Press Release
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · Geneva

26 April 2002


Marie Heuzé, Director of the Information Service, informed journalists about the internal organizational meetings in Geneva of the UN fact-finding team to the Middle East, the final day of the Commission on Human Rights and imminent meetings of human rights Committees. She also announced forthcoming press conferences and documents available in the press room. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, came to brief the press after presenting her address at the closing of the 58th Commission. The transcript of Mrs. Robinson's remarks at the briefing has been sent separately.

UN fact-finding team to the Middle East

Ms. Heuzé said that the UN fact-finding team to the Middle East was continuing its internal organizational meetings today in Geneva. Yesterday, it was decided that two military staff officers would be added to the team as experts. More experts would be brought on board as needed. The team expected to be in the Middle East by this Saturday. Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the team, was at this moment attending the morning meeting and would be available to update journalists at 12.30 p.m. in press room 1.

Human rights meetings

Ms. Heuzé reminded journalists that the Human Rights Commission was concluding its current session today. However, the Committee against Torture would meet from 29 April to 17 May 2002 to review the measures adopted by Sweden, Uzbekistan, Denmark, Venezuela, Norway, Luxembourg, Saudi Arabia, and the Russian Federation to prevent and punish acts of torture. Also, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights would meet from 29 April to 17 May 2002 to examine the measures taken by the Czech Republic, Ireland, Benin, the United Kingdom, and Trinidad and Tobago to realize these rights. The background press releases for both Committees were available in the press room.

Middle East

Ms. Heuzé said that that René Aquarone, Chief of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Liaison Office in Geneva, who had been briefing the press on the programme's efforts, would not be present today as he was still in the Middle East. She had received word that he had been held up at a number of checkpoints on Wednesday and had not managed to leave Gaza in time. She thus gave the floor to the other humanitarian spokespersons.

The Spokesperson from the International Labour Organisation (ILO)informed journalists that a technical mission comprising six officials would leave for Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. They would gather information and views from both sides required for the preparation of the ILO Director-General's report. The team would travel to Jerusalem, Golan Heights, Syria and Cairo, where meetings of the Arab League and Arab Labour Organization would be taking place.

Elisabeth Byrs, the Spokesperson for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), gave an update on the Disaster Assessment and Coordination team (UNDAC) dispatched to the West Bank. They had established their office in Jenin, where a site had been identified to install tents and establish a camp this afternoon. Two experts from Habitat would be arriving next week to study the question of rebuilding. According to Ross Mountain, Director of OCHA Geneva, the first evaluations revealed that 25 to 30 per cent of buildings had been destroyed in Jenin. 800 families, a total of three to four thousand people, had been affected. Many families had remained in partially destroyed buildings, which were dangerous because of unstable structures. There was enough food at the moment but stocks were low and humanitarian access limited. Médecins sans frontières and ICRC were on the ground and CARE would be arriving shortly.

The most urgent problem was unexploded ordinance in and around the camp. It was imperative to clear this up before reconstruction could begin. Demining teams would be arriving shortly. Health needs were being assessed, as well as damage to infrastructure and the impact of the conflict on the economy, since 75 per cent of Jenin's population worked in Israel.

The World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson said that the delivery of medical kits had been held up at Amsterdam airport. They were supposed to be in Jerusalem by Tuesday but had not received clearance. An inter-agency meeting on health needs in the territories would take place in Jerusalem tomorrow. The World Foof Programme (WFP) had distributed 70 tons of food to hospitals in Gaza and obtained 180 tons of foodstuffs to feed 15,000 people for one month in the West Bank.


For information media - not an official record