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United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-04-26
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From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, 26 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.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Monday that any solution to the Kosovo crisis would be judged by whether it enabled refugees and internally displaced persons to return swiftly and safely to their homes.
In a speech in Berlin, where he is on the first leg of an official trip to Germany and the Russian Federation, the Secretary-General spoke of his ongoing efforts to help find a solution. "If the inhabitants of Kosovo can live in conditions of peace and security, with full respect for the civil and political rights for all, it will be a victory for Europe, for the United Nations and for humanity. Anything short of that may be considered a failure," he said.
The Secretary-General also addressed Europe's world role in the next century and its relationship with the United Nations. He said Europe exerted great influence over the Organization when its members spoke with a single voice and concerted their actions to achieve a common purpose in a spirit of enlightened multilateralism. If the UN was sidelined, Mr. Annan stressed, it was only because its Member States were not making full use of it.
In a meeting with the President of Germany Roman Herzog, the Secretary- General discussed Kosovo -- the risk of the conflict spreading, its social, economic and environmental impact, efforts by NATO to deal with the crisis and the possible future role of the United Nations.
Later on Monday, the Secretary-General visited Berlin's "New Synagogue", built in 1866, in what was then Berlin's Jewish Quarter. He was greeted by the Chairman of the Jewish community in Berlin, Dr. Andreas Nachama and by the Director of the Synagogue Foundation, Dr. Hermann Simon.
New refugees from Kosovo are arriving with increasingly frequent reports of atrocities, including the use of women and children as human shields, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Monday.
Several refugees from Prizren said a three-story building in the town used as an ammunition storage and a military living quarters also housed young Albanian hostages, although UNHCR said the report could not be independently confirmed. Many men who arrived in one group on Friday waited anxiously all day at the border for their wives and children who did not arrive. Refugees who reached the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia gave chilling accounts of alleged atrocities in villages near Urosevac, including reports of massacres, rapes and other abuses.
Meanwhile, new arrivals continue to outpace departures. More than 4,000 refugees reached the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia over the weekend and another 3,000 on Monday, with many more reportedly waiting to depart at the Urosevac train station, UNHCR said.
In Albania, however, the inflow has slowed down to a trickle, while 1,400 Kosovars entered the country via Montenegro. The new arrivals, some of whom showed signs of beatings, said there were large numbers of displaced persons in Prizen. The UN agency has prepared water, ready-to- eat meals and blankets in the event of a large new influx.
With tensions rising in the extremely overcrowded refugee camps, UNHCR is urging countries outside the region to take in more evacuees. Over the weekend, more than 1,500 refugees left the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia for Austria, France, the Netherlands, Turkey, Spain and the United Kingdom. On Monday another 1,000 were due to leave for seven different destinations.
UNHCR estimates there are 364,000 refugees in Albania and 136,500 in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. An additional 64,300 displaced Kosovars remain in Montenegro.
(Visit UNHCR's for in-depth coverage.)
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on Monday began the first round of immunizations for Kosovar children in refugee camps in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
In an effort to prevent the spread of major childhood diseases more than 8, 900 children under five years will be vaccinated against polio, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus. Newborn infants will be vaccinated against tuberculosis.
The campaign is being coordinated by UNICEF and the UN World Health Organization in close cooperation with the Macedonian Ministry of Health and Institute of Public Health. UNICEF will help the Ministry undertake a separate immunization campaign for refugee children living with host families throughout the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
The United Nations main human rights body has welcomed what it described as "profound changes" that had taken place in Nigeria, including the release of political prisoners, and commended efforts by the Nigerian Government to promote human rights in the country.
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights took that action during its current annual session in Geneva by adopting, last Friday, a consensus resolution by which it also decided to conclude its consideration of the human rights situation in Nigeria.
In other action, the 53-member Commission approved, by a roll-call vote, a no-action motion tabled by China not to consider a resolution on the human rights situation in that country.
Among other decisions, the Commission deplored continued Israeli violations of human rights in southern Lebanon and west Bekaa, including abduction and arbitrary detention of civilians. In a resolution, it called on Israel to withdraw immediately, totally and unconditionally from all Lebanese territories.
Concerning the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Commission noted that the Government's plans for a tolerant, diverse and law-abiding society had continued to unfold. The Commission, however, expressed concern at continuing violations of human rights, in particular the high number of executions, cases of torture, and sentences to stoning and public execution.
As for the situation in Iraq, the Commission strongly condemned systematic, widespread and extremely grave violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law by the Government of Iraq. It said this had resulted in an all-pervasive repression and oppression sustained by broad- based discrimination and widespread terror.
The Commission welcomed the expressed commitment of the Government of Sudan to respect and promote human rights and the rule of law, and urged all parties to the continuing conflict in the country to respect human rights.
In related actions, the Commission decided to extend the mandates of its Special Rapporteurs for Iraq and Sudan by another year.
In a new report released on Monday, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan describes the humanitarian situation in Abkhazia, Georgia, as "dire".
The Secretary-General says the failure to reach agreement in January on terms for the return of refugees and displaced persons to the Gali district and measures for the economic rehabilitation of Abkhazia, Georgia, meant that a valuable opportunity was missed to take a major step forward in the peace process.
