9 July 2013
Corinne Momal-Vanian, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing which was also attended by Spokespersons for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, International Organization for Migration and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
Ms. Momal Vanian said that the United Nations Secretary-General last night released a statement on the situation in Egypt where he expressed grave concern about the violence and the reported killings of more than 50 people in Cairo. He condemned the killings and called for them to be thoroughly investigated. The Secretary-General called upon all Egyptians to be mindful of the precarious path the country is now on and to do everything possible to avoid further escalation. He urged all sides to act with maximum restraint and all Egyptians and political parties to work constructively to forge a consensus on the way forward through peaceful means.
Cécile Pouilly for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that the High Commissioner was alarmed at the sharp escalation of the political crisis in Egypt and deplored the fact that dozens of people had reportedly been killed or wounded since the events of July 3. On Friday alone, more than 30 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured in various clashes across the country. Yesterday, at least 51 people were reported killed and some 300 injured outside the Republican Guard compound.
OHCHR reminded the Egyptian authorities that any incidents resulting in deaths and injuries required prompt, thorough and transparent investigation and those found to be guilty of wrong doing should be brought to justice. In that regard, OHCHR welcomed the announcement by the interim Head of State that an investigation into yesterday’s tragic incident had been ordered. Any such investigation should be carried out by an independent and impartial body and its findings should be made public.
OHCHR called on all sides to refrain from resorting to violence and on protesters to maintain the peaceful nature of their demonstrations. It also called on the military and law enforcement officials to show utmost restraint and make sure that they complied at all times with international human rights obligations and international standards on policing, including the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.
OHCHR noted the plans announced yesterday by the interim authority for the formation of a panel to amend the constitution, the holding of a referendum on proposed constitutional changes, and the holding of parliamentary elections. It also noted that those plans had just been rejected by the Muslim Brotherhood. It urged all parties to engage in a constructive dialogue and in a broad-based and inclusive process to move the country forward.
OHCHR would continue to closely follow the developments and reaffirmed its readiness to assist the Egyptian people in all efforts to overcome the crisis and move towards strengthening human rights and building a legislative and institutional framework ensuring democracy and the rule of law.
Ms. Momal Vanian announced that Mr. Adama Dieng, United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, had released a statement on the situation in Syria, which was available at the back of the room in English and Arabic translations. In his statement Mr. Dieng expressed concern about the increasing use of religious rhetoric by leaders that could exacerbate the violence. He warned about portraying the conflict as a religious one.
Ms. Momal Vanian said copies of a Ramadan appeal for the people of Syria by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had also been made available. The appeal was issued last night in New York, and in it the Secretary-General appealed for every person in the country holding a gun to stop fighting for one month of peace, and for the release of detainees.
Gaëlle Sévenier for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that a group of 131 vulnerable, stranded Ethiopian migrants had arrived in Addis Ababa from Yemen aboard an IOM flight. Their arrival brought to 765 the number of the Ethiopian migrants who had been voluntarily repatriated since the resumption in early June of the IOM Yemen assisted voluntary return programme.
The programme was suspended in September last year when it ran out of funding. A contribution of USD 260,000 from the United Nations Humanitarian Response Fund allowed IOM to resume flights for some 2,500 of the most vulnerable migrants. The returnees included extremely vulnerable women, men and some 290 unaccompanied minors.
Stranded migrants in Yemen usually planned to cross the border into Saudi Arabia en route to the Gulf countries to find work. But recent changes in Saudi employment legislation and the fencing of the 1,800 km border had made entry into Saudi Arabia extremely difficult. Estimates suggested that some 84,000 Ethiopian migrants arrived in Yemen in 2012. Some 25,000 of them were now stranded in and around the border town of Haradh. Many were destitute. Others were sick or victims of abuses perpetrated by smugglers and traffickers.
The majority were now desperate to return to Ethiopia, but had no means to do so, according to IOM staff in Haradh. In Haradh IOM was providing limited accommodation, food and medical assistance to 3,500 of the most vulnerable, with the help of in-kind contributions from WFP and UNICEF.
There was a growing need for funding for voluntary returns from Yemen, as well as in Ethiopia, where the returnees needed onward transport assistance to their final destinations, and livelihood assistance. Previous IOM assisted voluntary return programmes for Horn of Africa migrants in Yemen had been funded by the governments of the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy and the United States.
Ms. Sévenier also briefed the press about the IOM-supported voluntary return of 52 stranded Ethiopian migrants from Somaliland and Puntland.
A group of six Ethiopian women who had endured months of hardship in Puntland after an unsuccessful attempt at crossing the Gulf of Aden, including climbing over razor wire fences and taking to sea in leaking boats, intended to do whatever it took to get to Europe through Yemen. Human smugglers took advantage of their situation and left them with no identification papers or money. With no place to turn, the women and four of their children aged 2, 3, 7 and 10 unsuccessfully sought asylum in Puntland.
The cases were identified through a collaborative effort between IOM and UNHCR. The stranded Ethiopians were returned home to Jijiga, Ethiopia at the weekend by IOM, working closely with humanitarian partners and the governments of Ethiopia, Puntland and Somaliland. This year alone, IOM has supported the voluntary return of 52 stranded Ethiopian migrants from Somaliland and Puntland. The voluntary return operation, part of IOM’s Regional Mixed Migration Programme, was funded by the US State Department’s Bureau for Population, Migration and Refugees.
Ms. Momal Vanian announced that the monthly International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) monthly press briefing would take place on Thursday 11 July at 11 a.m. in Press Room 1. The tentative agenda would start with the situation of Syrian refugees in Jordan, their health care needs and the IFRC response, led by speaker Panu Saaristo, IFRC Emergency Health Coordinator. Press would also be briefed on the dengue outbreak in Honduras and Guatemala, Central America, as well as an Emergency Appeal for people affected by the severe drought in Namibia.
Catherine Sibut for United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) announced a press conference taking place today, Tuesday 9 July, at 3.30 p.m. in Press Room 1 to launch the Economic Development in Africa Report 2013 subtitled ‘Intra-African trade: Unlocking private sector dynamism’. Supachai Panitchpakdi, UNCTAD Secretary-General and Taffere Tesfachew, Director of UNCTAD’s Division on Africa, Least Developed Countries and Special Programmes would be speaking. Ms. Sibut noted that the report was under embargo until 5 p.m. GMT on Thursday 11 July.
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) which opened its session at the Palais des Nations yesterday, was today considering the report of Cuba. This week it would also review the reports of Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Dominican Republic. Next week CEDAW would review the reports of Cape Verde, United Kingdom, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The three week session would close on Friday 26 July.
The Human Rights Committee, which started a new session at Palais Wilson yesterday, today would continue its review of the report of Ukraine. This afternoon it would review the report of Tajikistan, followed this week by reviews of Indonesia and Finland. Next week the Committee would review the reports of Albania and the Czech Republic.
The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) was today completing its debate on the issue of coordination. The operational activities segment would start tomorrow and run until Friday.
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The representative of the World Health Organization, International Labour Organization, United Nations Refugee Agency, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and United Nations Children’s Fund also attended the briefing but did not speak.
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The webcast for this briefing is available here: http://bit.ly/12AtL9j