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- Amendments 012-025 – Annual Report on the implementation of the Common Security and Defence Policy – A8-0351/2017(012-025)
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Priorities of Japan’s December presidency of the Security Council would include non‑proliferation, small arms and current challenges to maintaining peace and security, the country’s Permanent Representative said this afternoon.
Briefing correspondents at Headquarters on the Council’s work programme, Koro Bessho pledged to be as transparent as possible and speak to the press following consultations. Completion of scheduled meetings was planned for 21 December to allow, as usual, for a holiday schedule, barring unforeseen developments.
Non‑proliferation was on top of the agenda, he said, after this week’s launch of a long‑range ballistic missile by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. As a result, a ministerial‑level meeting on that country’s nuclear and missile programmes was planned for 15 December with several ministers already committed to participating. “This is a very strong threat to security and the awareness of the international community has been heightened”, he said.
As for contemporary challenges to peace and security, he said an open debate was slated for 20 December that would focus on how well the United Nations was addressing the new landscape, given that many conflicts today were not between countries and had diverse causes, and that a long‑term approach to peacebuilding and conflict prevention was needed. The meeting would address many of the issues the Secretary‑General had focused on in his reports on reform.
Turning to small arms, he noted that while the issue was not often discussed in the Council, the body requested every two years a report on the proliferation of those weapons, which killed many civilians around the world each year. The report would be discussed on 18 December, a timely arrival, he commented, given that Japan was on the bureau of the Arms Trade Treaty organization.
Regarding Syria, he said monthly briefings on the political and humanitarian situation would be held, given the slow start to intra‑Syrian dialogue now ongoing in Geneva. Humanitarian access had been seen to improve, but was still not adequate, and extending mechanisms to do that would be discussed.
Recalling last month’s failure to renew the Joint Investigative Mechanism that aimed to determine the perpetrators of chemical attacks in Syria, he said there was consensus in the Council that use of chemical weapons was not permissible in any circumstance, and that the Council must prevent impunity. However, differences remained on how to do that and he expressed hope there would be a related resolution by the end of the month.
Other meetings included a 12 December briefing on the Secretary‑General’s report on the situation in Myanmar, which he foresaw provoking an active discussion. Responding to questions on that topic, he said the Under‑Secretary‑General for Political Affairs would brief. Recalling the Presidential Statement last month, he said he hoped for a constructive meeting to determine the way forward.
To questions on the weapons programmes of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said pressure had been brought to bear on the country, not simply condemnations but also measures to prevent that Government from acquiring the materials needed to build its military arsenal. The last resolution on the issue was robust and should have an effect if all Member States implemented it, he commented.
Several foreign ministers had already committed to attending the ministerial meeting and the Secretary‑General had been asked to brief, he said. The Council would seek to produce an outcome, but he was uncertain as to what that would be. The discussion would be open only to Council members but he could foresee serious bilateral meetings as well, as they were already occurring. If there was a request for representatives of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to participate, that would be handled in the normal manner.
Some members had requested a briefing on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea, possibly on 11 December, he said in answer to questions. The subject had not yet been decided. It was important that the link between the human rights situation in the country and the threats to peace and security in the region be understood. He did not foresee any specific action coming out of that meeting.
When asked why discussions on the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea had been “one sided”, given the threats it faced from military exercises, Mr. Bessho said Pyongyang had violated treaties and was the only Government in the world that had conducted nuclear tests in the twenty‑first century. Authorities were depriving people of resources they needed to live. The Council’s message, he said, was to stop the nuclear and missile development, and instead, use the resources to build a peaceful democratic nation in which people were provided the public services they deserved.
Asked why the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea should end its nuclear programme, given the experiences of Iraq and Libya, he said those countries had a very different history. There had been many attempts to address the issue, including through previous agreed frameworks and the Six‑Party Talks. All members agreed they wanted a change in the country’s policy. “What we would like to see is a de‑nuclearized North Korea,” he said. “If they denuclearized they could live in peace with their neighbours.” Asked about the danger of war over the issue, he said he refused to speculate on hypotheticals.
Finally, asked about the prospects for Israeli‑Palestinian peace, he said the Council still embraced the necessity of the two‑State solution and a conducive environment for negotiations to restart. It was true, he acknowledged, that some members thought prospects were eroding and wanted changes in the way forward.
For the full programme of work, please see www.un.org/en/sc/programme.Read more
Head of Counter-Terrorism Office Urges Involvement of Private Art Dealers, Auction Houses in Preventing Trafficking
With the obvious goal of undermining national identity and international law, terrorists — particularly in armed conflict situations — were not only destroying lives and property, but also historical sites and objects, the head of the United Nations Office of Counter‑Terrorism told the Security Council today.
Under‑Secretary‑General Vladimir Voronkov pointed out that when terrorist groups targeted World Heritage Sites, they attacked common historical roots and cultural diversity. Illicit trafficking in cultural objects also led to the financing of terrorism and criminal networks. The protection of cultural heritage had therefore become a vitally important task for the international community.
Citing numerous international legal and normative frameworks to address those crimes, he underscored the need to focus on investigation, cross‑border cooperation and exchange of information, as well as involving public and private sector partners, including collectors, art dealers, auction houses and tourism agencies. With United Nations support, Member States had strengthened their legal frameworks and criminal justice systems, and enhanced collaboration to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks against their cultural heritage, he said.
Audrey Azoulay, Director General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said the adoption of Council resolution 2347 (2017) testified to a new awareness of the importance of culture in reducing conflict, preventing radicalization and fighting violent extremism. Already, 29 Member States had shared information on new actions taken to protect cultural heritage, strengthening tools and training of specialized personnel.
She reported that of the 82 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Arab region, 17 were on the list of those endangered by armed conflict. All six Syrian World Heritage Sites had been severely affected, and more than 100 cultural heritage sites across Iraq had been damaged. To stem the destruction, awareness must be raised, notably through the UNESCO Unite4Heritage movement.
Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) called for greater implementation of the almost universally agreed conventions against transnational organized crime, against corruption and for the suppression of terrorist financing. Cooperation in investigating and prosecuting trafficking cases must be strengthened, and more information exchanged. The art market and museums should pay special attention to the provenance of cultural items they were considering acquiring.
Jürgen Stock, Secretary‑General of the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), called the destruction and trafficking of cultural heritage in armed conflict serious transnational crimes, which financed terrorist groups, hindered reconciliation through attempts to erase and desecrate public assets, and caused loss to the global community.
He said INTERPOL had been fighting those crimes on behalf of law enforcement worldwide since 1946. Its efforts focused on the collection and exchange of operational information across borders, including in conflict and post‑conflict zones. He stressed the imperative of exchanging information as rapidly and widely as possible, and of creating both specialized police units and national databases dedicated to protecting cultural property and investigating trafficking.
Alessandro Bianchi, Project Leader of Cultural Heritage Protection in Italy’s Ministry of Culture, said such assets were in the cross‑hairs of the enemy, viewed as symbols of identity that deserved desecration and destruction. Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) had demolished 36 of 80 notable buildings in Mosul in June 2014 because they were legacies of the Shia community. He advocated better coordination between law enforcement and judicial bodies in preventing illegal excavations, harmonizing customs procedures and inspecting the trade in artefacts.
In the ensuing debate, Council members underlined the importance of preserving cultural heritage, with Senegal’s delegate describing it as the identity of peoples and nations, and a source of cohesion. Its organized looting and illicit trafficking had become a war strategy of terrorists who used proceeds to finance their criminal activities. Kazakhstan’s representative said cultural heritage carried “civilizational codes”. Protecting it and fostering pluralism were essential for ensuring peace.
Several delegates called on Governments to ratify and harmonize multilateral legal instruments, fully implement resolution 2347 (2017) and deepen cooperation with UNESCO and INTERPOL. The representative of the Russian Federation suggested that those involved in destroying or trafficking cultural property be added to the Council’s various sanctions lists.
Underlining the need to combat impunity, delegates welcomed the International Criminal Court’s decision to prosecute those responsible for destroying cultural heritage in Timbuktu with war crimes. Several cited the cooperation between Mali and the United Nations stabilization mission there, with Bolivia’s representative recommending the replication of that positive experience by other countries and missions.
Others noted the primary responsibility of States to protect cultural heritage, and the importance of international support to help some build capacity. Sweden’s delegate drew attention to the “demand side” of illicit trafficking, noting that the burden of such activity could not be solely borne by countries affected by war or terrorism. Egypt’s delegate added that international support must respect national sovereignty. He objected to any interference in State internal affairs and to the removal of objects from a country to safe havens.
Representatives of Japan, France, United Kingdom, Ethiopia, China, Uruguay, Ukraine, United States and Italy also spoke.
The meeting started at 10:07 a.m. and ended at 12:17 p.m.
VLADIMIR VORONKOV, Under‑Secretary‑General of the United Nations Office of Counter‑Terrorism, said terrorists, particularly in situations of armed conflict, not only destroyed lives and property, but also historical sites and objects, with the obvious goal of undermining national identity and international law. When terrorist groups targeted World Heritage Sites, it was an attack on common historical roots and cultural diversity. Illicit trafficking in cultural objects also led to the financing of terrorism and criminal networks. The protection of cultural heritage had therefore become a vitally important task for the international community.
He said there was already a strong international legal and normative framework to address those crimes. Council resolution 2347 (2017), for example, encouraged Member States to ratify the 1970 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) convention on illicit trafficking and the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two Protocols. Other legal frameworks included the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the United Nations Convention against Corruption, the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, and the International Guidelines for Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Responses with Respect to Trafficking in Cultural Property and Other Related Offences.
He said there was a need to focus on investigation, cross‑border cooperation and exchange of information, as well as on bringing in private and public sector partners, including collectors, art dealers, auction houses and the tourism sector. The Counter‑Terrorism Office, through the inter‑agency Working Group on Countering the Financing of Terrorism, supported State efforts to curb illicit trafficking. UNESCO and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) were already working together, along with the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), the World Customs Organization and other partners. He also had asked the Counter‑Terrorism Implementation Task Force entities to propose projects, and would welcome new proposals by States and regional organizations.
With the support of United Nations entities, he said Member States were strengthening their legal frameworks and criminal justice systems, and enhancing their collaboration to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks against their cultural heritage.
AUDREY AZOULAY, Director General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, introducing the report on the implementation of resolution 2347 (2017), said that its adoption testified to a new awareness on the importance of culture to reduce conflict, prevent radicalization and fight violent extremism. Already, she said, 29 Member States had shared information on new action taken to protect cultural heritage, strengthening tools and training of specialized personnel. Italy had launched the Unite4Heritage Task Force and developed a database of illegally removed heritage, the largest of its kind. Japan, France, Slovakia and the Russian Federation had reported improvements in their records of stolen objects, officers in Canada had received training on import‑export controls, and both Uruguay and Sweden had created new mechanisms. “These are positive signals of deep change,” she said.
