ACCESSIBILITY AT UNOG A A A A The United Nations in the Heart of Europe

REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE

REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE
5 August 2014

Alessandra Vellucci, Chief of the Press and External Relations Section of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing, which was attended by the Spokespersons for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the United Nations Refugee Agency, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the International Organization for Migration, the World Health Organization and the World Food Programme.

Gaza

Pernille Ironside, for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), speaking over the phone from the Gaza Strip, explained that she had been present in Gaza for a year and for the entire duration of the latest escalation.

Ms. Ironside stated that there was some reason for optimism with the commitment to the 72-hour truce starting at 8 a.m, but exchanges of fire could be heard just before 8. UNICEF was waiting and hoping for some positive signs but at the same time she stressed that ceasefire alone was not enough. It was really necessary that the blockade of Gaza was lifted and there was a more sustainable remedy for the Palestinians in Gaza.

Presenting the situation of children in Gaza, Ms. Ironside stated that, even before the latest conflict, most of the school-age children were required to be in school for only four hour per day because schools had to run double shifts as there were an insufficient number of schools in Gaza and no possibility of building additional schools due to insufficient land and difficult access to building material. In addition, there were electricity cuts and water shortages across the Gaza Strip day and night.

Ms. Ironside explained that even for those who managed to finish school, the perspectives of getting a job were very limited because of the economic situation. The overall unemployment rate was 41,5 per cent, but for those under 29 it was even higher and stood at 59 per cent. A child over the age of 7 had already lived through two wars in 2009 and 2012.

In the present conflict, Ms. Ironside said over 392 children had been killed. There was not a family in the Gaza Strip which had not been affected either through a direct loss, demolition of property or displacement. The impact on children could not be overestimated. Ms. Ironside said that she had visited hospitals and seen some of the surviving children who saw their siblings and other family members die before their eyes. About 370,000 children in Gaza had had some kind of direct traumatic experience and required immediate psycho-social support.

According to Ms. Ironside, the overall situation was extremely difficult and no UN agency could fully cope with such a sudden massive displacement of population. Ms. Ironside said that the humanitarian community was doing its best through, for example, the delivery of survival kits, the installation of water points and the provision of all kinds of support, food and other life-saving necessities; but at the same time the UN and the humanitarian community were finding it difficult to cope with the existing situation.

UNICEF warned that children faced all kinds of communicable diseases that had to be contained as best as possible. Some communities did not have access to the drinking water and were in a terrible state, which could cause the death of children, particularly of those under the age of five. The Gaza power station had been damaged by multiple strikes; 8 out of 10 electrical feeder lines had been damaged. Electricity was required not only for the luxury of having one’s light on but also for the pumping of water stations, waterfalls, sewage pumping stations, sewage treatment plants; all the infrastructural services that were not functioning at the moment. She mentioned that she had personally visited several sanitation facilities that were directly struck, and highlighted that it was not a matter of repairing but completely rebuilding the infrastructure. She said that the impact on the population as a whole was truly devastating and that children were the most vulnerable group.

Answering a question about cost estimates, the time it would take for reconstruction and the responsibility to pay for the damages, assuming that the fighting stopped, Ms. Ironside said that an early recovery group was meant to be looking at the cost of reconstruction. Only keeping the families who had lost their homes in some kind of shelter over the next year would cost around USD 40 – 50 million. The total cost of recovery and reconstruction would probably be several hundreds of millions of USD. She added that the question on who should be paying should be closely considered.

In response to a journalist who underlined the fact that the Israeli authorities could decide again not to let building materials enter Gaza, Ms Ironside said that it was indeed a crucial question. She pointed out the fact that there were people just finishing rebuilding their homes in 2014 from 2009 when their homes were destroyed again. A new system needed to be established with different rules of engagement that would hopefully include permission to bring materials into the Gaza strip.

Answering a question on the scale of destruction, Ms. Ironside said there was no doubt about the impact of this conflict, and asserted that the thousands of missiles that destructed Gaza over the past months had far surpassed even the combined impacts of the two previous escalations, both on the population and in terms of the impact on the infrastructure. The cost was certainly far greater than anything people had seen before; the international community could not accept that it was going to engage the rebuilding of Gaza on the same terms than before.

