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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
24 March 2009

Spokesperson's Noon Briefing

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Question:  Yes, Farhan, if I may go back.  There was report issued yesterday by the Under-Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. [Radhika] Coomaraswamy.  And she mentioned in the report what she said were hundreds of incidents, but particularly an incident in which Israeli army soldiers used an 11-year-old boy as a human shield and that this happened many times.  Is there any reaction from the Secretary-General to this report?

Associate Spokesperson:  There is no reaction from the Secretary-General.  The report speaks for itself.  As for the account of one incident involving the use of a child as a human shield by the IDF which was mentioned in the report, that has been verified.  With regards to Hamas, there’ve also been allegations, in terms of information that’s not verified, of Hamas effectively using civilians as human shields.  In addition, there have been some reports of Hamas firing from densely populated places and near protected areas, and the working group is currently investigating these reports.  This is the working group that was dealing with the issue of children and armed conflict on the ground in Gaza.

Question:  But since this incident is verified, is there a reaction?  The others are not verified.  So there is no reaction to this one?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, this report was presented to the Human Rights Council and was prepared in response to a request by the Human Rights Council, and we’ll await what their response is.


Question:  Coomaraswamy’s report, she’s working as mandated by the Secretary-General, presented this report to the Human Rights Council.  The Secretary-General is supposed to be reviewing further information at the end of this month.  Why is there not a response on this?  I mean, she clearly said to us last week at a press briefing that there were human rights laws abused by the Israeli Forces during this time.

Associate Spokesperson:  As far as that goes, this report was prepared in response to a request by the Human Rights Council.  The Human Rights Council resolution on the situation in Gaza mandated Special Rapporteurs as well as Mrs. Coomaraswamy to report on the situation.  So her contribution is an annex to that report, which was prepared by the country team there and specifically, the inter-agency task force on children and armed conflict on the ground.  And like I said, at this stage, this was something presented to the Human Rights Council and we’ll leave it to the Human Rights Council to respond first.

Question:  The Secretary-General called on the Israeli Government to conduct their own investigation and to submit those results to him.  Has he received those results or a timetable in which he will receive them?

Associate Spokesperson:  Not so far.  But he was promised to receive the results of any Israeli inquiry into these issues and he looks forward to receiving them.

Question:  Which issues?  This is a little vague.

Associate Spokesperson:  Into the issues surrounding the conflict in Gaza.

Question:  All the issues surrounding the conflict in Gaza?

Correspondent:  My question was referring to the period of late December, early January.

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  So Farhan, just to follow up, I mean it seems like the conflict ended almost 18 January and we’re almost at the end of March.  So almost two months is not enough for the Israelis to respond to the Secretary-General?  And doesn’t this sort of annoy him in one way or another?  Two months to respond to a request.

Associate Spokesperson:  As you’ve noticed from our own side, for example, our own Board of Inquiry’s work is still going on, for example.  So yes, some of these things take time.  Like I just said, the Board of Inquiry expects to turn in their own report by around the end of March.

Question:  I came in a little late.  So I just wondered, did you say anything about an update about the blockade on Gaza, because this is also, I heard a report yesterday by George Galloway saying that it’s a very devastating situation there in terms of the devastation that was done and the blockade being on.  Is there any update about anything the Secretary-General is doing to open those borders so what’s been pledged can get to the people?

Associate Spokesperson:  Our concern about the situation of humanitarian access to Gaza continues.  And yes, both on the ground and here we continue to press for improved access.  The access has improved a bit over the last week or so, but certainly we’re looking for more to be done.


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For information media • not an official record

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