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United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-04-08

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From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: unnews@un.org

DAILY HIGHLIGHTS

Thursday, 8 April, 1999


This daily news round-up is prepared by the Central News Section of the Department of Public Information. The latest update is posted at approximately 6:00 PM New York time.

Latest Developments


HEADLINES

  • Major exit routes from Kosovo stay closed for second day: UNHCR.
  • President of UN tribunal for former Yugoslavia asks NATO countries to share information on war crimes suspects.
  • Recent killings in East Timor prompt series of diplomatic moves by UN officials.
  • UN's main body joins inter-agency effort to combat HIV/AIDS.


The major border crossings from Kosovo into Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia were closed for the second consecutive day on Thursday and only a trickle of people managed to leave the province, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The UN agency reported that following its unilateral ceasefire declaration early in the week, the Yugoslav Government had apparently instituted a new policy towards Kosovo's civilian population. At the border areas, Serbian authorities were now systematically turning people around and telling them to go home.

In the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, after a day of confusion about the fate of tens of thousands of refugees who had been stranded in a squalid field at Blace on the Kosovo border, a UN spokesman confirmed that a huge fleet of 350 buses had transferred about 28,000 people to two transit camp sites near the border. Another 9,500 were reportedly taken in a convoy of 103 buses to the Albanian border town of Pogradeci. A humanitarian mission was on its way to the region, said the spokesman.

Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, expressed strong concern about the people still in Kosovo where no international organizations are operating.

At a press conference in the northern Albanian town of Kukes on the Kosovo border, Ms. Ogata was asked about the fate of thousands of missing refugees turned back from the border by Yugoslav authorities. "We don't know what has happened to them, and I'm very, very worried," she responded.

Ms. Ogata said there had been a lot of atrocities in Kosovo, including rape, beatings, and burning of houses. "The facts should be known so that we will be in a position to deal with them," she said, adding that people were collecting information on war crimes.


The President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has urged NATO foreign ministers to make available information that would help the court investigate, prosecute and bring to trial suspected war criminals.

In a letter to the ministers released on Thursday in the Hague, Judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald said many refugees fleeing Kosovo recount experiences of indiscriminate violence, destruction, and theft of property, mass round-ups and systematic torture, rape and murder. "Experiences that, if true, belong to a time and place we are supposed to have left behind," she said.

The Tribunal has jurisdiction over violations of the laws or customs of war, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, crimes against humanity and genocide committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia from 1991 until the present, Judge McDonald said. She noted that there was no statute of limitations for those crimes and persons indicted by the Tribunal would remain so until they were brought to trial.

Judge McDonald said the Tribunal could not exercise its mandate to investigate, prosecute and conduct trials without the active assistance of States and the international community.


In a series of diplomatic moves following the killings over the past few days in East Timor, United Nations Secretary-General and his personal envoy has held discussions with top officials in Portugal and Indonesia, as well as church leaders and other East Timorese figures, a UN spokesman said on Thursday.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan spoke to President Jorge Sampaio of Portugal, while Secretary-General's Personal Representative for East Timor Jamsheed Marker was in touch with Foreign Ministers of Portugal and Indonesia, Jaime Gama and Ali Alatas. According to the UN spokesman, the Indonesian Government has responded positively to the UN's suggestion that an impartial inquiry be undertaken to establish the facts surrounding the killings which occurred in the town of Liquica.

Earlier this week, the Secretary-General voiced concern about reports from East Timor of an escalation of violence and urged the parties not to allow the process to be jeopardized by increasing armed conflict.

Meanwhile, a UN spokesman announced today that the senior officials' meeting on East Timor, which had been originally scheduled for 13 and 14 April, was postponed to 21 April. The postponement was at the request of the Indonesian Government, which is finalizing the text of the autonomy proposal.

The scheduled date of 22 April for the meeting of the Secretary-General and the Foreign Ministers of the two countries remained unchanged, the spokesman said.


The United Nations agency spearheading the fight against drug abuse has formally joined the UN campaign against the spread of AIDS, the UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) announced on Thursday.

UNAIDS said that the UN International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) has formalized its commitment to collaborate in fighting the global HIV/AIDS epidemic by becoming a cosponsor of UNAIDS. Other six existing UNAIDS cosponsors are the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Fund for Population Development (UNFPA), the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank.

The Executive Director of UNAIDS, Peter Piot, said that the use of psychoactive drugs had facilitated the spread of AIDS. "The most direct way is by HIV transmission through needles shared by injecting drug users," he said. He added that drug-induced loss of inhibitions could lead to sexual and other high-risk behaviours that individuals might otherwise avoid. International drug control was therefore an important tool in HIV/AIDS prevention efforts, Mr. Piot said.

UNDCP is active in the campaign against the spread of HIV/AIDS by implementing its own programmes to reduce the demand for illicit drugs. It particularly targets the youth and groups which engage in high risk behaviour. According to UNAIDS, coordination within the UN system has already resulted in more effective programming response to drug use and the AIDS epidemic in a number of countries. For example, through outreach and peer educators, a joint UNDCP/UNAIDS project in Viet Nam is increasing the capacity to carry out community-based programmes to prevent drug use and HIV.


For information purposes only - - not an official record

From the United Nations home page at <http://www.un.org> - email: unnews@un.org


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