To a journalist asking what an average person could do to try to help given that there was little access to the area, Ms. Ironside suggested that every citizen of the world had a voice and that it was very important that people voiced their opposition to what had happened there, and what continued to happen. She said then there were also many organizations who were doing good work in terms of relief and recovery assistance to which people could contribute, either financially or through their skills.

On a question about what the future of a baby born in Gaza today would be, Ms. Ironside said that the future for children in Gaza, whether infants or conscious of what had been happening around them, was extraordinarily bleak. The entire population had experienced serious shocks. People had lost entire strands of their family in one blow. There was now a deep wound one had to consider healing, as part of the investment in the reconstruction and the future of Gaza. The situation should not be allowed to revert to what it had been before the new escalation, an entire closure of this 1.8 million people with no access to an economy, import and an export of goods, no movement of people outside the borders. The international community had a responsibility not to allow that to happen. The accountability and the investment opportunities were needed for Gaza and the rest of Palestine to be able to run their affairs, while Israel’s security concerns had to be assured.

Answering to a question on what could be done, especially for children, Ms. Ironside said that the best thing would be to establish a permanent ceasefire ending the violence once and for all. UNICEF would continue to deliver supplies to displaced persons and to have their psycho-social teams on the ground doing their utmost to reach out to all the families impacted by personal loss. While those were important and necessary responses, there would need to be an overall solution.

Answering another question, Ms. Ironside said that rockets had been discovered in UN installations on three occasions, which was a clear violation of the sanctity of schools and of the UN installations. Such a context required an investigation that would look in all dimensions of the conflict in a transparent manner leading to the truth as to what had taken place, and hopefully to justice and accountability.

Elisabeth Byrs, for the World Food Programme (WFP), informed that as of 3 August, the WFP had reached almost 312,000 conflict-affected people in Gaza with emergency food assistance. That was an increase of more than 56,000 people since 31 July.

WFP in cooperation with UNRWA had begun a large scale effort to bring fresh bread to people in shelters. The aim was to bring 10 metric tons of bread from Jerusalem to Gaza each day. That relieved the significant pressure on Gaza bakeries who had power outages, damaged infrastructure, a lack of fuel and security constraints. The bread was also a key element of the ready-to-eat food for people in shelters. Bakers in the West Bank might join the effort in the coming days adding another 10 metric tons of bread daily to the Jerusalem quantity.

A total of 12 WFP trucks had crossed Kerem Shalom crossing on 3 August, with canned meat, milk, biscuits, wheat flour and fresh bread produced in Jerusalem. WFP was assisting approximately 270,000 displaced people in 95 UNRWA shelters and around 15,700 displaced people at 19 public shelters with emergency food rations. WFP was reaching approximately 2,040 patients and hospital staff with emergency food rations.

WFP had reached a total of 4,000 families (almost 13,700 people) staying in host communities with emergency electronic food vouchers. That was an increase of more than 1,700 families since 31 July. The vouchers had an overall value of approximately USD 128 per month, for an average family of six.

Families could use the voucher to buy locally produced food at local shops and after the launch of a WFP-UNICEF partnership, families also had the option to buy water and sanitation products. Of WFP’s 60 voucher shops in Gaza, 25 shops had been closed on 3 August, due to security conditions, destruction or damage. WFP was working to add additional voucher shops to its programme.

Regarding funding, Ms, Byrs said that the WFP required USD 48 million for its humanitarian response in Gaza for a period of three months. For its regular food assistance, WFP required USD 20 million for Gaza and USD 15 million for the West Bank.

Tarik Jašareviæ, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that one third of the hospitals and numerous other facilities had been damaged in the fighting. At least 40 per cent of the medical staff were currently unable to get to their place of work. Critical supplies of medicine were almost depleted. More information was available on the WHO’s regional website.

Ms. Vellucci referred to the statement by the Spokesperson of the Secretary-General of 4 August 2014 welcoming the efforts leading to the new ceasefire in Gaza.