“We need to do more,” she added, reporting that of the 82 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Arab region, 17 were on the list of those endangered by armed conflict. All six Syrian World Heritage Sites had been severely affected, with Palmyra and Aleppo, two of the oldest cities in the world, now reduced to rubble. More than 100 cultural heritage sites across Iraq had been damaged. To stem the destruction, awareness must be raised, with initiatives also targeting young people building on the UNESCO Unite4Heritage movement. In addition, information on trafficking and damage must be collected and shared, and peacekeepers trained on protection of heritage.
She pledged the determination of UNESCO to support Member States with the necessary tools and policy advice, pointing to guidelines around the fundamental link between respect for cultural diversity and human rights. A holistic approach to protection of culture was needed. She called for ending trafficking, protecting sights and working in cultural education to counter such lies as Palmyra being a monument to Roman occupation rather than the rich cultural crossroads it had been for centuries. She welcomed cooperation with UNESCO in the rebuilding of Timbuktu in Mali, and the development of new legal tools, stressing that protection‑oriented mandates afforded by the Security Council would foster the continued existence of the world’s cultures.
YURY FEDOTOV, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, urged the international community to maintain focus on strengthening the implementation of the almost universally agreed instruments represented by the conventions against transnational organized crime, against corruption and for the suppression of terrorist financing. He said his Office worked closely with UNESCO, INTERPOL, the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law and other partners to assist Member States in promoting comprehensive responses to stop looted or stolen cultural property from being trafficked from the affected countries.
More must be done to support countries, with a view to dismantling criminal networks, he said. International cooperation in investigating and prosecuting cases of trafficking in cultural property must be strengthened, and more information exchanged. The art market and museums also should pay special attention to the provenance of cultural items they were considering acquiring. To help countries build capacity, UNODC offered advanced training for port control and continued to support anti‑corruption and anti‑money‑laundering action, providing technical assistance to counter terrorist financing in particular. UNODC had also developed a tool to help put into practice the crime prevention guidelines adopted by the General Assembly in 2014, and he urged all Member States to use that expert resource.
“Even as we welcome news that groups such as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) are losing control over territories, we must take the opportunity to further strengthen efforts to better safeguard vulnerable cultural property. Only this way can we protect precious cultural heritage from being lost forever,” he said, assuring that UNODC’s assistance and network of field offices were at the disposal of the international community for that purpose.
JÜRGEN STOCK, Secretary‑General of the International Criminal Police Organization, addressing the Council via videoconference, said the destruction and trafficking of cultural heritage in armed conflict were serious and transnational crimes affecting international peace and security. Those practices financed terrorist groups, hindered the processes of reconciliation and return to democratic governance — notably by attempting to erase and desecrate social, cultural and economic assets — and causing loss to the global community.
He said INTERPOL had been fighting those crimes on behalf of law enforcement worldwide since 1946. Its efforts focused on the core of its mandate: the collection and exchange of vital operational information across borders, including with law enforcement in conflict and post‑conflict zones. However, essential criminal information on foreign terrorist fighters, identity documents and trafficked property were often dispersed across actors in those areas. Consolidating it into a single operational flow was the primary goal of INTERPOL. Coordinating the gathering and sharing of information into one centralized hub avoided intelligence gaps, he explained, and promoted national sovereignty and ownership of data.
Recently, INTERPOL had collected information from its bureaus in Baghdad and Damascus, he said, identifying objects of invaluable cultural value stolen from Raqqa and Palmyra in Syria, and Mosul in Iraq. That information had immediately been disseminated to law enforcement and other stakeholders. Intelligence was used to identify trafficking routes, especially new destination countries. INTERPOL was working to enhance real time access to that intelligence through upgrading its database and developing mobile applications.
He stressed the imperative of exchanging information as rapidly and widely as possible, while preventing the duplication of channels. There was also a need to create specialized police units and national databases dedicated to the protection of cultural property and investigation of heritage trafficking cases. Italy’s model was an example to follow, he said, as it ensured coordination through a single national point of contact and created opportunities to seize stolen objects.
ALESSANDRO BIANCHI, Project Leader, Cultural Heritage Protection, Ministry of Culture of Italy, attached great importance to resolution 2347 (2017) as it updated the international framework in defence of heritage at risk. Monuments in conflict areas were currently in the cross‑hairs of the enemy, viewed as symbols of identity that deserved desecration and destruction. Looting and illegal excavations were sources of income for criminal gangs and terrorist groups, who not only carried out such acts for financial gain, but to destroy the identities of a people. For example, in June 2014, ISIL/Da’esh had demolished 36 of 80 notable buildings in the centre of Mosul because they were legacies of the Shia community.
Given such experiences, resolution 2347 (2017) outlined the growing importance of three areas of action, he continued. Firstly, it underscored the need for the collection of technical data on monuments and archaeological sites and the increased use of modern technology, including satellite remote control of territory to assess possible damage. Next, resolution 2347 (2017) underscored the need for improved coordination between law enforcement and judicial bodies in fighting international crime, preventing illegal excavations, coordinating customs procedures and inspecting the trade in artefacts. Lastly, the resolution highlighted the support required to administrations of affected territories by facilitating the rapid recovery of their pre‑crisis capacities.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said all States must realize the importance of preserving and regenerating cultural and historical heritage, stressing that it carried the “civilizational codes” of a nation. Protecting cultural heritage and fostering pluralism were essential for ensuring peace, security and sustainable development. All States Parties should ratify and harmonize multilateral legal instruments related to cultural heritage, as artefact smuggling was a transnational phenomenon. In addition, sanctions regimes should be rigorously enforced, while joint efforts with antiquities markets and private dealers must be strengthened, and the inventory and documentation of artefacts and heritage sites put in place.
TOSHIYA HOSHINO (Japan) condemned the destruction of cultural heritage as a war tactic used by terrorist groups, stressing that protection of that property was a peace and security issue. Japan was committed to universalizing and implementing international norms, he said, calling resolution 2347 (2017), the 1954 Hague Convention and the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime — known as the Palermo Convention — productive legal frameworks. A global criminal justice response that held perpetrators accountable was needed, as was enhanced coordination within the United Nations. Capacity‑building was also essential to safeguarding cultural heritage. Japan had established the UNESCO Japanese Funds‑in‑Trust for the Preservation of World Cultural Heritage, he said, emphasizing the importance of enhanced partnerships to promote a multifaceted response, information‑sharing and coordination among a broad range of stakeholders.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said his country and Italy had always shared the objective of protecting the heritage of humanity and had worked together in developing resolution 2347 (2017). He listed the wide variety of groups that had attacked cultural heritage in recent years, with armed groups deriving funding from looting cultural goods, which thus fuelled conflicts. It was imperative to ensure that the international community as a whole was mobilized to address the situation. He described France’s work within the European Union for that purpose, and at the international level, coordination with INTERPOL, and partnership with the United Arab Emirates on the 2016 Abu Dhabi conference, which had brought together actors in many sectors to create an international alliance to protect threatened cultural heritage.
JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom), noting terrorist attempts to annihilate cherished values and cultural diversity, welcomed the International Criminal Court’s sentencing related to cultural destruction in Timbuktu. In addition to legal and security action, practical actions were needed from the international community. Funding from the private sector and Governments was needed to protect the shared heritage for the benefit of humanity. The United Kingdom had ratified the 1954 Hague Convention, tightened control over the sale and movement of cultural goods and developed expertise for national and international purposes. A fund protecting cultural sites and artefacts in many countries would be extended to further regions. “Our shared cultural heritage will prevail,” he vowed.
MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia) affirmed that the looting and exploiting of cultural sites and artefacts were of great concern, and welcomed efforts carried out since the adoption of resolution 2347 (2017). States had the primary responsibility to protect their heritage and prosecute violators, but they required international cooperation to effectively carry out that obligation. She welcomed UNESCO’s collaboration with the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and other missions in that context, underlining the importance of fully implementing Council resolutions and the Convention on protecting cultural heritage.
WU HAITAO (China) affirmed that cultural heritage was important for many reasons, including representing diverse civilizations. Looting and destruction of such heritage must end, particularly since it financed terrorism, and resolution 2347 (2017) must be fully implemented for that purpose. The United Nations should support capacity‑building for the prevention of trafficking and the financing of terrorist groups. At the national level, security policies should be strengthened, with the international community providing constructive support with full respect for national sovereignty. Mutual respect and dialogue between civilizations should also be promoted, as should reconciliation within groups in conflict areas to ensure respect for all cultural heritage.
IRINA SCHOULGIN NYONI (Sweden) brought attention to the “demand side” of illicit trafficking in cultural property, noting that the burden of such activity could not be solely borne by countries affected by war or terrorism. For that reason, she welcomed that the Secretary‑General’s report addressed the role of the arts and antiquities market, noting that the National Heritage Board had opened a dialogue with Swedish art and antiques dealers, with the aim of strengthening the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural property. Revised anti‑money‑laundering and counter‑terrorist financing legislation also created stronger incentives for the private and public sectors to work together on those issues. She took note of the Secretary‑General’s recommendations regarding the training of personnel on the protection of cultural heritage and on planning processes ahead of the establishment of new peacekeeping missions or mandate renewals. Where preventive efforts failed, accountability for attacks against cultural heritage sites was essential and perpetrators must be held accountable.
FODÉ SECK (Senegal) said cultural heritage was one way of preserving the identity of peoples and nations; it was a source of cohesion. The organized looting and illicit trafficking of cultural goods had become a war strategy of terrorist groups who used the proceeds to finance their criminal activities. Humanity had suffered massive destructions perpetrated in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Libya and in Timbuktu, Mali. Protecting world cultural heritage in conflict situations was a major challenge requiring a rapid response from the international community. It was important to draw up an accurate inventory of cultural property and objects of religious significance that had been illegally removed. He welcomed the decision of the International Criminal Court stating that the destruction of a religious or cultural site constituted a war crime, noting that MINUSMA had been authorized to assist authorities in protecting historical sites.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said the fight against ISIL was nearing its end, thanks to the involvement of the Russian Air Force. Addressing the damage to cultural heritage caused by terrorists, however, would take years. Implementation of resolution 2347 (2017) raised some questions, as terrorists used all kinds of loopholes when trafficking in cultural heritage, including through anonymous dealers and the Internet. He called on all States to provide to the sanctions committees all information available, suggesting that people and entities active in such trafficking be included on the committees’ lists. The issue of mine clearing and preserving cultural heritage in Syria was acute, he said, noting that Russian forces had cleared more than 2,000 hectares of explosives. Describing efforts to preserve heritage sites in Palmyra, he said restoring the memory of ancient civilizations was a common task of the international community.
