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United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-04-29

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The United Nations Home Page at <> - email:


Thursday, 29 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.


  • In Moscow, UN Secretary-General holds talks with Russian leaders in search for solution to Kosovo crisis.
  • Refugees continue to stream out of Kosovo -- UNHCR.
  • Belgrade institutes proceedings against 10 NATO countries before International Court of Justice.
  • UNICEF says counsellors urgently needed to help traumatized children from Kosovo.
  • Economic and Social Council President warns decline in world economic growth threatens poverty reduction.
  • International Court of Justice upholds UN human rights expert's immunity from legal process.
  • Broader commitment urged to chemical weapons convention on second anniversary of its entry into force.
  • UN human rights commissioner condemns ongoing atrocities in Sierra Leone.

In an ongoing diplomatic effort to find a political solution to the Kosovo crisis, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday held a series of talks in Moscow with President Boris Yeltsin and other Russian leaders.

"I think it is very important that I came to Moscow to discuss the crucial issue with the Russian leaders," the Secretary-General told reporters after one of the meetings. Mr. Annan underscored the importance of what he called the "strenuous and important steps" taken by the Russian leaders for which, he said, "I believe the entire international community is very grateful even though we haven't achieved our objectives of finding a political solution."

The Secretary-General said it was encouraging that world leaders had concluded that whatever solution was found must be legitimized through the Security Council. "This is important for the United Nations and for the world and for the countries involved in the conflict," he stressed.

"As conflict escalates and spreads so does a humanitarian tragedy and we need to work as fast as we can to find a political solution," the Secretary- General said, expressing the hope that the leaders in Belgrade and President Milosevic would respond to the concerns of the international community.

In addition to his meeting with President Yeltsin, the Secretary- General held discussions in Moscow with President Yeltsin's special envoy for Kosovo Viktor Chernomyrdin, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Prime Minister Primakov. Together with Foreign Minister Ivanov, the Secretary- General also held a quadrilateral session on Kosovo with Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy of Canada and Georgios Papandreou, the Foreign Minister of Greece.

Refugees continued to stream out of Kosovo on Thursday, putting an intolerable strain on overflowing camps in neighboring countries, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The estimated 5,000 new refugees who crossed into the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on Thursday morning were sent to an unfinished campsite at Cegrane, which UNHCR, private relief groups and the German contingent of NATO were working around the clock to ready. UNHCR even vacated office space to make room for more arrivals.

More than 64,000 refugees are being sheltered in the camps and, according to the latest Government figures, over 90,000 are living outside the camps, said UNHCR.

Almost 1,600 refugees were evacuated from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on Wednesday to seven European countries, but the rate was short of UNHCR's immediate daily target of 2,000 departures. Flights were scheduled to leave on Thursday for Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

In Albania, which is already host to 370,000 refugees, another 3,500 new arrivals crossed the border at Morini. Several new arrivals late on Wednesday confirmed earlier accounts about the killing of an undetermined number of males in Meja, near Djakovica. Other refugees confirmed reports that there had also been killings in the nearby village of Oriza, where they said they had been seen some 20 bodies in a local school.

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) reported that recent arrivals are showing signs of severe hunger, as a result of days without food on their journey to the border and dwindling supplies inside Kosovo.

The WFP said it was gravely concerned for the health and nutritional status of people inside Kosovo. According to the UN agency, farming has more or less stopped, many livestock have been killed, and crops and food reserves destroyed.

The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on Thursday asked the UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) to declare the air attacks against its territory by NATO a violation of international law, the Court said.

In instituting proceedings against 10 NATO countries involved in the attacks, Belgrade claimed the bombings were in violation of its obligation not to use force against another State.

In a meeting on Thursday, the Court decided that the hearings on provisional measures would open on 10 May. The 10 States named in the proceedings are the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Portugal and Spain.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on Thursday that more counsellors were urgently needed to work with traumatized refugee children from Kosovo.

Training for an additional 60 care providers to help children deal with the psychosocial stress of the crisis will begin on Saturday, said UNICEF. The agency is supporting psychosocial activities for children and other refugees in more than a dozen refugee camps.

UNICEF also reported that most refugee children in Albania who became separated from their families have been reunited, but in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 300 children were still registered as unaccompanied, and more than 500 families were still trying to locate their children.

In Albania, immunization of children at the Kukes camp was now complete, while the campaign was continuing in refugee camps in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, said UNICEF.

The President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on Thursday warned that goals for reducing poverty would not be reached if worldwide economic growth did not improve.