Answering a question, Ms. Vellucci stated that the United Nations was doing all it could in Gaza under the current circumstances, and had a strong presence on the ground. The United Nations had repeatedly called for cessation of hostilities. Ms. Vellucci reminded that the previous month the Human Rights Council had adopted a resolution on Gaza.

Answering another question, Ms. Vellucci reiterated that on numerous occasions the UN Secretary-General had expressed himself on the issue of Gaza. All statements were available on the UN website. Just recently, he had stressed that the ongoing “madness” ought to be stopped.

Ukraine

Vincent Cochetel, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), said that he had just returned from Russia and Ukraine. On 23 July, the International Committee of the Red Cross had declared that the conflict in Ukraine was a “non-international armed conflict”. Mr. Cochetel said that he was quite struck at the scope of the destruction he had witnessed in east Ukraine.

There was no unified central registration system for internally displaced persons. UNHCR estimated that over 117,000 people were currently displaced inside Ukraine, mostly women and children, as many men preferred not to be registered. The estimate was a low one and did not capture the full scale of displacement. In the previous seven days more than 6,200 people had been forced from their homes. As of 1 August, an estimated 168,000 people had also crossed into Russia.

The number of people displaced from the Luhansk and Donetsk regions had risen sharply since early June from 2,600 to 102,600 in early August. People from eastern Ukraine now made up 87 per cent of the total displaced population in Ukraine; those from Crimea now numbered some 15,200 people.

Mr. Cochetel said that people were fleeing eastern Ukraine with limited belongings and increasing difficulties, including access to banking services. Basic services and infrastructure had been heavily affected by the increased violence, with scarcity of drinking water now becoming increasingly common. Many houses and buildings had been partially or totally destroyed in the areas affected by conflict in Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

UNHCR was also seeing a mixed picture of displacement with a significant increase of people fleeing violence around Horlivka, Donetsk and Luhansk (an average of 1,200 persons per day), as well as a substantial numbers of returns to areas where the Ukrainian government has regained control.

According to local authorities, some 4,000 persons had reportedly returned from Kharkiv region to Slavyansk and Kramatorsk during the previous seven days. Some 20,000 people have reportedly returned to Slavyansk since 5 July.

Mr. Cochetel stated that those displaced cited security concerns, including the risk of being caught in crossfire as the main reason for leaving their homes. Some people also expressed fears of persecution for their political views, ethnicity or forcible recruitment by Government or anti-Government forces. Some were reporting having experienced or heard of incidents of abduction, extortion and harassment in their neighbourhoods. Other reasons people cited for being forced to flee included damage to their homes, lack of services and damage to basic infrastructure in the region.

UNHCR called for the establishment by the Ukrainian government of a central registration system of internally displaced people. The current lack of a systematic and uniform system hampered the coordination and implementation of relief efforts. That was also important as the Ukrainian authorities made their preparations for winter. Most of the current shelters in use were not suitable for the cold winter months.

Most internally displaced people were still hosted by friends, families or were renting accommodation. UNHCR had started a cash assistance programme to support more than 700 internally displaced people in Lviv and Vinnytsia regions.

The previous week, the UNHCR had signed a cooperation agreement with Donetsk regional authorities to open a field office in Mariupol to support Government officials and coordinate the distribution of aid to the most vulnerable internally displaced people. The first delivery of hygienic and food items had taken place on 1 August to the town of Yalta, Pervomaisk district, and another shipment was planned in the coming days for the Pryazovskiy district in the south of Donetsk region that hosted more than 20,000 displaced people.

Mr. Cochetel said that most Ukrainians leaving their country were not applying for refugee status. They often sought other legal status. Some feared applying for refugee status would lead to complications and they considered the alternatives available a better temporary solution. According to Russian authorities, from 1 January to 1 August, 168,677 people applied to the Federal Migration Service for different kinds of protective status. Those broke down as 6,347 for refugee status, 48,914 for temporary asylum, 28,134 for citizenship, 59,858 for temporary residence, 19,943 for residence permits and 5,481 under the programme of resettlement of compatriots.