PEDRO LUIS INCHAUSTE JORDÁN (Bolivia) condemned the systematic looting, trafficking and destruction of cultural heritage goods by Da’esh and other terrorist groups to finance their activities. The huge economic gains those groups had made had been enabled through governance gaps, weak law and order institutions and the absence of border controls. Those situations, in turn, had been created by interventionist policies. Cooperation among States and international organizations must be a priority in the implementation of resolution 2347 (2017), he said, stressing that joint action between special United Nations missions in conflict areas would help build capacity to counter illicit trafficking in cultural heritage. He also recommended a focus on restoring cultural sites, which must include mine action, and replicating the positive experience between Mali and MINUSMA in coordinating efforts. Policies for redress and return of property should be addressed as well, while perpetrators must be prosecuted, he said, welcoming the sentence handed out by the International Criminal Court, which was a benchmark in combating impunity.
ELBIO OSCAR ROSSELLI FRIERI (Uruguay) said cultural goods represented the identity of people and their history, and thus should be protected. World cultural heritage had an exceptional value, and the international community had recognized the need to protect it by adopting several legal instruments. Indeed, an attack against one site was an attack against all cultural heritage sites. Underscoring the important work of UNESCO, he recognized the value of coordinating efforts with the World Customs Organization. He also welcomed the letter of intent signed by the International Criminal Court and UNESCO to formalize cooperation. Stressing that States bore the primary responsibility for protecting cultural heritage, he described measures Uruguay had taken in that regard.
VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) said resolution 2347 (2017) drew attention to the destruction of cultural heritage and related antiquities trafficking, which were increasingly features of armed conflict. Syria, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Yemen were among the most vulnerable to such threats. “Actions of terrorists in pursuit of easy profit can lead to a wholesale obliteration of a country’s archaeological record,” he said. However, resolution 2347 (2017) was still far from being fully implemented, as States needed time to adjust legislation. He proposed broadly criminalizing offenses against cultural heritage and imposing stiff penalties, as well as strengthening import‑export regimes and national institutional frameworks, with international coordination between law enforcement and customs agencies. States should also ensure wider information sharing on trafficking routes and criminal modus operandi. Close public‑private partnerships were necessary to track sales of illegally imported artefacts, and he urged that special attention be paid to supervising online auctions.
IHAB MOUSTAFA AWAD (Egypt) said his Government was well attuned to the importance and sensitivity surrounding the protection of cultural heritage, given the wealth of sites in his country and its geographical location. Welcoming progress in protection that had occurred following the adoption of resolution 2347 (2017), he stressed the primary role of each State in protecting its own heritage. International support must recognize that role and respect national sovereignty. He objected to any interference in internal State affairs and to the removal of objects from a country to safe havens. The Council must only address the topic when addressing international terrorism and other topics under its purview of international peace and security. States should prepare lists of their properties that had been transferred from their sites during conflict, with cooperation from relevant agencies to secure their return.
MICHELE J. SISON (United States) presented examples demonstrating that looting cultural artefacts had become integral to ISIL/Da’esh operations, with Internet communications making that criminal enterprise much easier. Looting and trafficking of cultural heritage was unacceptable. The United States countered such trafficking through specific measures blocking illegal import of artefacts, particularly related to armed conflict situations. She described the activities of the cultural antiquities task force and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in that regard, and cited funding of organizations that documented and tracked looting of artefacts, among many other measures taken by her country. She looked forward to building stronger coordination with Member States and other organizations towards the full implementation of resolution 2347 (2017).
SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy), Council president for the month of November, speaking in his national capacity, said attacks on cultural heritage were linked to violence against local populations, in addition to multiple other harms. All forms of trafficking in cultural property must be stopped, which was a main priority for Italy. In that context, he described Italy’s support for the Blue Helmets of Culture initiative, the Unite4Heritage campaign, and the working groups on Da’esh financing and the smuggling of cultural artefacts, as well as its cooperation with UNODC, UNESCO and INTERPOL to address illicit trafficking. Italy also had worked with France in bringing about the adoption of resolution 2347 (2017), and continued to work on the issue because preservation of cultural diversity was vital to peacemaking and equitable development.Read more
Detailing two additional arrest warrants for grave crimes in Libya, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court reaffirmed to the Security Council today that her Office continued its crucial work in the strife-filled country, despite challenges arising from security constraints and insufficient resources.
“Accountability for serious crimes and full respect for the rule of law are key factors which must be encouraged and supported if Libya is to achieve peace, security and stability,” said Fatou Bensouda, presenting her fourteenth report on the situation to the 15-member organ.
The Prosecutor’s Office continued to receive credible information of grave crimes allegedly perpetrated around the country, she continued. Most recently, it had been granted a warrant of arrest for Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf al-Werfalli, a commander in a special forces unit of the Libyan National Army. The charge was responsibility for war crimes in relation to seven executions that resulted in the murder of 33 people. He remained at large.
She went on to report the recently-announced arrest warrant against Al-Tuhamy Mohamed Khaled, former Head of the Internal Security Agency under Muammar Qadhafi, for crimes committed during the events of 2011. Mr. Khaled was also at large. The Office was continuing to investigate him and others associated with the 2011 events, including Saif al-Islam Qadhafi, and was devising strategies to facilitate the execution of outstanding warrants. She stressed that irrespective of any domestic investigation, Libya remained under a legal obligation to immediately arrest and surrender suspects to the International Criminal Court to stand trial in Rome.
She noted with grave concern continued reports of serious violations around the country, including the execution of detained persons, kidnappings and forced disappearances, torture, prolonged detentions without legal process, rape under detention and abuse of migrants, among other serious violations. The Libyan National Army had allegedly intensified restrictions on the city of Derna, and mass graves had been found in a town east of Benghazi.
“I remind each and every combatant engaged in fighting in Libya that my Office remains seized of the situation in Libya and if their actions amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity, they can be punished”, she said, underlining the responsibility of commanders for acts by subordinates under the Rome Statute and her readiness to bring new applications for arrest warrants.
In addition to insecurity, other challenges faced by the Office included insufficient resources, she said, urging adequate funding to fulfil her mandate. Failure to ensure arrest warrants remained a major challenge, she added, reiterating the obligations that Council members, other States and non-States parties had in that regard.
Despite such challenges, “the arrest warrants announced in the last eight months should clearly demonstrate that my Office continues to be fully engaged in Libya and is determined to achieving real progress towards a culture of accountability for crimes under the Rome Statute,” she emphasized. Thanking those who had provided vital support to the Office, she urged cooperation from all stakeholders, pledging that Libya would remain a priority for her Office in 2018.
Following Ms. Bensouda’s presentation, Council Members expressed concern at the persistence of instability and reports of grave crimes in Libya, with most speakers affirming the necessity of supporting reconciliation in the country and a transition to unified a democratic Government. Most agreed that such progress was critical for rule of law to be restored and for justice to be delivered.
Many speakers also affirmed the importance of the Chief Prosecutor’s Office in those efforts through the fight against impunity, paying tribute to the Office’s work there and calling on Libyan authorities and other actors to cooperate fully in the arrest and surrender of suspects.
However, the Russian Federation’s representative said that the only effective way to address issues of law and justice was to accelerate progress towards the country’s reunification. He argued that the International Criminal Court had been selective in its targets, without having brought cases against rebel factions. Nor, he pointed out, had it dealt strongly with terrorists. The problem of migrants clearly included international organized crime and actors, of which he awaited investigative developments.
Libya’s representative also prioritized his country’s reunification as a means to restore rule of law. In regard to crimes against migrants, however, he argued that any attempt to centralize the problem in Libya was misguided as it was a country of transit, not a country of origin or destination. Too little had been done to combat criminal networks in those latter countries or address the role of international criminal networks and armed groups.
He stressed that, in fulfilling their primary obligation to provide justice in Libya, the national authorities did not mean to show disrespect to the International Criminal Court’s work and its complementary role in the national context. Greater integration of efforts by the national courts and the Prosecutor’s Office had indeed been sought.
Delays in that area and in investigations and prosecutions were due to the security situation, he went on to say. For that reason, support for national efforts to bring about a peaceful transition to a unified, democratic country and to keep weapons from flowing to non-State groups was critical.
Also speaking were representatives of the United Kingdom, Egypt, United States, France, Uruguay, Senegal, Kazakhstan, Japan, Sweden, China, Ethiopia, Ukraine, Bolivia and Italy.
The meeting began at 10:04 a.m. and ended at 11:42 a.m.
FATOU BENSOUDA, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, presenting her fourteenth report on Libya to the Security Council, observed with regret that the country’s security situation remained a matter of great concern, with the proliferation of armed groups, the continued, though lessened, activity of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS/ISIL), the humanitarian crisis created by Libya being the key transit point for hundreds of thousands of migrants and the ongoing struggle for political power in many parts of the country. At the same time she recognized the efforts of numerous actors to ameliorate the situation. The re-establishment of the rule of law, the protection of human rights and the need to combat impunity must form part of the process that would lead to a sustainable political settlement in Libya.
“Justice is an important component of sustainable peace,” she stressed, adding that “accountability for serious crimes and full respect for the rule of law are key factors which must be encouraged and supported if Libya is to achieve peace, security and stability.” Her Office was striving to do its part. Since her last report before the Council six months ago, it had made substantial progress in the investigations of alleged crimes.
She continued to receive credible information of grave crimes allegedly perpetrated in Benghazi and elsewhere, she noted. On 1 August, she had applied for a warrant of arrest for Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf al-Werfalli, a commander in a Special Forces unit of the Libyan National Army. On 15 August, Pre-Trial Chamber I of the Court granted the warrant. The charge was responsibility for war crimes in relation to seven executions that resulted in the murder of 33 people, which were filmed and posted to social media. Describing her interactions with officials in securing the arrest of Mr. Al-Werfalli, she reported that he remained at large. She stressed that, irrespective of any domestic investigation, Libya remained under a legal obligation to immediately arrest and surrender him to the International Criminal Court to stand trial in Rome.
She went on to say that in April 2017, the Court had made public an arrest warrant against Al-Tuhamy Mohamed Khaled, former Head of the Internal Security Agency under Muammar Qadhafi, who was alleged to have committed crimes against humanity and war crimes in relation to the events of 2011. The Office was continuing to investigate him and others associated with the 2011 events, including Saif al-Islam Qadhafi, and was devising strategies to facilitate the execution of outstanding warrants. Expressing appreciation for support of Council members, she renewed the call for all actors to cooperate with the Court in that regard. As well, her Office continued to monitor the Libyan proceedings in relation to the pending appeal of Abdullah Al-Senussi before the Libyan Supreme Court.
