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United Nations Daily Highlights, 97-11-28

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

DAILY HIGHLIGHTS

Friday, 28 November 1997


This document is prepared by the Central News Section of the Department of Public Information and is updated every week-day at approximately 6:00 PM.

HEADLINES

  • Secretary-General's human rights investigative team prepares to begin work in Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • Security Council establishes civilian police mission in Haiti.
  • Secretary-General says as long as international community fails to pursue peace in Afghanistan, UN can only serve as cover for inaction.
  • United Nations works to provide relief for more than one million Somalis affected by floods.
  • Secretary-General appoints Elisabeth Rehn as his Special Representative and Coordinator of UN Operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  • On eve of Day of Solidarity with Palestinian People, their UN representative says peace process is in "terrible shape".
  • China says human rights treaties in Hong Kong will remain in effect.


After a three-month stalemate, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's team investigating alleged human rights violations in Congo-Kinshasa plans to go to Mbandaka to begin its work.

The team announced on Friday that if all goes well, it could leave as soon as Saturday. United Nations Spokesman Fred Eckhard said there are a number of elements that need to be provided by the Government to make the trip possible. "They assign a liaison officer to the mission going north; they issue a travel authorization and an official document introducing them to local authorities", he said, adding, "we'll see if all that comes together by tomorrow".

Mr. Eckhard said the team plans to spend a week in Mbandaka preparing for a more in-depth examination later on.

On Thursday, the Secretary-General sent a letter to the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Laurent Kabila, confirming that the team had received assurances of cooperation from the Government. The Secretary- General says he has instructed the team to aim to complete its investigation within the six-month period agreed to earlier, but adds that "with the loss of three months since their arrival in Kinshasa, they may require more time, possibly extending to May 1998".


The Security Council on Thursday established the United Nations Civilian Police Mission in Haiti (MIPONUH) which will continue providing international support to the Haitian Government's efforts to make the country's national police force more professional.

Unanimously adopting resolution 1141 (1997), the Council decided that MIPONUH will be composed of up to 300 civilian police, authorized to carry personal weapons, who will assist the Haitian National Police as it pursues its own institutional development and addresses the country's increasing security needs. Acting at the request of the President of Haiti for additional international assistance to strengthen the two-year old police force, the Council affirmed the importance of a professional national police to the consolidation of democracy in Haiti and the revitalization of its justice system.

The Mission, which will be in place for one year, will include a 90- strong special police unit responsible for providing assistance to mission personnel and protecting its property. The special police unit will be stationed in the capital and available 24 hours a day. The Council affirms that all special arrangements accorded to MIPONUH will not constitute a precedent for future operations of the same nature that include civilian police personnel, who are generally unarmed.

Haiti's Ambassador to the United Nations, Pierre Lelong, told the Security Council that firm will is needed to eliminate the vestiges of the former "regime of terror". He expressed concern over the gap between professionalization of the police and progress in the area of justice, which he said "will certainly lead to a feeling of frustration among the people".


Afghanistan's civil war is exacting a staggering toll in human suffering and material damage, according to a new report by United Nations Secretary- General Kofi Annan. "What we are witnessing is a seemingly endless tragedy of epic proportions in which the Afghan people's yearning for peace is being systematically and continually betrayed by leaders and warlords driven by selfish ambitions and the thirst for power."

The Secretary-General says the international community has done little to discourage fighting in Afghanistan. He points out that Governments in the region and outside of it could press for peace should they so decide. But as long as they do not use their influence, the Secretary-General stresses, the United Nations can only serve as a cover for the "inaction -- or worse - - of the international community at large".

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) meanwhile is working to help up to 35,000 people who have been displaced by the fighting in Afghanistan. UNHCR Spokeswoman Pam O'Toole told reporters in Geneva on Friday that it has long been difficult to help central Afghanistan, but now the situation is desperate. "This year they've got the dual problems of the blockade being imposed by the Taliban and the front lines beyond any of the existing problems", she said.

The United Nations expert on the country's human rights situation announced that he will visit Afghanistan and Pakistan from 30 November to 11 December. Professor Choong-Hyun Paik will travel to mass graves recently discovered in the north of Afghanistan, and will explore the possibility of sending a forensic expert there to investigate what appears to be an "extremely grave" violation of human rights.


The United Nations is working to help more than one million people in Somalia who have been affected by severe flooding.

Some 1,472 Somalis have died from the floods, while at least 230,000 have been forced to flee their homes. According to the United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs, many families have not managed to get away and are still stuck in their villages, on roof-tops, higher grounds, embankments or sand dunes, waiting to be rescued.

The United Nations launched an appeal for aid to Somalia which has met with a positive response; so far, some $9.7 million has been pledged for the relief effort. A UN spokesman said 1,000 metric tonnes of food aid have being delivered by all means available, including air transport, trucks, manpower and donkeys.


The Secretary-General Kofi Annan has announced the appointment of Elisabeth Rehn as his Special Representative and Coordinator of United Nations Operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ms. Rehn is currently the United Nations expert monitoring human rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro).

Speaking to reporters in Sarajevo on Thursday, Ms. Rehn said she would work to end corruption in the judicial system and train the Bosnian police to bring them up to European standards.

A national of Finland, Ms. Rehn was her country's Minister of Defence from 1990 to 1995. She takes up her new duties in Bosnia and Herzegovina on 16 January.


As the world prepares to mark the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, their representative at the United Nations says the peace process is in "terrible shape". The Permanent Observer for Palestine, Nasser Al-Kidwa, is calling on the United States, as a co- sponsor of the peace process, to take action. "Those agreements were signed at the White House in Washington, D.C., and accordingly, there is obvious responsibility here, and we would like to see these responsibilities met", he said.

In an interview with United Nations Radio, Ambassador Al-Kidwa welcomed the international solidarity with the Palestinian cause expressed every year on 29 November. "We are grateful to the international community for providing us with this kind of support and assistance and we hope that this will continue until we are able to achieve our inalienable rights."

The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People will hold a solemn meeting on Monday at United Nations Headquarters to commemorate the Day.


The Chinese Government has announced that human rights treaties in Hong Kong are still in effect, even though the territory is no longer under United Kingdom rule.

Hong Kong is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. China has not yet signed either human rights treaty, but in a letter to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Chinese Ambassador Qin Huasan says the covenants will remain law in Hong Kong in accordance with the principle of "one country, two systems". Through a statement by his Spokesman, the Secretary-General welcomed the news, saying that he was "sure that the citizens of Hong Kong will be equally pleased".


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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