A larger number of Ukrainians were arriving and staying in Russia under the visa-free regime. According to the Russian authorities, around 730,000 Ukrainians had arrived since the beginning of the conflict. Around 80 per cent of Ukrainians were staying in border areas, while others were moving to stay with friends or relatives in other parts of the country. Over 585 temporary accommodation facilities were hosting 42,486 people. The Russian authorities had adopted several regulations to facilitate the temporary stay of Ukrainians arriving on its territory.

Between the beginning of the year and the end of June, some 2,700 Ukrainians had applied for international protection across the European Union.

In addition to providing support to the displaced people, UNHCR’s second priority was to facilitate voluntary return, which would decongest the situation in collective centres and help avoid a protracted situation. The picture in the areas retaken by the Ukrainian forces was bleak. The scope of destruction of buildings in Slaviansk was estimated at five per cent, with water and electricity supplies now restarted. Some other villages and towns had a much higher level of destruction.

The third priority would be winterization efforts. Many existing collective centres could simply not be winterized; people accommodated there would need to be relocated before the beginning of the winter.

On who was responsible for the destruction of villages recaptured by the Ukrainian forces, Mr. Cochetel said that such places had been shelled from both sides. Both sides had to be blamed for civilian casualties and the destruction of infrastructure, as in any other war.

Asked about the breakdown of the 730,000 people estimated to have crossed into Russia, Mr. Cochetel said that the data had been thoroughly analyzed. That number represented a surplus over the regular, expected migration figures. Some of those people might apply for a protective status, while others could decide to return. The surge in numbers of daily crossings could be explained by the proximity of the Ukrainian troops to the two large cities and people panicking.

Many people in the areas under the control of the rebels had not been paid by the authorities over the previous three months. A number of them had also refused to pay taxes to the de facto local authorities.

Answering a question, Mr. Cochetel stated that many civilians did not choose where to stay based on their ideological preferences, but rather to save their lives. Like in many wars, civilians were the biggest victims of the current conflict.

Mr. Cochetel explained that the Russian authorities had said that they did not need UNHCR’s help as they had the capacity to deal with the situation. The Polish authorities, where some of the asylum seekers had also arrived, said that they had the capacity to deal with the influx, too.

The Ukrainian Government was getting gradually organized on its response, with mine clearance, restoration of order and deployment of regular police forces in the areas which it had retaken. Otherwise, the authorities did not have much experience with the internal displacements since the Chernobyl accident.

Ebola epidemic

Tarik Jašareviæ, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that the WHO was convening a meeting of its emergency committee over the following two days. The sole subject would be the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. There would be a virtual press conference at the WHO on 8 August at 9 a.m, as the emergency committee might finish its work quite late at night on 7 August.

Answering a question on the agenda of the meeting, Mr. Jašareviæ said that the committee normally discussed public health emergencies of international concern. It was the first time it would discuss Ebola, as the WHO Director-General sought an opinion of the Committee on whether the current outbreak represented a public health emergency of international concern.

Syria

Ms. Byrs said that the World Food Programme had made significant progress over the previous few weeks in reaching more people affected by the violence in Syria, many of whom were in besieged and difficult-to-reach areas, due to improved access through cross-line and cross-border food deliveries.

In July, the WFP food assistance had reached a total of 3.7 million people in Syria, an increase on the number of people reached in June. More than 300,000 people in besieged and hard-to-reach areas had received WFP food through cross-line convoys in July, which was twice the number of people reached using cross-line convoys in June.

Ms. Byrs said that security challenges continued to hinder WFP’s ability to deliver food, and the organisation remained over half a million short of its goal of reaching 4.25 million people. Fighting along access routes blocked all deliveries to Ar-Raqqa governorate.

WFP had reached 10,000 civilians trapped in rural areas of Dar’a through cross-line deliveries. The majority had not been assisted since the beginning of the crisis. On 2 August, distributions had been completed by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent teams in the opposition-held villages of Al-Yadoudah, Tal Shihab and Zaizoun.

In July, the WFP had made a breakthrough crossing frontlines to reach 30,000 civilians in Moadamiyeh in rural Damascus for the first time in two years, bringing food rations containing rice, lentils, oil, pasta, bulgur, canned foods, flour, beans, salt and sugar. Until then, in spite of efforts to negotiate access, all humanitarian deliveries to Moadamiyeh had been blocked since October 2012. WFP staff delivering the food reported dire conditions of people severely affected by prolonged hunger.