Amongst the clashes between armed groups, the Libyan National Army, activity of ISIL, and other violence and displacement in Libya, she noted with grave concern reports of unlawful killing, including the execution of detained persons, kidnappings and forced disappearances, torture, prolonged detentions without legal process, rape under detention and abuse of migrants, among other serious violations. The National Army had allegedly intensified restrictions on the city of Derna and had arrested hundreds trying to leave the city. She joined others in condemning recent airstrikes there that had reportedly killed civilians.
In addition, she said that 36 male corpses had been found in a town east of Benghazi showing signs of restraint and torture. “I remind each and every combatant engaged in fighting in Libya that my Office remains seized of the situation in Libya and if their actions amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity, they can be punished”, she said, underlining the responsibility of commanders for acts by subordinates under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and her readiness to bring new applications for arrest warrants.
Crimes against migrants continued to preoccupy her Office which, depending on facts in each case, might fall under the jurisdiction of the Court, she said. She would work with Libya and other States and organizations on the issue where appropriate. Such collaborative efforts enhanced coordination of investigation and prosecutorial strategies that were aimed at closing the impunity gap, not only for Rome Statute crimes, but also for other transnational and organized criminal activities falling outside her mandate, she emphasized.
In addition to insecurity, challenges faced by her office included insufficient resources, she pointed out, urging adequate funding to fulfil her mandate. Failure to ensure arrest warrants remained a major challenge, she added, reiterating the obligations that Council members, other States and non-States parties had in that regard. Despite such challenges, “the arrest warrants announced in the last eight months should clearly demonstrate that my Office continues to be fully engaged in Libya and is determined to achieving real progress towards a culture of accountability for crimes under the Rome Statute.” Thanking those who had provided vital support to the Office, she urged cooperation from the entire international community where appropriate. Libya would remain a priority in 2018, she pledged.
Ms. DICKSON (United Kingdom) said the situation in Libya was a matter of concern, with humanitarian violations continuing, including against migrants. Those suspected of executions and torture must be investigated. Reports of extrajudicial killings and clashes were disturbing. She also expressed support for Libya in the fight against terrorism. The relevant rules of international law must be applied. The judicial system there must be strengthened, she said, adding her support to the request for all States to facilitate the arrest of Mr. Qadhafi and Mr. Khalid and hand them over to the Court. She welcomed the willingness of the Libyan National Army to investigate Mr. Al-Werfalli. As the Office was investigating criminal acts against migrants, she urged all to cooperate with the Court, as alleged perpetrators of those crimes should be held accountable. All sides must reach a political solution and all parties should engage with the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in that regard.
AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) commended efforts of the Court to end impunity in Libya. However, the Court could not declare the case against Mr. Al‑Werfalli admissible if he was to be prosecuted in his own country. In regard to Mr. Qadhafi, it was necessary to support the Government to make it possible to fulfil all its obligations to the Court. However, the situation in the country was difficult. He welcomed any assistance to the Prosecutor to enable her to carry out her mandate. Noting that his country had requested that the Office prioritize verification of all information received, he stressed that such information must stem from credible sources. Furthermore, the Court must remain seized of all cases, including crimes perpetrated by terrorist organizations, which received finances and weapons from some States. The international community must deliver support to the Libyan Government to assist it to fight the crimes in its country. Justice must be restored and terrorists must be prosecuted.
MICHELE J. SISON (United States) called on all actors to facilitate the arrest of Mr. Qadhafi and Mr. Khalid, saying that all responsible for crimes in the 2011 revolution must be held to account. The country was still not free from acts of violence and there must be respect for human rights and international humanitarian law. Political reconciliation was key to end the violence, she said, welcoming the steps taken in September that were in line with the National Action Plan. She encouraged all parties to support the United Nations political process. Unlawful killings in Benghazi must be investigated by authorities on the ground. She expressed concern that Mr. Al-Werfalli had carried out additional killings, in spite of investigations against him, and had returned to active duty. Turning to Afghanistan, she said any investigation by the International Criminal Court against United States personnel was unjustified. The United States had a robust national system, which was the best in the world, to address those issues, she said, stressing that the Court had no jurisdiction over United States personnel.
ANNE GUEGUEN (France) stressed the importance of the Court’s investigations against those responsible for serious crimes and acknowledged that the Office of the Prosecutor was working under difficult circumstances. All efforts must focus on the United Nations mediation efforts. Continuing investigations through the Prosecutor required cooperation of all stakeholders, including those in Libya. Taking note of the warrant against Mr. Al-Werfalli, she called on the Libyan National Army to surrender him to the Libyan authorities as soon as possible so he could be handed over to the Court. She also called for cooperation to hand over Mr. Qadhafi and Mr. Khalid. She welcomed the Office’s desire to conduct investigations of crimes committed against migrants, noting that the current situation in Libya pointed to the fact that impunity stoked instability.
LUIS BERMÚDEZ (Uruguay) said fighting crimes against humanity and war crimes was extremely important for his country. He therefore supported all initiatives to strengthen the effectiveness of the Rome Statute. Universal accession and support by States was required for that. The Court’s role in ensuring accountability for serious crimes must be a priority for the Council, in the effort to prevent further crimes and bring about justice for victims. In regard to Libya, he regretted the lack of progress in implementing the political agreement. The new authorities must develop rapid and effective responses to the crisis and must be supported in bringing about reconciliation and a democratic transition so that crimes could be fully investigated. He urged Libya to transfer all requested suspects to the Court as requested by the Chief Prosecutor. He also expressed concern over reports of crimes against migrants and urged that adequate financing be provided to the Court’s activities in Libya.
FODÉ SECK (Senegal) assured the Prosecutor of his country’s unwavering support to the Court’s efforts to combat impunity. He called on the Council to deliver adequate support for the Court considering the 15-member organ’s resolution and to assist in the arrest and prosecution of all individuals suspect of serious crimes by the judiciary body. Expressing deep concern over abuse of migrants and continued instability in Libya, he expressed appreciation for the accomplishments of the Prosecutor’s Office despite great challenges. Genuine political will from national and international partners was needed to bring about a peaceful transition in the country and to cooperate with the Court. He supported the efforts of the Special Envoy in that regard and urged intensified work to bring about a Libya in which rule of law presided.
KANAT TUMYSH (Kazakhstan), expressing alarm over the killings of civilians and other crimes described by the Chief Prosecutor, affirmed that a viable Government was needed in Libya, through a political process in which the country’s citizens played the leading role, with the United Nations playing a key role in support.
EVGENY T. ZAGAYNOV (Russian Federation) supported the effort of the Special Envoy to accelerate progress towards reunification of the country and called for international support without regard to external agendas. An effective Government would be able to deal with issues of crimes and justice. Unfortunately, the Court had been selective in its targets, without having brought cases against rebel factions, nor had it dealt strongly with terrorists. The problem of migrants clearly included international organized crime and actors and he awaited developments in that regard. On all issues, the assessment of his delegation had been made clear in previous briefings and that position had not changed. The only way to move from crisis to unification remained the broadest possible inter-Libyan dialogue, under the auspices of the United Nations, and with the participation and support of regional players.
JUN HASEBE (Japan), noting that his country was the Court’s largest financial contributor, said that judiciary body — which lacked its own enforcement authorities — could not function effectively or deliver justice without the cooperation of States. He expressed hope that continuing collaboration between the Office of the Prosecutor and the Libyan Prosecutor-General’s Office would soon yield results, adding that he was following developments concerning the arrest warrant for Mr. Al-Werfalli. As well, it was regrettable that Saif al-Islam Qadhafi was not yet in the Court’s custody, he said, encouraging the Libyan authorities and the international community to cooperate with the judiciary body in that regard. The ongoing violence and insecurity in Libya, including human rights violations by all sides, was making it harder for the Prosecutor’s investigation to progress. More countries, including Council members, should join the Court. As well, the Court and its States parties should strive to enhance its universality.
IRINA SCHOULGIN-NYONI (Sweden) voiced her deep concern regarding the security and humanitarian situation in Libya, where a breakdown of the rule of law had led to widespread violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict. In such circumstances, the Office of the Prosecutor played an essential role. To carry out its functions, including those requested by the Council, the Office needed full political and financial support. Stating support of the Court’s call for the Libyan authorities to immediately arrest Mr. Al-Werfalli, she voiced concern regarding the lack of information about the whereabouts of Mr. Khaled. In addition, reports of arbitrary detentions, torture, and sexual- and gender-based violence in both migration and regular detention centres, where greater international access should be granted, were alarming. She emphasized the importance of re-establishing a permanent United Nations presence in Libya, adding her agreement with the Office of the Prosecutor that certain crimes against refugees and migrants fell within the Court’s jurisdiction.
CHENG LIE (China) said his country supported all efforts that would bring stability to the Libya, but that all must respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of that country. He urged for support of efforts to promote the National Action Plan, and expressed the hope that all parties could cooperate on the basis of the national agreement. He urged for strengthening the justice system in the country and expressed support for the Libyan peace process.
LEULESEGED TADESE ABEBE (Ethiopia) said that Libya remained a source of concern, and he condemned all attacks against civilians and civilian facilities. He said the suffering of all Libyans must stop, and, in that regard, his country supported the position of the African Union to combat impunity while respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States. The capacity of Libyan State institutions should be strengthened with the objective of ensuring the rule of law. In terms of a lasting solution, he supported the continued diplomatic efforts of the Special Envoy according to the political process endorsed in the Action Plan, and he encouraged all Libyans to work together in a spirit of compromise.
YURIY VITRENKO (Ukraine), condemning the killing of 36 people whose bodies had been found in Al-Abyar, called for a full investigation on the incident. He also echoed the Prosecutor’s call to all parties of the conflict in Libya to ensure respect for human rights and international humanitarian law. Difficult security or political conditions should not be permanently used by any State for justification of its non-cooperation with the International Criminal Court. Libya must make concrete steps to facilitate the surrender of suspects to the Court. Furthermore, the international community should continue to support the Libyan Government of National Accord in its efforts to restore law and order and to combat impunity.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) said the Court had been fulfilling its charge, given to it by the Council, since 2011. Its effective implementation required cooperation of all actors on Libya. He called on the Government of National Accord and other stakeholders to do their utmost to ensure the Office could carry out its work. All States, whether they were party to the Rome Statute or not, must carry out their responsibility to take all required actions in support of the Court. He was deeply concerned at the news of summary killings and detentions in Libya and called on all parties and armed groups to cease violence and punish those responsible. He called on the Government of National Accord to collaborate in investigating the alleged crimes of Mr. Al-Werfalli. He expressed concern at the violations of the rights of migrants. Crimes against humanity activated the Court to prosecute. Reports about possible interference with the Office’s investigations should be investigated thoroughly, he said. He invited all States that had not yet done so to ratify the Rome Statute. He added that the acts described today before the Council were the result of policies that continued to provide consequences that affected many people, not only in Libya but also in the rest of the world.
SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy), Council President for the month of November, speaking in his national capacity, said that as President of States Parties to the Rome Statute, he was conscious of the delicate task the Prosecutor was charged with, noting she had made progress in many areas. Her activities could bring positive developments to the country as long as the Council remained united. There must be no impunity for war crimes. Perpetrators must be brought to justice and all pending arrest warrants must be executed, he said. Noting that the International Criminal Court was a Court of last resort, he said it was incumbent on domestic authorities to comply with that judiciary body. Impunity must have no space and accountability was crucial in reconciliation efforts. Concerned by reports of crimes against migrants and that the deplorable security situation had been hampering investigations in the field, he said and hoped that the Prosecutor could soon be allowed to visit Libya. Condemning recent episodes such as the bombing in Derna and the killing of 38 men, he called on all Libyans to work together in the reconciliation process. He added that the Council must adopt a more structured approach regarding international prosecutions and that justice and accountability must become an integral part of the Council’s preventive actions.
ELMAHDI S. ELMAJERBI (Libya) said that the Libyan authorities were aware of their primary responsibility in fighting impunity in their country. In exercising their prerogatives in that regard, they did not mean to show disrespect to the International Criminal Court’s work and its complementary role in the national context. Greater integration of efforts by the national courts and the Prosecutor’s Office had indeed been sought. Delays in that area and in investigations and prosecutions were due to the security situation. For that reason, support for national efforts to bring about a peaceful transition to a unified, democratic country and to keep weapons from flowing to non-State groups was critical.
In regard to crimes against migrants, he acknowledged that their plight had been noted in the Court’s report, but pointed out that insufficient attention had been paid to the problems of militias, traffickers and other criminals. Any attempt to centralize the problem in Libya was misguided as it was a country of transit, not a country of origin or destination. On that point, he asked what had been done to combat criminal networks in those latter countries. In all areas, impunity could not be combated in Libya unless national stability and unity was restored. Until that happened, there would only be more violations and more crimes.Read more
The following is a near‑verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary‑General.
Following the announcement by the Saudi‑led coalition of the closure of Yemen’s sea and air ports, humanitarian access into and out of the country is halted. All parties to the conflict must allow and facilitate safe, rapid, unhindered humanitarian access to all people in need, through all ports and airports. Any further shocks to imports of food and fuel may reverse recent success in mitigating the threat of famine in Yemen. Humanitarians have reached more than 7 million people with direct food assistance this year alone. We urge the parties not to escalate the situation further, and to follow their fundamental obligations of distinction, proportionality and precautions, taking constant care to spare civilians and civilian infrastructure. The UN calls on all parties to ensure the safety of humanitarian workers and assets [throughout] Yemen.
The United Nations calls on all States with influence over the parties to ensure their respect for international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure. Humanitarian agencies operate in an impartial, neutral and independent manner; any party’s interference with these principles significantly hampers humanitarian agencies’ ability to deliver aid to those in need.
Meanwhile, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said that it is deeply concerned by a series of attacks in Yemen over the past week that have killed dozens of civilians — including several children — and it appealed to all parties to respect international law governing armed conflict. The Human Rights Office is also very concerned that humanitarian aid destined for innocent civilians caught up in the three‑year‑long conflict may be adversely affected by the coalition’s decision on Monday to close all land, sea and air ports into the country. More details in the Geneva press briefing.
Turning to Syria, our humanitarian colleagues remain deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation in east Ghouta. Almost 400,000 civilians remain inside the besieged area, where they face deteriorating humanitarian, health, living and security conditions. The population represents nearly 95 per cent of the entire besieged population within Syria. Recent World Food Programme (WFP) assessments indicate severe shortages of food supplies, a sharp increase in the prices of basic commodities [in] communities, further eroding coping mechanisms. The cost of a standard food basket in October [was] almost 10 times higher than the national average. The UN is also concerned over a recent escalation of airstrikes in Aleppo and Idlib Governorates. Over the past 48 hours, multiple and sustained airstrikes were reported in the southern countryside of Aleppo Governorate and parts of Idlib Governorate. We call on all parties to the conflict to take all measures to protect civilians, as required under international humanitarian law.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) has taken note of the statement concerning the recent ruling by the High Federal Court. The UN Mission urges the Government of the Kurdistan region of Iraq to acknowledge, endorse and respect the ruling of the Federal Court and reiterate its full commitment to the Constitution. UNAMI re‑emphasizes the urgent need for political dialogue and negotiations between Baghdad and Erbil, in a spirit of partnership and respect for the Iraqi Constitution that itself respects the constitutional rights of the Kurdistan region of Iraq. The Mission also reconfirmed its readiness to play a facilitating role in this dialogue and these negotiations, if requested by both the Federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government.
Our colleagues at the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan today released a report which shows a sharp increase in attacks against places of worship, religious leaders and worshippers in the country, and in particular against Shi’a Muslims. The report also documents targeted killings by anti‑Government forces of religious scholars and leaders whom they regard as pro‑Government, as well as the targeted killing of security personnel amidst worshippers inside mosques. Since January 2016, the Mission has recorded 850 civilian casualties —  people killed and 577 injured — in 51 attacks targeting places of worship, religious leaders and worshippers. This is nearly double the number of documented attacks of this type between 2009 and 2015. That report is available online.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) today said the remains of 26 women and girls were recovered over the weekend during rescue operations off the coast of Libya. Most of them were Nigerian girls who were making their way to Italy. The agency warned that it has observed a significant increase in the number of women and girls arriving in Italy over the past three years, noting that most of them are under the age of 18. IOM said it is most likely that they were victims of human trafficking. Many of the survivors from the rescue operations said they had been abused, and some had lost relatives at sea. The UN Migration Agency said some 50 [in this group of] migrants are still missing. And also on Libya, the World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday delivered five emergency health kits to the town of Ghat. These kits are designed to meet the basic health needs of 5,000 people for approximately three months and will help struggling health facilities to deliver primary health services. WHO is also working on making the local hospital fully functional in the coming weeks.
The Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), Annadif Mahamat Saleh, today condemned a series of attacks that took place yesterday in the country in which nine civilians and one member of the National Guard were killed. And I also want to flag that Assistant Secretary‑General for Human Rights, Andrew Gilmour, was in Mali between 2 and 5 November. He met with the authorities as well as the G‑5 Sahel Joint Force. The purpose of the visit was to reinforce the importance of human rights and justice in the peace process, and to discuss the establishment of a mechanism to guarantee respect for human rights during the deployment of the G‑5 Sahel Joint Force. The Human Rights Office will be issuing a fuller press release shortly.
**Democratic Republic of the Congo
Our humanitarian colleagues in the Democratic Republic of the Congo tell us today that a recent mission in Tanganyika, south‑east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, found more than 70,000 displaced people by renewed violence. Their needs include food security, health, education, shelter and protection. Humanitarian assistance to the area has been limited, as underfunding has had a significant impact on the delivery of humanitarian assistance in the DRC this year, with the response plan being only 42 per cent funded.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has just completed the first phase of Rohingya refugee family counting, where more than half a million refugees from Myanmar have so far been counted. The exercise, conducted by UNHCR and Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission, took place in the Kutupalong camp and extension areas and the Balukhali areas [and] is now extending further south. So far, the counting exercise has gathered data on 120,284 families comprising half a million refugees. The UNHCR teams found that one third of the families are vulnerable. As many as 14 per cent are single mothers holding their families together with little support in harsh camp conditions. Others are struggling with serious health problems. There is also a high proportion of elderly people at risk, and children make up 54 per cent of the total population; 52 per cent are women.
As you know, in Bonn, Germany, the Climate Change Conference is now in full swing. Some of the highlights from today include a pledge by the HSBC bank to mobilize $100 billion in sustainable financing and investment to support the transition to a low‑carbon economy and to spur green growth worldwide, and the release of a report by the EU [European Union] saying it is on track for its 2020 target on emissions reduction. We will keep you posted.
My guest today will be Liu Zhenmin, the Under‑Secretary‑General for Economic and Social Affairs. He will brief on the Synthesis Report of the 2017 voluntary national reviews, which as you all know, is about progress achieved in the implementation of the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals].
And lastly, we say thank you to our friends in Beirut, in Lebanon, who have paid their regular budget dues in full this year, bringing us up to? [139.] Perfect. If you have a question, you can ask. Otherwise, you can yield. No question. Michelle and then James.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thanks, Stéph. On the Climate Change Conference, Syria said they’re going to sign up. Have you received anything…?
Spokesman: We’ve not received any official notification that I’m aware of. We’ve asked a couple people in this building who would be best placed to know, but as soon as we get confirmation that something has happened, we will share that with you.
Question: And, on Yemen, has the SG [Secretary‑General] spoken with anyone from Saudi Arabia?
Spokesman: There are no contacts that I’m able to share with you at this point, though I… no details I can share, but I can assure you that there have been contacts between the UN and Saudi authorities at various levels over the last 24 to 48 hours. James and then…
Question: On… on Yemen again, does the UN believe that, by its actions, this blockade, that Saudi is in breach of international humanitarian law?
Spokesman: I’m not in a position to issue a legal ruling. What we do know is that the blockading of ports and airports and land routes can have a tremendously negative impact on a situation which is already catastrophic. We have some food stocks already in‑country that we would be able to deliver, but you also have to imagine there is also… this sort of news can also have an impact on market prices, where food prices may go up in local markets; fuel prices may go up as people start to fear a long‑term impact of a blockade. So, regardless of the legal implication, the humanitarian implications can be catastrophic. Madame and then monsieur.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. On the allegation by Hezbollah’s role… Hezbollah’s role in the Persian Gulf [inaudible] Yemen, Saudi… Saudi is considering that the missile attack is an act of war by Lebanon as well. Do you have any reaction on this? And…
Spokesman: Look, we have seen the various reports coming out of the region, which we’re following very closely. I think we would call for restraint, not only in action, but also in rhetoric in what is clearly a very volatile situation.
Question: Do you take… do you take this allegation seriously?
Spokesman: I… my… the message coming from the Secretary‑General of the United Nations is for a restraint both in actions and in words.