Speaking at a news conference following the conclusion of the second special high-level meeting between ECOSOC and the Bretton Woods institutions, Ambassador Paolo Fulci of Italy noted that many countries were still in a "crisis situation" and that despite some hopeful signs, the world economy was still fragile.

Representatives to ECOSOC and officials from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were meeting at UN Headquarters in New York to focus on the theme "Functioning of international financial markets and stability in financing for development." The first such meeting was held in April 1998.

Ambassador Fulci praised the high level of interest and participation in the meeting, saying that it demonstrated a successful building of bridges with the Bretton Woods institutions. "It's very clear that we cannot pursue development without addressing the financial fundamentals," he said.

In her opening address, Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette said that even though a global recession did not materialize it was not a time for complacency. "The effects of the crisis are still with us," she said, "and it would be a grave mistake to return to business as usual."

Outlining priorities for the financial community, the Deputy Secretary- General urged that efforts be undertaken to reverse the decline in the growth rate of the world economy and to complete the establishment of a new global financial architecture. Other priorities included helping developing countries build the capacity to engage in the global economy on a sustainable basis, ensuring there were sufficient resources and reinforcing cooperation and coordination among the parties involved.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Thursday upheld the principle of respect for the privileges and immunities of United Nations agents who are called upon to perform tasks for the Organization worldwide.

In an advisory opinion, approved by 14 votes to 1, the Court said that Section 22 of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations was "applicable" to the case of Param Cumaraswamy, a Malaysian jurist who was appointed Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1994. In the Court's opinion, Mr. Cumaraswamy was "entitled to immunity from legal process of every kind for the words spoken by him during an interview as published in an article in the November 1995 issue of International Commercial Litigation".

Mr. Cumaraswamy currently faces several lawsuits filed in Malaysian courts by plaintiffs who assert that he used defamatory language in the interview and seek damages in a total amount of $112 million. However, according to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Mr. Cumaraswamy spoke in his official capacity of Special Rapporteur and was thus immune from legal process by virtue of the Convention.

In its advisory opinion, the Court held that the Government of Malaysia should have informed the Malaysian courts of the finding of the Secretary- General and that these courts should have dealt with the question of immunity as a preliminary issue to be expeditiously decided. It unanimously stated that Mr. Cumaraswamy should be "held financially harmless for any costs imposed upon him by the Malaysian courts, in particular taxed costs".

Reacting to the news, Secretary-General Kofi Annan voiced his "satisfaction" and expressed the hope that the difference between the Government of Malaysia and the Organization would now be settled in accordance with the opinion, according to a UN spokesman.

The decision was also welcomed by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson. She stressed that it was heartening -- given the importance of the mandates of Special Rapporteurs and the difficult circumstances in which they carry out their responsibilities -- that the core principle of immunity and independence had been reaffirmed.

Although advisory opinions given by the Court are not generally binding, the Convention on UN immunities provides that those rendered in the event of a difference between the United Nations and a Member State "shall be accepted as decisive by the parties". All proceedings in the Malaysian courts have been stayed pending receipt of the opinion.

Marking the second anniversary of entry into force of a ground- breaking convention that outlawed chemical weapons, the head of the international body overseeing the treaty's implementation urged broader ratification of the Convention to bring closer "the dream of a world free of chemical weapons."

"I appeal on this solemn occasion to all states which have not yet done so to ratify or accede to the Convention and this way to share in the creation, for themselves, for their children and for ours, of a world which will forever be free of the threat of these terrible weapons", Jose M. Bustani, Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said in an appeal issued in the Hague on Thursday.

Mr. Bustani stressed that the Convention, which entered into force on 29 April 1997, was a historic milestone in the efforts of the international community to prohibit and eliminate an entire category of weapons of mass destruction under strict and effective verification and control. He stressed that OPCW, which is legally and politically responsible for the full and effective implementation of the Convention, was making a significant contribution to enhanced international peace and security.

As of today, there are 121 States parties to the Convention. Forty- eight States have signed but not yet ratified the treaty and 23 States have not yet acceded to it.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, has condemned "in the strongest possible terms" the ongoing atrocities in Sierra Leone and called for respect by all parties for international humanitarian law.

In a statement issued on Thursday, Ms. Robinson said she had been following with deep distress successive reports of grave violations and abuses of human rights, particularly by the rebel forces. The High Commissioner expressed strong support for the current peace process in Lome and her strong hope that the parties would redouble their efforts to arrive at an agreement to end the conflict and lay the foundation for peace and sustainable respect for human rights.

Ms. Robinson, who plans to visit the country in June, said she was in contact about the evolving situation with the Sierra Leone Government and with Francis Okelo, Special Representative of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

From the United Nations home page at <> - email:

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