Also in July, WFP trucks had entered Deir-ez-Zor governorate, delivering food assistance to over 76,000 people in both urban and rural areas, thanks to extensive access negotiations and advocacy by WFP and its partners. The governorate had last been reached by the WFP in May before fighting had cut all access routes. Some 250,000 civilians had fled from eastern Deir-ez-Zor into neighbouring governorates in the northeast, including Al-Hassakeh.

An ongoing airlift of 23 WFP-chartered flights was flying food rations from Damascus to Qamishli airport in Al-Hassakeh governorate, where newly displaced families continued to arrive. That was bringing critically needed food for 50,000 of the most vulnerable displaced people in contested and opposition-held areas of the governorate including Tal Hamis, Al-Shadaddeh, Markada, Ras Al Ain and Arisha.

On 24 July, the WFP had joined a cross-border convoy of food trucks for the first time across the Bab Al-Salam border crossing from Turkey to Syria with assistance for people cut off in areas of Rural Idleb. More convoys were planned across the Jordanian and Turkish borders in the coming days. WFP had also begun providing food vouchers to pregnant women and nursing mothers in Homs and Lattakia. Using WFP vouchers, 730 mothers could now purchase fresh food, including eggs, dairy, fruits and vegetables, providing improved nutritional intake for themselves and their babies.

WFP needed to raise USD 35 million dollars every week in order to meet the food needs of families affected by the conflict in Syria and refugees currently residing in neighbouring countries.

Answering a question on how many convoys had crossed the border from Turkey since the last Security Council resolution had been adopted, Jens Laerke, for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said that one convoy had arrived from Turkey into Syria on 24 July. He added that OCHA expected an additional convoy today, which would be confirmed once the convoy crossed the border and arrived at its destination.

Libya

Ms. Ariane Rummery, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), stated that the UNHCR was deeply concerned about the safety of refugees and asylum-seekers in Libya as violence escalated. Almost 37,000 people were registered with the UNHCR in Tripoli and Benghazi, with many living in areas heavily damaged by fighting and unable to leave to safer areas due to ongoing clashes.

In Tripoli alone, more than 150 people from Eritrea, Somalia and other countries had phoned UNHCR protection hotline seeking help with medicines or a safer place to stay. UNHCR was also receiving calls from many of the mainly Syrian and Palestinian asylum-seekers and refugees in Benghazi who were in dire need of assistance. UNHCR was continuing to work with its NGO partners on the ground to deliver assistance and advocate on behalf of refugees and asylum-seekers, but the situation was rapidly deteriorating and many saw leaving Libya as the only option.

Ms. Rummery said that, amidst the growing lawlessness, the smuggler thrived and thousands of desperate people were taking the dangerous sea journey to Europe. Some 88,000 people were estimated to have arrived in Italy by boat so far in 2014, of whom about 77,000 were believed to have departed from Libya. That was already more than double of known crossings in the entire 2013.

The recent fighting around Tripoli appeared to have moved departure points away from the capital, with more boats now leaving from points to the east such as Al-Khums and Benghazi. Over 1,000 people had died in the Mediterranean in 2014.

Ms. Rummery added that the UNHCR was concerned that not all people seeking safety could cross Libya’s land border and urged Libyan authorities to relax exit visa restrictions to allow people to leave. At the same time, the UNHCR was asking the Governments of Egypt and Tunisia to keep their border open to those fleeing violence and seeking international protection.

Sri Lanka

Ms. Ariane Rummery, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), said that the UNHCR had learned that 27 Pakistani asylum-seekers had been deported from Sri Lanka since 1 August, and more could follow, including women and children. UNHCR urged the authorities to stop the deportations and grant the UNHCR access to refugees and asylum-seekers still detained in Colombo.

The deportations had taken place between 1 and 3 August, following two months of arrests and detentions of people of concern to the UNHCR. UNHCR understood that the 27 deportees had arrived in Pakistan and been released, but was unable to monitor their return conditions, and thus appealed to the Sri Lankan authorities to respect the principle of non-refoulement.