Question: Sure. On Yemen, I wanted to ask you about pre… President… [Abdrabuh Mansour] Hadi [Mansour] who’s in Saudi Arabia. It’s reported actually that he… that Saudi Arabia has… has, I guess, banned him from… from visiting even a part of the country not held by the Houthis, Aden. I don’t know if you’ve seen this report, but my que… I guess my question would be, if he is Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed’s interlocutor, is he aware that he’s essentially under house arrest?
Spokesman: We’ve seen the reports. We have no way of confirming… we have no way of confirming those reports.
Question: Has he… is… is… is the envoy in contact with Hadi [Mansour]? It seems like…
Spokesman: The envoy is in contact with various parties.
Question: And… and the… the President of the Security Council said there’s going to be an any‑other‑business briefing on Yemen tomorrow. And I wanted to know, has anyone in the Secretariat, whether Mr. Lowcock or… or… DPA [Department of Political Affairs] will brief?
Spokesman: My understanding is there will at least be a briefing by the Emergency Relief Coordinator. If others brief, we will let you know. Madame.
Question: On Yemen, too, you said that there were contacts between the UN and different Saudi officials. Can you… could you elaborate on that and whether these contacts also touched upon what’s going on in Saudi Arabia itself now regarding the [inaudible]…?
Spokesman: I can’t give you more detail, but to tell you that the focus of the contacts [was] on the humanitarian situation in Yemen. Mr. Avni.
Question: So, this… the Saudis claim that there was a missile shot from Yemen in… on Riyadh. Do you have any confirmation of that? Does the UN…?
Spokesman: We have no confirmation… I have no confirmation. I think Farhan [Haq] addressed that yesterday. But we have… I have… we have no confirmation. We’ve seen the reports, but, as I said, Farhan addressed that yesterday.
Question: But nothing since yesterday?
Spokesman: No. No, sir.
Question: Additionally, the US issued just… just issued a statement based on Saudi, the report from last July of missiles shot from Yemen by the Houthis that were made in violation of Security Council [resolutions] by Iran. Can you con… do you have any confirmation of that?
Spokesman: I do not. Mr. Abbadi.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. The [United States] President Trump will soon meet with President Xi [Jinping] of China to discuss various global issues. What importance does the Secretary‑General grant to their discussion of global peace?
Spokesman: Well, the Secretary‑General is not a foreign policy analyst. I will let you, all of you, decide the importance of the meeting, but it is clear that, I think, any type of high‑level dialogue, especially between these two countries, is a positive thing. Sir.
Question: Stéph, given the December 2016 agreement in the DRC calling for elections by the end of this year and the subsequent announcement by the Elector… Electoral Commission announcing elections by December 2018, does the United Nations believe that Joseph Kabila [Kabange] should remain President of the DRC in the year ahead?
Spokesman: Look, it’s not for the UN to decide who will be… lead one country or… lead one country or another. We’ve seen the announcement by the Electoral Commission regarding the elections.
While regretting that these crucial polls have once again been postponed, we continue to call on political leaders, on all sides, to place the interests of the country, of their country and their people, above all else and to ensure the holding of credible, free and fair elections. It’s important to rebuild the trust, I think, between the political class and the Congolese citizens.
Question: [Inaudible] the UN in the past has commented about respecting the constitutional mandates of leaders. This would not… this would be outside of the mandate. His term expired last year. So, it’s a very specific question as to whether he should remain in power given that his mandate has already lapsed.
Spokesman: Look, we understand that Parliament — and we call on Parliament to still pass the remaining electoral legislation, legislation encouraging the implementation of confidence‑building measures foreseen in the agreement signed last December, and the full respect for the civil and political rights. As I said, there is… constitutions need to be… need to be respected, but we’re not in the… and I will leave it at that. How’s that? Linda.
Question: Thank you, Stéph. We know that about 600,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh, and last… and yesterday, the Security Council obviously issued a presidential statement expressing grave concern over human rights violations, including killings, rapes, etc. I was wondering if the UN has any statistics or the latest statistics, perhaps, in terms of numbers, in terms of how many people have been raped, how many killings have occurred?
Spokesman: You know, our human rights colleagues as well as UNHCR have been, but especially our human rights colleagues, have been interviewing… have been interviewing refugees. So, we can extrapolate from those interviews the fact that many of these refugees have… have undergone horrendous experiences, whether they were… when they were in northern Rakhine State or when they had to flee or on the road. I’m not sure we’re in a position to give hard numbers of exactly how many of these incidents have happened.
Question: But… just to follow up, but may I ask, is there a sense that we’re… that the UN is referring to hundreds or thousands or, you know, just some general scope?
Spokesman: I’m afraid I’m not able to do that. Mr. Lee and then Mr. Avni.
Question: Sure. Follow‑up… some other stuff, but on the DRC, I wanted to ask you this. The US has put out… the State Department put out a press release saying: “The US notes the importance of President Kabila [Kabange] abiding by the DRC’s Constitution, reaffirmed in the St. Sylvestre accord, that he will not seek a third term and will step down following elections.” So, is that… is that the UN’s… is that your understanding as well, that that is what is required?
Spokesman: I think my understanding is the fact that I used every word that I could think of in answering your colleague’s question.
Question: Right. I mean, can you get…?
Spokesman: I will leave it to what I’ve already answered.
Question: Okay. I wanted… you may have seen the speech by the King of Morocco in which he said that there will be no solution to Western Sahara that’s not fully in accord with Morocco’s sovereignty, which basically means… it’s not really clear what is really being negotiated given that statement. I wanted to know, is there any response by either Mr. [Horst] Köhler or by the Secretariat?
And, also, is it the case… was Mr. Köhler’s recent visit to the region… was he restricted of travelling where… anywhere that he wanted within Western Sahara? Because I’ve heard that he has, and I wanted to just ask you…
Spokesman: I’m not aware of…
Question: Did he visit MINURSO [United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara]?
Spokesman: I’m not aware of these, of whatever restrictions. Obviously, on these trips, itineraries are negotiated. I’m not going to react to the King’s… the King’s speech. There is a mandate from the Security Council for the Personal Envoy as well as the… as well as MINURSO, and we will follow that mandate and continue our work.
Question: And you’d said earlier… I’d asked you about this case of the Western Sahara journalist, who’s now been twice denied accreditation. You said you’d look into whether this is under the policy of needing to be from a Member State of the General Assembly. Were you able to check that out?
Spokesman: I don’t recall, but I’ll check again. Mr. Avni.
Question: Just to follow up on your answer before that, you said that you have no independent information on the 20 July report. Since this is allegedly a violation of Security Council resolution…
Spokesman: No, I didn’t say I had no… I just said I had nothing to add. I didn’t say…
Correspondent: You said you had no information.
Spokesman: Go ahead, what’s the question?
Question: We can go back to the videotape?
Spokesman: What’s the question?
Correspondent: My question is…
Spokesman: Thank God we don’t have instant replay here. Yes.
Question: Can you get instant replay? My question is, since the allegation by the US and others is that this is a violation of Security Council resolution, should you look at that…?
Spokesman: I will go back and look at the July incident. I have no further information on this most recent incident.
Question: But should the UN independent, I don’t know, DPA or any other department, look at allegations of violation of Security Council resolutions…
Spokesman: Well, Security Council resolution committees also have authority in this domain. Mr. Lee.
Question: Sure. Thanks a lot. I wanted to ask you two questions about Cameroon. One is, since the Secretary‑General’s visit, one, there’s a… there are reports of a crackdown in a place called Jakiri, where one gendarme was killed, and now basically everyone is being told there will be collective punishment unless a gun is turned over. And I wanted to know, is Mr. [François Louncény] Fall… who… after the visit, who’s keeping track of it? Also, bigger picture maybe, the… the Cross River State Governor in Nigeria, Ben Ayade, has said that the border has essentially been closed for people fleeing the Cameroon… the anglophone region of Cameroon, and I wanted to know whether that’s something that either Mr. Fall or on the… you know, UNHCR is aware of.
Spokesman: UNHCR, you can check with them. I will… I don’t have anything on… more on Cameroon.
Question: Is there any… I guess what I’m saying is, if Mr. Fall was there on the trip… he wasn’t in the photograph with the…
Spokesman: He was there. We already said he was there.
Question: All right. So what was the… was any plan reached for continued work…?
Spokesman: If there’s a further visit that he’s able to make, we will announce it. Mr. Abbadi.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. I would like to refer to the report to the General Assembly on the circumstances that led to the death of Dag Hammarskjöld and his companions. It has been put on the web. What other measures has DPI [Department of Public Information] taken to bring the report to the attention of world community?
Spokesman: I think they’ve… they’ve reported… I think it’s been on the UN News Centre and that we rely on the members of the free press to also do that. Mr. Varma, I will have you brief very quickly, and then we will go to our guest. Thank you.Read more
Mine Action Standards Must Adapt to Evolving Conflict Stresses Assistant Secretary-General, as Delegates Recount Explosive Horrors
The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) approved a draft resolution today, by which the General Assembly would urge all States affected by landmines to identify all areas under their jurisdiction or control containing anti-personnel mines and explosive remnants of war, as it concluded its consideration of assistance in mine action.
By other terms of that draft (document A/C.4/72/L.12), approved without a vote, the Assembly would also urge support for mine-affected States through assistance in developing mine action capacities; support for national programmes; and reliable, predictable and timely multi-year contributions for mine action activities. It would also urge States to provide necessary information, as well as technical, financial and material assistance to locate, remove, destroy and otherwise render ineffective minefields, anti-personnel mines and explosive remnants of war.
The Assembly would also, by further terms, urge States to provide humanitarian assistance for victims of anti-personnel mines while striving to spare civilians. It would stress the importance of cooperation and coordination in mine action, and emphasize the primary responsibility of national authorities in that context, while also stressing the supporting role of the United Nations.
Before action on the draft resolution, Alexandre Zouev, Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, delivered a statement on behalf of Under-Secretary-General Jean-Francois Lacroix in the latter’s capacity as Chair of the United Nations Inter-Agency Coordination Group on Mine Action.
Mr. Zouev emphasized the importance of adapting mine action standards to evolving methods and devices used in conflict, and said that the draft resolution reflected realities on the ground. Mine action was a critical component and driver of humanitarian action, crucial for building peace and accelerating the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he said. Noting that the dynamics of the Organization’s deployments had adapted to the evolution of conflict, he said individuals and communities received mine-action assistance even in the midst of active hostilities. In Iraq, the United Nations was supporting the Government’s stabilization efforts in areas liberated from Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh). Despite falling anti-personnel mine casualty numbers, however, there had been a 40 per cent rise in the number of casualties recorded in 2016 resulting from the full range of devices, he said. “The world cannot afford complacency,” he stressed.
