Question of Palestine home
See also: UN
1 August 2002
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon. As you know, the Secretary-General's report on Jenin was issued this morning. In commenting on its release as he arrived in the Building, he said it had been based on information in the public domain.
And he said: “While some of the facts may be in dispute, I think it is clear that the Palestinian population have suffered, and are suffering, the humanitarian consequences of which are very severe.”
He added that he hoped that both parties would “draw the right lessons from this tragic episode and take steps to end the cycle of violence, which is killing innocent civilians on both sides”.
The report was written at the request of the General Assembly when it passed a resolution on 7 May after the disbandment of the team, which the Secretary-General had proposed to send to Jenin to establish the facts on the ground.
As far as how the information was collected, the United Nations sent out requests to Member States and observers for information concerning the events. The Palestinian Authority did submit information, while the Government of Israel did not. In an effort to present as complete a picture as possible, the report makes use of publicly available information from the Israeli Government. It also used other information available in the public domain and reports submitted by non-governmental organizations.
The report covers a period running from approximately the beginning of March to 7 May 2002. It sets out the context and background of the situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. It also describes the security, humanitarian and human rights responsibilities of both parties. It briefly charts the rising violence since September 2000, which had by 7 May 2002 caused the deaths of 441 Israelis and 1,539 Palestinians.
In its examinations of the events in Jenin and other Palestinian cities, it refers to allegations from the Palestinian Authority and human rights organizations that in the course of its operations the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) engaged in unlawful killings, the use of human shields, disproportionate use of force, arbitrary arrests and torture, and denial of medical treatment and access.
The report also notes that armed Palestinian groups are alleged to have widely booby-trapped civilian homes -– acts which targeted IDF personnel, but also placed civilians in danger. It also quotes the Palestinian Authority as acknowledging that a number of Palestinian fighters resisted the Israeli military assault.
In conclusion, the Secretary-General writes that a full assessment of the events in Jenin could not have been made without the full cooperation of both parties and a visit to the area. Nevertheless, he expresses his confidence that the picture painted in this report is a fair representation of a complex reality.”
Statement on Middle East
The following is a statement attributable to the Spokesman:
"The Secretary-General continues to be deeply concerned by reports that the Government of Israel is proceeding with plans to deport from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip relatives of Palestinians known or alleged to be responsible for attacks against Israel. He calls on the Government of Israel to adhere to its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention. The Secretary-General urges the Government of Israel not to take actions that are inconsistent with international humanitarian law, such as forcible transfer of protected persons, regardless of motive and collective punishment."
Today is the first day of the United States presidency of the Security Council for the month of August.
United States Ambassador John Negroponte is holding bilateral consultations.
The Council programme for the month ahead is posted on both the United States Mission and Security Council Web sites.
Secretary-General's Report on Angola
The Secretary-General’s report to the Security Council on Angola has been posted on the Internet.
The report summarizes key developments in Angola, especially those since the death of Jonas Savimbi, the leader of UNITA or the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola. It proposes adjustments to the mandate and structure of the United Nations presence in Angola.
The report lists nine main tasks for the United Nations to support the consolidation of peace. The most urgent task is identified as the delivery of humanitarian aid to some 3 million Angolans in need.
Others include advice and support for mine clearance, liaison with the parties though the Joint Military Commission, assistance to the Government in the quartering, demobilization and reintegration of UNITA solders, and the promotion and protection of human rights.
To carry out the new tasks, the Secretary-General says an expanded mandate for the United Nations mission would be needed, and recommends that the Security Council establish a new mission in Angola to succeed the United Nations office there.
If authorized by the Council, the new mission would be called the United Nations Mission in Angola or UNMA, and would be headed by a Special Representative of the Secretary-General.
The Secretary-General recommends that the mandate for the new mission should be for an initial period of six months from 16 August 2002 to 16 February 2003.
The Council is scheduled to discuss the report next Wednesday.
We have learned from the United Nations Security Coordinator’s Office that a German national was released today in southern Sudan. He was working for the non-governmental organization World Vision -- a partner in the United Nations Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) humanitarian operation. Preliminary reports indicate he is in good health.
The OLS aircraft was dispatched to collect the World Vision staff member, who went missing together with two other World Vision colleagues on Monday in the town of Waat in southern Sudan. A fourth World Vision aid worker from Kenya was killed Monday during a militia attack on that town. We are very concerned about the welfare of the two aid workers still missing. The United Nations is working with World Vision and the German Government to seek their release.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, today expressed her deep concern at the executions that are scheduled later this month in Texas for two men -– T.J. Jones and Toronto Patterson -– who were each convicted of crimes committed when they were 17 years old.
Ms. Robinson acknowledged the seriousness of the crimes, including murder, for which they were convicted, but reiterated her particular opposition to the use of the death penalty against juvenile offenders.
She noted that the Convention on the Rights of the Child stipulates that capital punishment shall not be imposed for offences that were committed by persons who were below the age of 18 at the time, and she urged the relevant authorities to grant both men relief from the death penalty.
We have a press release with more details.
The world’s first atlas of biodiversity was launched by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today. The Atlas is the first map-based view of biological diversity and provides fact and figures on the importance of forests, wetlands, marine and coastal environments and other key ecosystems, and highlights the impact of humankind on the natural world.
Experts estimate that the world is losing one major drug every two years at the current rate of extinction of plants and animals. In developing countries, about 80 per cent of people rely on medicines from natural sources and in the United States about 56 per cent of the top 150 prescribed medicines are linked with discoveries made in the wild. Only about one per cent of the 250,000 tropical plants have been screened for potential drug applications.
UNEP's Executive Director, Klaus Töpfer, said wise use of natural resources is at the heart of sustainable development and one of the key issues for world leaders at the upcoming Summit in Johannesburg.
Images from the map are available on the UNEP Web site, and the press release has more details.
* *** *