirus meeting on Tuesday, a briefing on adolescent health on Wednesday and the World Health Statistics to be issued on Thursday, 15 May (journalists would get more information on the latter today). World Health Statistics included country profiles and contained information on life expectancy, non-communicable diseases, indicators, mortality and morbidity figures, etc.
A journalist asked for highlights on the upcoming World Health Assembly and Mr. Jasarevic said his colleague would come on Tuesday, 13 May to brief journalists about the Assembly, which would be starting on Monday, 19 May. A media advisory was being prepared right now.
Human Rights Council
Rolando Gomez of the Human Rights Council said the nineteenth session of the Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group would be concluding today with the adoption of two more reports this afternoon for Qatar and Nicaragua. In total, the Universal Periodic Review Working Group reviewed 14 States this session, which began last Monday, bringing the total number of States reviewed by the Working Group for its second cycle to 98, just past the halfway mark to review all 193 United Nations Member States. All United Nations Member States had undergone this process once under the first cycle. In total, the 14 States reviewed this session received just under 2,700 recommendations, or an average of 190 recommendations each. Of these 2,700, just about 1,200 recommendations were accepted initially, which was a significant sign as to the seriousness that these States attached to the process. The next step was to follow-in order up to ensure that the accepted recommendations would be implemented.
Mr. Gomez reminded journalists that the twenty-sixth regular session of the Human Rights Council would be held from 10 to 27 June. Next week, the Secretariat would launch a webpage for this session, which would contain many of the reports that would be considered during the session. He also recalled that the Council had appointed 19 mandate holders to fill vacancies and one new post for independent human rights experts, otherwise referred to as the Special Procedures. These new mandate holders would assume their new roles during the first week of June and would complement the Special Procedure system, which included 51 thematic and country specific mandates reporting periodically to the Council. A press release listing the names and titles of the new mandate holders had been sent to journalists yesterday.
A journalist said UN Watch was very upset that the wife of Richard Falk, the former Special Rapporteur on the Palestinian Territories Occupied since 1967, had been appointed yesterday as the Special Rapporteur on the right to food and asked for comment. Mr. Gomez said he was aware of this complaint and it was the right of any organization to make such a complaint. The process of the appointment of the 19 new mandate holders was finalized and approved yesterday. As voiced yesterday in the public meeting, there was controversy over a number of issues on both geographical and gender balance. These appointments had been subject to much negotiation and transparency; all regional groups had been considered and the Consultative Group of five Ambassadors, chaired by the Ambassador of Canada, had put forth these names. So it can be said that the appointments did undergo a very thorough, transparent process, which had come to an end at this stage.
Any independent expert appointed by the United Nations had to meet requirements and had to have expertise in the area that they were reporting on. A lot of factors were weighed in, including geographical and gender factors, but chief among all the factors was expertise in the areas on which the experts were reporting. The Consultative Group that made the proposals, which were endorsed by the President yesterday, had gone though many candidates. Journalists could see all the candidates who were considered in a public document and the reasons for the choice of the appointed candidates. This was a very transparent process. The list was available in a link that was mentioned in the press release issued yesterday.
OCHA Press Conferences on Syria and Somalia
Jens Laerke of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said there would be two OCHA press conferences today : at 12:30 in Room III with John Ging, Director for Operations of OCHA, who would talk about the humanitarian crisis and regional implications of the Syrian conflict; at 3 p.m. in press room 1, there would be a press conference by Philippe Lazzarini, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Somalia, who would brief about the humanitarian situation and challenges in this country.
A journalist said all the humanitarian coordinators were going to meet in Montreux from Monday to Wednesday, and she asked Mr. Jens Laerke of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs if he was going to organize briefings with them for the Geneva press. Mr. Laerke said he was doing that, they had had the Humanitarian Coordinators for Jordan and Somalia and others might speak to the press, too.
Asked if a briefing with the Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria could be arranged, Mr. Laerke said he would check.
A journalist asked Mr. Rupert Colville of the Office of the High-Commissioner for Human Rights for an update on how many candidates had submitted their names to succeed to High Commissioner Navi Pillay, where their biographies could be found and when the Secretary-General would make his decision. Mr. Colville said that this was entirely in the hands of the Secretary-General.
A journalist asked if next week’s report on Ukraine would be sent under embargo to journalists, and if a press conference would be organized. Mr. Colville said that none of this had quite been decided but he would let journalists know on Monday.
World Trade Organization
Melissa Begag of the World Trade Organization said that on Monday, 12 May, there would be the General Council at 10 a.m. followed by a briefing in Room A of WTO. Also at 10 a.m. on Monday, the Committee on Customs Valuation would be meeting. On Thursday, 15 May, the Committee on Market Access would start at 10 a.m. As for Director-General Roberto Azevêdo, on Tuesday, he would be in Berlin where he would meet with Chancellor Merkel and heads of international organizations. He would also address the Federation of German Industries. On Thursday, Mr. Azevêdo would meet with Ministers and business representatives in Seoul, Republic of Korea, and would deliver lectures at Seoul National University and the Institute for Global Economics. On Friday, Mr. Azevêdo would arrive at the APEC Trade Ministers meeting in Qingdao, China.
Ms. Vellucci said the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights today was considering the report of the Czech Republic. Next week, the Committee would be reviewing the reports of Uzbekistan on Tuesday, El Salvador on Wednesday and Serbia on Thursday. The Committee has already reviewed the reports of Ukraine, Indonesia, Monaco, Lithuania, Armenia and China during the session.
This afternoon the Committee against Torture was hearing the responses of Cyprus to questions raised by Committee experts yesterday morning. Lithuania would be presenting its report on Monday, and this would be the last report that the Committee was considering at this session. The Committee has already considered the reports of Uruguay, Thailand, Sierra Leone, Holy See, Guinea and Montenegro during this session.
The Conference on Disarmament would resume its work next week and the first plenary would be at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, 13 May in the Council Chamber. This was the second part of the 2014 session of the Conference, and it would go on from 12 May to 27 June.
Ms. Vellucci reminded journalists that the International Labour Organization would be giving a press conference at 10 a.m. on Monday, 12 May in press room 1 to launch the study: "Maternity and paternity at work: Law and practice across the world ". ILO had already spoken to journalists about the study, which was under embargo until Tuesday, 13 May at 00:01 GMT.
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The representative of the International Labour Organisation and the International Organisation for Migration, attended the briefing, but did not brief.
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The webcast for this briefing is available here: … http://bit.ly/1sufnOt