Libya’s representative said his country had suffered much damage from anti-personnel mines and unexploded remnants of war since its occupation by Italy and during the world wars waged on its territory. Today, mines were again affecting civilians, he said, highlighting the situation in Benghazi. That city still suffered the effects of anti-personnel mines planted in houses and populated streets from which people had been evacuated, he said, adding that mines and unexploded remnants of war had killed entire families following their return.
The representative of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic said explosive remnants of war had become a daunting challenge to his country’s socioeconomic development after the war in Indochina, and continued to kill and maim innocent people.
Japan’s delegate stressed that humanitarian actions could not, in fact, be undertaken without mine action. The representative of the European Union delegation pointed out that the draft’s humanitarian dimension was particularly strengthened by its reference to humanitarian access and its inclusion of mine action in humanitarian appeals.
Austria’s representative expressed concern about reports of recent use of anti-personnel mines in Myanmar, which was not a State party to the Mine-Ban Convention. As President of that instrument, Austria had asked the Government of Myanmar to clarify the situation and consider an independent fact-finding mission with international participation.
Also speaking today were representatives of Poland, Thailand, Egypt, Germany, Canada, Algeria, United Arab Emirates, China and Saudi Arabia.
The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Thursday, 2 November, to take up the effects of atomic radiation. It will also conclude its general debate on special political missions, and to take action on related draft resolutions.
ALEXANDRE ZOUEV, Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, delivered a statement on behalf of Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman in the latter’s capacity as Chair of the United Nations Inter-Agency Coordination Group on Mine Action.
He said 2017 was particularly significant for mine action because it marked the twentieth year since the creation of the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and of the Coordination Group. Since the entry into force of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction — commonly referred to as the Mine Ban Treaty — more than 51 million stockpiled anti-personnel mines had been destroyed and 30 States parties had completed their clearance obligations. One of the most important achievements had been the dramatic drop in the number of anti-personnel mine casualties over the past 20 years, he said, citing Afghanistan and Colombia as having seen a notable decline in the number of victims.
He went on to commend the global leadership, innovation and creativity of the Mine Action Service, noting that it had recently received the Secretary-General’s recognition as well as other honours. Emphasizing the importance of adapting mine action standards to evolving methods and devices used by parties in conflict, he said United Nations programmes were also achieving high levels of adherence to the Gender Guidelines for Mine Action Programmes, resulting in a growing number of women being employed in that sector at various levels.
The draft resolution on mine action reflected realities on the ground, he said, urging humanitarian action to clear improvised explosive devices. Mine action was a critical component and driver of humanitarian action, crucial for building peace and accelerating the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. More than 185 square kilometres of suspected contaminated land had been rendered safe from anti-personnel mines and explosive remnants of war in 2016, he said, adding that over 140 hospitals, 220 schools and almost 500 markets had therefore been made safe from contamination by explosive hazards.
Noting that the dynamics of the Organization’s deployments had adapted to the evolution of conflict, he said individuals and communities received mine-action assistance even in the midst of active hostilities. In Iraq, the United Nations was supporting the Government’s stabilization efforts in areas liberated from Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), he said, adding that water and electricity had been restored to Mosul shortly after the end of the conflict there, following explosive hazard assessments at more than 270 electricity and water sites. Despite falling anti-personnel mine casualty numbers, however, there had been a 40 per cent rise in the number of casualties recorded in 2016 resulting from the full range of devices, he said. “The world cannot afford complacency,” he stressed.
JESÚS DÍAZ CARAZO, European Union delegation, said the regional bloc was the leading donor of financial assistance to mine action, but its effort alone was not enough; combined assistance by international actors could increase the impact of different kinds of support, he noted. Turning to the draft resolution on assistance in mine action, he said it would play a crucial role in reaffirming the normative framework for humanitarian mine action activities carried out by the United Nations system. The draft’s humanitarian dimension was strengthened in particular by its reference to humanitarian access and its inclusion of mine action in humanitarian appeals, he said. Furthermore, the text addressed concerns about the impact of mines on refugees and displaced persons, he said, adding that it also recognized the contribution of mine action to the 2030 Agenda.
BOGUSŁAW WINID (Poland), associating himself with the European Union, noted that the draft resolution called upon States to ensure they were in compliance with their international mine action obligations. Recognizing the contribution of mine action to the 2030 Agenda, he said consultations had led to streamlined terminology on explosive devices and strengthened clarity relating to the text’s humanitarian aspects. With 2017 marking the twentieth anniversary of the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty and the United Nations Mine Action Service, he said, Poland hoped the draft resolution would contribute in practical ways to efforts in the field of humanitarian mine action.
KITTITHEP DEVAHASTIN NA AYATHAI (Thailand) said assistance in mine action was “not a stand-alone policy” but rather, an essential component of the Organization’s work, which cut across diverse issues of peace, security, humanitarian assistance and development. Thailand was committed to the Mine Ban Treaty and to the goal of mine-clearance, he said, adding that it was also active in assisting mine victims, having integrated that aspect into the broader legal framework as well as national plans and programmes for persons with disabilities in general. In addition, Thailand had accorded priority to promoting mine risk education in order to reduce the potential for injury from mines and unexploded ordnance by raising awareness, he said, reaffirming his country’s commitment to ending the suffering caused by anti-personnel mines.
AHMED ELSHANDAWILY (Egypt) said landmines had posed a significant challenge over the past 70 years, with more than 22 million of them having been left in his country after the Second World War. Egypt exerted substantial efforts in clearing landmines, but still experienced major technical challenges, he said, adding that it needed advanced detection and clearance technologies capable of accurately locating landmines. The Government was fully aware of the humanitarian ramifications associated with the production, transfer and use of anti-personnel mines, and for that reason, it had applied a voluntary moratorium on the transfer and production of mines to any other State. Turning to the Ottawa Convention, he expressed regret that its final text lacked acknowledgment of responsibility for removing landmines placed on Egyptian territory on the part of the States involved in planting them. Furthermore, the Convention’s time frame for demining was extremely difficult to meet, especially for States like Egypt, he pointed out.
SOULIKONE SAMOUNTY (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) recalled that more than 2 million tonnes of bombs had been dropped on his country’s territory during the war in Indochina, including approximately 270 million sub-cluster munitions of which 30 per cent had failed to explode on impact. Explosive remnants of war had therefore become a daunting challenge to the country’s socioeconomic development and continued to kill and maim innocent people, especially in rural areas, he said. A huge amount of resources was required to clear them, including public awareness campaigns and assistance for victims. With assistance and collaboration from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and others, the clearing of unexploded ordinance had officially begun in 1996, he recalled. Under a multilateral project signed with UNDP recently, six humanitarian demining operators and 13 private companies were active in the sector, he said, adding that bilaterally, the Government was working closely with countries such as the United States, Japan, Norway, China, India and others that had provided surveying, clearance and mine risk education, among other forms of assistance.
KOJI MIZUMOTO (Japan), pointing out that his delegation was a co-sponsor and strong supporter of the draft resolution, said that in the face of expanding violent extremism and terrorism, the threat of explosive hazards was growing. The diversification of explosives devices, improvised explosive devices in particular, demanded a different approach. Humanitarian actions could not be undertaken without mine action, he said, adding that Japan had made assistance to mine action one of its diplomatic priorities, and was proud to be the second largest State contributing to the cause. He went on to underline the importance of triangular cooperation, including South-South cooperation, comprehensive support to victims, risk education, partnerships and gender mainstreaming.
JUERGEN SCHULZ (Germany), associating himself with the European Union, said that despite meaningful progress in mine action, much work remained. Recalling that his country had held the presidency of the Cluster Munitions Convention in 2016, he said it had focused on initiating dialogue with States that had not yet joined that instrument, among other things. Germany was proud to be one of the main donors to mine action. He went on to note that large amounts of legacy contamination remained in many countries and current conflicts had led to new contamination, much of it consisting of improvised explosive devices.
MICHAEL DOUGLAS GRANT (Canada) said that although significant progress had been made in demining, much work lay ahead before the goal of a mine-free world by 2025 could be attained. In many cases, contamination was the work of non-State actors with no regard for humanitarian principles, he said, pointing out that mines continued to cause devastating casualties and prevent civilians from returning after conflict. Canada supported an evidence-based approach that would respond better to the needs of those affected and prioritized gender equality in mine action, he said, emphasizing that, as a donor to mine action, his country would ensure that programmes were adapted to local realities and aligned with key principles.
MUSTAPHA ABBANI (Algeria) said his country had acceded to various conventions related to anti-personnel mines, based on its commitment to disarmament and international humanitarian law. In September, it had completed the final stage of destroying its remaining stockpile, totalling 5,970 mines, which had been kept for training purposes, thereby fulfilling its international commitments as a party to the Mine-Ban Convention, he said. As for the humanitarian aspect of the Ottawa Convention, Algeria had cleared its territory of anti-personnel mines dating back to the colonial period, he said, noting that its efforts had succeeded in destroying 9 million anti-personnel mines, thereby enabling the launch of development projects in contaminated regions. Moreover, the Government had worked to rehabilitate and ensure the social and professional reintegration of those with disabilities resulting from anti-personnel mines. He noted that the Secretary-General’s current report referred to a 40 per cent increase in casualties from anti-personnel mines between 2014 and 2016, due to a rise in the number of armed conflicts in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. In that regard, he emphasized that mine action helped to prevent conflict by clearing devices, disposing of them and preventing their use in constructing new weapons.
ESAM BEN ZITUN (Libya) said his country had suffered much damage from anti-personnel mines and unexploded remnants of war since its occupation by Italy and the world wars waged on its territory. Today, mines were again affecting civilians, he noted, paying tribute to United Nations efforts to raise awareness about dealing with mines among the returning population of Sirte after that city’s liberation. Highlighting the situation in Benghazi, he said it still suffered the effects of anti-personnel mines planted in houses and populated streets from which people had been evacuated. Following the return of the displaced, mines and unexploded remnants of war had killed entire families, he said, noting that the mine detonators were connected to cell-phones and disguised as unexpected objects. Noting that such technology was developed locally, he expressed hope that the United Nations would investigate the situation and provide lessons for all States. Those killed and maimed during the clearing of mined areas included civil defence forces whose primitive resources could not match the sophisticated technology used in the devices, he said, adding that he looked forward to further coordination among Libyan authorities, the Mine Action Service and the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), with a view to providing the necessary technology and securing the safety of all technicians and experts involved.
Mr. HAMADI (United Arab Emirates) recognized that landmines caused huge damage to infrastructure and thwarted development efforts, making their eradication a prerequisite for sustainable development. Mine action played an important role in building confidence and peace, and for that reason, the United Arab Emirates supported mine action efforts and initiatives throughout the world. In Lebanon, for instance, it had carried out successful demining projects in coordination with UNMAS and the national military, he said. The United Arab Emirates had also actively participated in numerous relevant international meetings and conferences, and continued to work with regional and international partners to protect civilians, he said, adding that it would help to promote the ability of the United Nations to provide assistance on mine action.
