REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE
26 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 High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Refugee Agency, the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the International Trade Centre.
Ms. Momal-Vanian read the statement issued by the Secretary-General saying he condemned the assassination today of Mr. Mohamed Brahmi, an opposition politician and member of Tunisia's National Constituent Assembly. The Secretary-General noted that this was the second assassination of a prominent political figure in Tunisia this year. He called for calm and stressed that acts of political violence weakened legitimate state institutions which underpinned the democratic process.
This heinous act must not be allowed to derail the progress that Tunisia continued to make in its democratic transition, including on the Constitution, and in meeting the social and economic aspirations of the Tunisian people.
Rupert Colville for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said Tunisia remained extremely tense after yesterday's assassination of the opposition politician Mohamad Brahmi. In addition to what the High Commissioner said in the press release she issued yesterday afternoon, the OHCHR urged the authorities to respect the right of people to protest and urge the security forces to take great care not to inflame the situation further by resorting to excessive use of force.
Answering questions, he said there was no intention at the present time to demand an international inquiry. Instead, the call was for a more effective investigation as the impact of such events on the political scene in Tunisia was significant and alarming. He reiterated that the investigation of previous killings was not satisfactory and the matter needed to be concluded with urgency.
Jemini Pandya for the Inter-Parliamentary Union said IPU had condemned the killing of Tunisian opposition leader Mohammed Brahmi, the leader of the opposition Movement of the People Party and a member of Tunisia’s Constituent Assembly, and was urging authorities in the North African country to ensure those responsible were found and brought to justice quickly. A strong, vocal political opposition able to speak openly and without fear of reprisal was key to a healthy, vibrant democracy, she said. As an elected MP, Mohammed Brahmi represented his constituents, their views and their aspirations for a new Tunisia. IPU urged the Tunisian authorities to better protect the political opposition and ensure Tunisia remained committed to establishing a fully representative, democratic and peaceful society.
IPU’s concern about the need for the perpetrators to be brought to justice quickly was based on the fact that six months after the killing of another politician, his killers had still not been named.
On a question asked she said it was likely that the Human Rights Committee of the IPU would pick up on this issue.
Melissa Fleming for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said UNHCR was concerned that Egyptian military and security personnel have been arbitrarily arresting and detaining an increasing number of Syrians, including several minors and people registered with UNHCR, amid growing anti-Syrian sentiment. UNHCR had been requesting access to 85 detained Syrians and assurances that they were not returned to Syria, stressing that they should be afforded fair and due process of law in Egypt.
This new climate began following allegations regarding participation of a few Syrians in protests and violent acts during July. There have also been numerous reports of xenophobic remarks and verbal attacks against Syrians, including disturbing statements made through certain media outlets. Since the start of the Syrian conflict, Syrians enjoyed an extremely hospitable environment in Egypt. The Government granted unrestricted visas and residence permits and had provided full access to public services. Syrians had not felt the urgency to renew expired residency permits as required. Now, a growing number of Syrians were expressing their fear of being arrested if they circulated in public.
This hostile environment had led to a notable increase in the number of Syrians approaching UNHCR to register. The Government estimates that there were some 250,000 to 300,000 Syrians currently residing in Egypt. 80,000 were registered with UNHCR as of 25 July, while around 28,800 have secured appointments for registration in the coming weeks.
Additionally, the Government had recently introduced entry requirements for Syrians, including visa and security clearance issuance prior to travel to Egypt. UNHCR appreciated the Egyptian Government’s affirmation that Syrians were welcome in Egypt, but called upon the Government to ensure that any precautionary measures in light of the current security situation in the country do not infringe upon fundamental human rights principles and the country’s international responsibilities to provide asylum and protection to refugees.
Answering questions she said no response had been received to the requests to visit the 85 Syrians mentioned, some of whom were said to be detained due to violent acts during protests. No reports of deportations had been received as yet.
Rupert Colville for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said the OHCHR fully supported the statement made by the Secretary-General yesterday. Some of the recent declarations by the Egyptian army were alarming and it was important to stress that it was the duty of the security forces to protect all citizens, whatever their political views. It was extremely important that security forces do not resort to excessive use of force. People had a right to make peaceful protests. All measures taken by the authorities must fully respect the law and international human rights standards. The OHCHR was closely following how the situation developed.
Answering a question he said it was necessary for the deposed President Morsi to be either released, or charged with an offence.
Melissa Fleming for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said a UNHCR report released today, while acknowledging significant progress in recent years, said Ukraine’s asylum system still required fundamental improvements. It needed to offer better protection against refoulement and to improve the fairness and efficiency of the hearings process. As a result of these concerns, the United Nations United Nations Refugee Agency was advising other states not to return asylum-seekers to Ukraine at this time.
Rupert Colville for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said the OHCHR welcomed the announcement by President Thein Sein that another 73 political prisoners have been released in Myanmar, and also his recent statement that all political prisoners were to be released by the end of the year. This would be a significant step forward in the implementation of the ongoing reform process.
Global campaign on LGBT
Rupert Colville for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said the High Commissioner for Human Rights was to today launch 'Free & Equal,' an unprecedented global public education campaign for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality at a press conference in Cape Town, South Africa, at around 13:00 today. Also attending were Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Justice Edwin Cameron of the South African Constitutional Court. A number of international celebrities were also backing the campaign. More details were to be included in a press release at the time of the launch, along with the High Commissioner's speech.
Jarle Hetland for the International Trade Centre said the United Kingdom had announced funding of GBP7.2 million ($10.86m) for ITC that will go towards improving the trade capacities of developing countries. More specifically, the funding was to go towards removing barriers to trade in developing countries and ensuring that more women entrepreneurs participate in global value chains. So far ITC had carried out surveys identifying non-tariff measures and related obstacles to trade in 20 countries. Thanks to the UK funding, it was planned to carry out more surveys in another 20 countries.
He also mentioned that ITC had entered a new partnership with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to help companies and banks better understand and integrate voluntary environmental and social standards in their risk management and investment decisions. Through this cooperation, IFC had become the first development finance institution to be referenced on ITC’s Standards Map database. Referencing IFC’s Performance Standards on Environmental and Social Sustainability on Standards Map makes it easier for stakeholders to analyse and compare covered by sustainability issues covered by voluntary standards.
He explained briefly that Standards Map was a database that covered more than 120 sustainability standards and initiatives, including the UN Global Compact and OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. It made it easier for companies to know what voluntary standards were available and how they can help strengthen production and trade activities. Finally, he added that the ITC Market Analysis Tool, already free of charge to users in least developed countries and developing countries, was now also available for journalists.
Ms. Momal-Vanian said the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Committee of Human Rights had now completed their work, which began on July 8. The CEDAW Committee had considered reports from Cuba, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Dominican Republic, Cape Verde, United Kingdom, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Committee was to make its concluding observations on the reports public on Monday when they were to be available on the Committee’s webpages. The roundup press release was to be issued this afternoon which included the link and a press conference was planned for 1.30 p.m. in Press Room The speakers were Nicole Ameline, Chairperson and Pramila Patten, Vice-Chair. [It was later announced that the press conference would be held under embargo until 29 July 2013 at 12.00 noon.]
The Committee on Human Rights had considered the reports of Ukraine, Tajikistan, Indonesia, Finland, Albania and the Czech Republic. The concluding observations were already available on the website of the Committee.
The Conference on Disarmament resumed next week its work session of 2013. The date of the next public plenary should be known on Monday.
In the room but not briefing were the International Labour Organization, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the World Food Programme.
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The webcast for this briefing is available here: http://bit.ly/16hVRZn