Mr. Rummery said that the UNHCR noted the Government’s public statements that the recent actions were in response to an increase in the number of asylum-seekers in Sri Lanka. UNHCR was taking steps to increase its capacity to enable the efficient and timely processing of those asylum claims, and was exploring ways to assist the most vulnerable asylum-seekers, including by setting up referral networks for greater support as they awaited a decision.

Republic of Congo

Ms. Ariane Rummery, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), said that the previous week, a convoy carrying 81 refugees of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) living in the Republic of Congo had crossed the border into the DRC, marking the end of five years in exile for the group and the final voluntary repatriation of Congolese refugees from the Republic of Congo.

That group was the last of the 119,000 DRC refugees to repatriate from the Republic of Congo with UNHCR’s help since May 2012. They were among the 160,000 people who had fled to neighbouring countries – 140,000 in Republic of Congo and 20,000 in the Central African Republic – when clashes erupted between the Munzaya and Enyele communities over traditional fishing rights in DRC’s Equateur province in 2009. Since then, the refugees had been living in isolated areas along a 600-kilometre stretch of the Oubangui River, which separates Republic of Congo from the DRC.

Once home, returnees benefited from reintegration programs that provided health care, education, income generating activities, shelter kits, and construction of boreholes for water. There were also awareness campaigns to promote peaceful coexistence between communities, including a community radio station in the town of Dongo.

But such modest programmes might not be enough to ensure the stability of that now peaceful region. Without the further involvement of local and national authorities, as well as the engagement of development actors, the UNHCR feared that the remote and underdeveloped region remained vulnerable to further conflict over scarce resources.

Ms. Rummery specified that between 5 May 2012 and 30 July 2014, UNHCR had organized 416 voluntary repatriation convoys from the Republic of Congo to the DRC’s Equateur province. More than 430,000 DRC citizens were still refugees in neighbouring countries, mainly in Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Burundi.

Nigeria/Chad

Ms. Ariane Rummery, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), said that around one thousand people fleeing attacks by Boko Haram on the Nigerian city of Kolikolia, in Borno State, had arrived the previous week on the uninhabited island of Choua in Lake Chad. The island laid in Chadian waters about four kilometres from where the borders of Chad, Nigeria and Niger intersected.

Refugees reported that they had fled violence and attacks on their village that had resulted in the destruction of their houses and food reserves. The group, which included mainly women and children, was in urgent need of food, water, shelter and medical care.

At the request of the government of Chad, the refugees would be relocated to the safer and more accessible hosting area in Ngouboua, some 30 kilometres from the border, where a number of Nigerian refugees and Chadian returned refugees already lived among hosting villages. UNHCR and its partners had sent aid packages – including high energy biscuits, water purification kits, mosquito nets, communal tents, sleeping mats and other household items – to Ngouboua.

The newly arrived refugees reported that more Nigerians were likely to arrive in Chad soon. In line with the UNHCR's strategy to seek alternatives to camps, newly arrived refugees from Nigeria would be settled in villages in and around Ngouboua, with assistance also provided to the host population.

UNHCR was establishing a field office in the Lake Chad area to monitor the situation, coordinate the response with partners on the ground, and ensure protection and assistance to refugees.

Asked who those people were running away from, Ms. Rummery said that they were fleeing from Boko Haram, who was attacking their villages. The group which had fled last numbered just under one thousand.

Mr. Jens Laerke, for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), added that instability and violence in northern Nigeria had forced people to flee into Chad's inaccessible Lake region for the previous two years. A humanitarian mission in early May had identified over 1,000 Nigerian refugees and over 360 Chadians who had fled Nigeria earlier in 2014. Since 2009, around 3,000 people had fled Nigeria for Chad.

Central African Republic

Chris Lom, for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), informed that local authorities in Kabo, Central African Republic (CAR), had conducted a land distribution ceremony on 2 August to grant 193 household plots to internally displaced persons and their families who had fled the PK12 neighborhood in Bangui earlier in 2014.

Community leaders had drawn numbers to randomly assign the 25-by-25 meter plots to PK12 households in need of land on which to build new homes. Kabo Mayor Abdel Atif had named the area “The Peace Village” and formally welcomed the PK12 community to make Kabo their new home.