Tensions associated with the upcoming elections in Georgia and Abkhazia, Georgia, and economic difficulties, are creating an environment in which provocations along the lines of separation of forces might lead to a more general destabilization, the report says. It was therefore essential that both sides exercise great restraint in responding to any incidents on the ground.
According to the report, two specific actions by the parties would significantly help improve the situation on the ground: the full separation of forces from the ceasefire line and the establishment of a joint investigation mechanism.
The report details the work of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), which includes monitoring compliance with the 1994 Moscow ceasefire agreement and progress on the ground.
The primary responsibility for the maintenance of peace and security rests with the United Nations and peacekeeping continues to be one of the key instruments available to the Organization for discharging that responsibility, a special UN committee concluded Monday as it wrapped up its annual session in New York.
The UN's Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations also stressed in its report to the General Assembly the importance of providing missions with clearly defined mandates, objectives and command structures, as well as secure financing.
The Committee emphasized that regional arrangements or agencies should always keep the Security Council fully informed of their activities undertaken or contemplated for the maintenance of international peace and security and urged the strengthening of cooperation between the United Nations and relevant regional organizations.
In personnel matters, the Special Committee's report stressed the importance of good selection and preparation of senior military commanders, police commissioners and key staff personnel prior to deployment. It also urged the Secretariat to pursue more actively structural changes which enhance the Organization's capacity for the effective planning, conduct and support of peacekeeping operations.
A United Nations inter-agency humanitarian mission returning from East Timor reported that there were critical gaps in the delivery of basic services, particularly health and education, a UN spokesman said Monday.
The mission was in East Timor from 22 to 24 April to assess humanitarian and development needs. Recommendations on how to address these gaps will be included in its final report, the spokesman said.
The delegation met with a cross-section of East Timorese society, including government officials, members of civil society and religious leaders, the spokesman said.
Meanwhile, the UN Commission on Human Rights, meeting in Geneva, expressed its deep concern at the serious human rights situation in East Timor and at the outbreaks of violence, particularly the recently reported killings of civilians in Liquica and Dili. The Commission requested Secretary-General Kofi Annan to present a report on the human rights situation in East Timor at its next session in 2000, the spokesman said.
Calls for greater international effort to speed up the recovery from the Asian financial crises and to mitigate the effects of similar crises in the future were heard in Bangkok on Monday where senior officials from over 50 countries gathered for the Ministerial Segment of the annual session of the UN's Economic and Social Commission of Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).
The theme of this year's session of ESCAP, which is the largest of UN's regional commissions, is "Asia and the Pacific into the twenty-first century: information technology, globalization, economic security and development."
In his message to the session, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that the process of globalization and liberalization, while promoting progress, has also served to accentuate differences between countries. "The challenge before us is to try and spread the benefits of development to meet the needs of the most vulnerable members of society", Mr. Annan said.
In a major policy statement, Adrianus Mooy, ESCAP Executive Secretary, stressed that despite much debate on the reasons for the Asian economic crisis, not enough was being done to bring about improvements to the architecture of the global financial system.
Warning that the momentum of reform in this area seemed to be petering out lately, Mr. Mooy noted that the present system was ill-equipped to prevent highly destabilizing impact of rapid capital movements on individual economies. Identifying several areas that needed urgent attention, the ESCAP Executive Secretary reiterated his call for setting up an Asian Fund to provide emergency assistance to vulnerable economies. He pointed out that since the crisis was international in nature, it would be wrong to place the entire onus for recovery on the national authorities.
In his inaugural address at the session, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand Bhichai Rattakul, welcomed the focus of the current session on information technology and its linkage to globalization. He also underscored ESCAP's role in the development of the region.
"I wish to congratulate ESCAP for its excellent record in promoting activities that have touched the lives and hearts of millions of people in this region for over half a century, and created hopes and aspirations never before undertaken by any organization", Mr. Bhichai said.
A UN committee overseeing compliance with an international treaty prohibiting torture opened its spring session on Monday in Geneva by reviewing a list of countries that have yet to submit overdue reports on their efforts to implement the accord.
The Committee against Torture learned that from June 1998 to March 1999, 32 of 105 expected reports on the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment were not submitted -- 22 were more than three years late. Each country had received between four and 17 reminders from the Committee.
The percentage of late reports was similar for other reporting periods, the Committee secretariat said.
The Committee is meeting to consider reports and hear presentations from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Mauritius, Venezuela, Bulgaria, Italy, Luxembourg, Libya, Morocco, Egypt and Liechtenstein, defending their records in implementing the rights enshrined in the treaty to prevent and punish acts of torture.
During the three-week meeting, the panel's 10 independent experts will study evidence that torture is being systematically practised in countries party to the treaty. They will also examine claims by individuals of violations of the treaty by countries.
There are 114 State parties to the Convention, which requires signatories to outlaw torture and explicitly prohibits the use of "higher orders" or "exceptional circumstances" as excuses for acts of torture. The Committee was established in 1987 to monitor compliance with the Convention and to assist State parties in implementing its provisions.
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