Mr. Lom explained that Kabo was a mixed community of some 16,000 Christians and Muslims who lived together, standing in stark contrast to other areas of CAR, where conflict between armed groups had separated communities along religious lines.

The PK12 community was a Muslim and ethnic minority population that had come under attack in the capital, Bangui. The entire community had relocated from PK12 to Kabo and Moyen Sido in northern CAR and to Bambari. IOM had provided transport for the original movements, in collaboration with other humanitarian partners.

Since the April relocation of the PK12 community, the number of displaced people in each of the two “Peace Village” sites had increased, from 272 to 728 in Kabo and from 987 to 1,624 in Moyen-Sido.

Many of the recent new arrivals, mostly of Peuhl ethnicity, in Kabo and Moyen Sido had come from the villages of Bokambaye, Malla and Bouca. The majority were women and children. Further displacement of IDPs towards Kabo had been seen due to violence in Bambari and Batangafo.

Later in 2014 additional land plots would be distributed to IDPs living in the Peace Village sites in both Kabo and Moyen Sido who had not come from the PK12 community, but arrived at a later date from other locations. The household plot distribution in Kabo and Moyen Sido would lead into a second phase of the relocation effort – an “IDP self‐construction housing project”.

The project was being carried out by IOM in collaboration with the Central African Transitional Government, and with the support of the European Union Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department and the Common Humanitarian Fund.

According to the UN, there were currently approximately 527,000 IDPs in CAR, which included 102,000 people in Bangui at 40 displacement sites.

Mr. Lom commented that, overall, there was a very positive outcome of what had been a risky programme.

Thailand

Ravina Shamsadani, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), stated that the Office had been very concerned by the methods of arrest and detention of politicians, activists, academics and journalists following the military coup in Thailand in May 2014.

Since 22 May 2014, more than 700 individuals had been summoned and arrested by the National Council for Peace and Order. While most of them had been released within a week in accordance with martial law, an unverified number of people had been detained for more than seven days without access to lawyers and their families. OHCHR had been concerned that incommunicado detention created the environment for possible human rights abuses, including torture and ill-treatment.

The case of Kritsuda Khunasen, a student activist who had been working for a key member of the Red Shirts group, which supported the deposed Government, had given further cause for serious concern.

In testimony shared with the media and human rights organizations on 2 August, Khunasen described her treatment and conditions of detention from 28 May to 24 June 2014 while she had been in military custody. She claimed that she had been blindfolded for 7 days, beaten several times and lost consciousness after a plastic bag was placed over her head.

On 16 July, the High Commissioner had raised her concerns with the Thai authorities on due process and transparency in the case, including the lack of information on Khunasen’s whereabouts and her well-being during the arbitrary detention. Prior to this, on 11 June, the High Commissioner had communicated with the Thai authorities, emphasising that any emergency measures had to comply with international human rights standards, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Thailand was party. The High Commissioner stressed that the right to life and the prohibition against torture could not be breached, regardless of the circumstances. Thus far, no substantive feedback from the authorities had been received on those concerns.

Ms. Shamsadani stressed that the Thai authorities should immediately conduct an independent and detailed investigation into the alleged torture of Kritsuda Khunasen, and - if verified - bring the perpetrators to justice. Under international law and under UN policy, amnesties were impermissible if they prevented prosecution of individuals who might be criminally responsible for gross violations of human rights, including torture.

Geneva activities

Ms. Vellucci informed that the Conference on Disarmament was holding a public session at the moment.

The Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was starting its three-week long session on 11 August. During the session, the following countries would be considered: Cameroon, El Salvador, United States, Iraq, Japan, and Peru. Background press release would be distributed on 7 August.

Advisory Committee of the Human Rights Council would hold its 13th session the following week. A backgrounder would also be distributed on 7 August.


* * * * *

The representative of the International Labour Organization also attended the briefing, but did not brief.

* * * * *

The webcast for this briefing is available here: … http://webtv.un.org/watch/geneva-press-briefing-who-ohchr-unicef-wfp-unhcr-ocha-iom/3713695524001/riefing-who-ohchr-unicef-wfp-unhcr-ocha-iom/3713695524001/