HUANG DA (China) said mine action efforts should be carried out with due consideration for the national conditions and requirements of the recipient States. Highlighting the importance of enhancing the concrete effects of assistance in mine clearance, he said that as a former mine-effected country, China understood the concerns of mine action well, and was an active participant in international demining assistance. Through its own programme of international demining assistance, China had provided assistance to more than 40 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, he said.
GEORGE WILHELM GALLHOFER (Austria) expressed concern about the reported recent use of anti-personnel mines in Myanmar, which was not a State party to the Mine-Ban Convention. As President of the treaty banning landmines, Austria had asked the Government of Myanmar to clarify the situation and consider an independent fact-finding mission with international participation, he said, reminding delegates that the success of the Mine-Ban Convention rested on the “fragile cooperation” among States, civil society and international organizations. Together with the Convention’s next and previous presiding delegations, Austria had tabled the traditional draft resolution on its implementation in the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), which had approved the text, he noted.
The representative of Saudi Arabia said his delegation would provide a written statement.
Action on Draft Resolution
The Committee then took up the draft resolution “Assistance in mine action” (document A/C.4/72/L.12), approving it without a vote.Read more
The consequences of Italian and European migration policies for migrants and refugees stuck in Libya are ugly and stark: from militia wars to increasing extortion to overcrowded detention “prisons” where pregnant women can be sold off to ruthless smuggling gangs. Worst of all: No one knows exactly how many tens of thousands of people are trapped there, nor how many have died. A recent string of dramatic events in Sabratha – once Libya’s busiest smuggling hub – gives an inside look at the collateral damage of the attempt to stop clandestine migration from Libya.
“Please send help,” the voice crackled over the phone. “We are in bad, bad condition. We are under [the control of] some illegal smugglers… We need to come out from this place. There is no food or water.”
The man continued over the faltering connection, his words hushed and desperate. He was being held captive with hundreds of other people close to the Libyan coastal city of Sabratha, he told IRIN on 12 October. There were children and pregnant women with him, and the smugglers holding them were demanding $5,000 per person for their release. Some of the prisoners, mostly asylum seekers from Eritrea, had paid the extortion money more than once and still not been let go.
Then, less than 48 hours later, they escaped. Sensing an opportunity, they broke out of the building where they were being held and took shelter in a nearby mosque, according to Meron Estefanos, a Swedish-Eritrean activist and journalist who remained in touch with the group. But their moment of freedom would not last.
During the first three weeks of October, the man on the phone was far from the only person to break out of captivity. In the wake of a battle between militias for control of Sabratha that began the month before, nearly 20,000 people escaped or were freed from smuggling warehouses in and around the port city. Most were sub-Saharan Africans who had come to Libya with the goal of crossing the sea to Europe but found themselves stuck in abysmal conditions – facing torture, exploitation, and abuse. Their situation then took a drastic turn for the worse when the sea route to Italy suddenly snapped shut in the middle of July.
Instead of remaining free after their October escape, the migrants and asylum-seekers in Sabratha were rounded up and directed through an assembly point run by Libya’s Department for Combatting Irregular Migration (DCIM), loaded in their hundreds into open-air trucks, and shipped out of the city to nominally official detention centres notorious for their awful conditions.
The dramatic chain of events in Sabratha apparently began when the Italian government adopted a new set of policies aimed at curbing the number of people reaching European shores from Libya. In a way, the re-detention of 20,000 people is a sign the policy is working – Libya is keeping would-be migrants within its borders, and the number of arrivals to the EU from Libya has significantly declined in recent months. But at what cost and for how long?
In June of this year, Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti was on his way to Washington DC when he heard that more than 10,000 migrants and asylum-seekers had been rescued in the Mediterranean in a short span of time and would soon be disembarking in Italy. Not that the clandestine arrival of people from Libya to Italy is new: Every year since 2014, more than 100,000 people have crossed the central Mediterranean, and at least 13,000 have drowned while attempting the passage over those four years.
But 2018 is a parliamentary election year in Italy and public opinion has shifted decisively against migrants and asylum-seekers. The country’s northern neighbours have sealed their borders, and with EU efforts to stop smugglers at sea mostly unsuccessful and possibly even encouraging more dangerous practices, Italy has been left to shoulder the burden of hosting and managing the vast majority of new arrivals to Europe on its own.
And for the first half of 2017, people were still arriving in record-breaking numbers, even more than last year, when around 181,000 people landed in Italy.
Facing the possibility of an electoral backlash and the rise of populist and right-wing parties fuelled by anti-migrant sentiment, Minniti cancelled his trip to Washington and returned home to address the spiralling situation.
Part of his response had already been in place since February, when Italy and the EU began training and equipping the Libyan coast guard to stop migrant boats and return people to Libya before they reached international waters. Now, he doubled down on efforts to work with local authorities in major cities to encourage them to crack down on clandestine migration and allegedly struck a deal with militias in Sabratha, one of Libya’s busiest smuggling hubs, to keep migrants from leaving Libya and begin preventing rival groups from launching boats.
Italy denies directly paying off any of Libya’s militias, but Minniti defends his dealings with the tribes – and something on the coast has clearly changed. From the middle of July to the beginning of September, the number of people landing in Italy decreased by 87 percent compared to the same period in 2016. “I think even the Italian government was surprised by the extent that this worked,” said Matteo Villa, a researcher at the Italian Institute for International Political Studies.
The somewhat murky policy was a major success for Italy and the EU, but on the ground in Sabratha “the consequences are not at all nice”, said Villa. “You are just co-opting militias acting for you as proxies on the ground,” he said, describing this is a recipe for instability.
In mid-September, the militias rumored to be working with Italy came under attack from rival armed groups and were driven from the city. Dozens of people were killed in the clashes, and hundreds were wounded. Italy’s policies, and the desire for the legitimacy and money that comes from being in the position to stop clandestine migration, appeared to be the catalyst behind the fighting. “The other militias taking control of Sabratha wanted to show that they were even more willing to cooperate [with Italy],” Villa said.
In the wake of the conflict, the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, described a situation of “human suffering and abuse on a shocking scale” among the more than 20,000 migrants and asylum seekers who had been warehoused in the city when the route to Italy snapped shut. Hundreds of people were found without clothing; there were pregnant women and newborn babies; and people had clearly been physically abused and psychologically traumatised.
Abuses in Libya
Even before Italy’s new policies, conditions for those attempting to cross through Libya were nothing short of horrific, with many finding themselves imprisoned and extorted along the way. In Sicily and Rome, IRIN spoke with recent arrivals to Italy who described their experiences. Mercy Osabouhiem, 26 years old, left her home in Nigeria with the hope of crossing the Mediterranean in search of treatment for a life-threatening stomach ailment. When she arrived in Libya last May, she was taken captive.
LISTEN: “Every night, shooting guns up and down… No food. No water. And the water they have there is salty water. It’s not good for the stomach,” she said.
“Sometimes the man would come. The man has many boys, a lot of boys that work with him, so beating us everyday, every night… Even raping, almost every night. Rape every night. He say we should pay money. If we don’t pay we don’t go anywhere.”
Vincent, 25 years old, is also from Nigeria. He fled after police attacked protesters in Biafra in 2016.
LISTEN: “When I reach in Libya, the same thing start happening in Libya. Problem everywhere,” he said. “You can’t even come out. You can’t even stroll or have the peace of mind. You can’t even sleep in Libya. Problem everywhere. They killed so many people there.”
Mohammed, 20 years old, is from Darfur, Sudan. He was held captive in Libya for two years before surviving the violence in Sabratha and boarding one of the few boats to leave for Italy since the crackdown. “They tortured me for two years and made me call my parents to ask for money. But I knew my parents cannot afford to pay,” he said. “After two years, I managed to escape with 40 people. At night we broke out from the prison and escaped.”
The abuses described by Mercy, Vincent, and Mohammed are likely faced by the vast majority of those attempting to pass through Libya to Europe – there are more than 43,000 registered refugees and asylum-seekers in the country, but the real count may be closer to several hundred thousand. And human rights violations occur in smuggling warehouses and official detention centres alike.
The EU is aware of the terrible conditions: As it has increased its efforts to keep people in Libya, it has also given money to try to improve the situation in centres affiliated with the DCIM. But the official status of these centres is often a thin veneer. “I have yet to go to a facility that is officially under DCIM that I would say is fully run by authorities,” explained Hanan Salah, Libya researcher for Human Rights Watch.
Instead, most official detention centres are under the control of militias and armed groups who see them as moneymaking ventures. On an unannounced visit to one DCIM affiliated facility, Salah found around 1,300 people in a room fit to hold no more than 150. People were sleeping in shifts and had limited access to toilets. “The hygienic conditions were absolutely inhumane and absolutely disgusting,” she said. “I spoke with people who hadn’t been able to change their clothes in… six months.”
These nominally official detention centres are where the 20,000 people in Sabratha were sent after being released from the smuggling warehouses in the city. Salah is concerned that the large influx of people into the DCIM centres could result in a humanitarian disaster. “They’re barely able to handle the 1,000 people or the 2,000 people that they have on any given day in one of the prisons,” she said.
The line between DCIM detention centres and the criminal enterprises surrounding clandestine migration is also permeable. “There have been proven links between those running these detention facilities and smugglers,” Salah said.
For people stuck in this system, there are only two official options: remain there indefinitely or ask to be voluntarily returned to their home countries – which for many is not a viable option. As a result, the only real hope many have is to escape, or that those running the detention centres will sell them to smugglers who will then send them across the sea.
On 23 October, IRIN spoke to W, whose name we’re protecting in case of reprisals, an Eritrean who was transferred from Sabratha to an official detention centre some 120 kilometres away in Gharyan. “We are in bad conditions. We don’t have anything… We are suffering. We are sleeping on the floor… We don’t have medicine,” he said. “It is a prison. It is a big prison.”
As EU and Italian policies restrict the possibility of people leaving Libya by sea, and not just at Sabratha, no one really knows how many tens of thousands are in the country’s detention centres, official or otherwise.
“What we’re looking at is a situation where EU efforts to stop the boats means more and more people being trapped in horrific abuse,” said Judith Sunderland, HRW’s associate director for Europe and Central Asia. “We’re really getting to this point where we have to start talking about complicity in abuse.”
For its part, the EU says it does not provide funding directly to detention centres and instead supports the efforts of UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to improve conditions for migrants in Libya. “We condemn any act of violence against migrants,” an EU spokesperson told IRIN. “Our priority is to protect them and fight against the traffickers who take advantage from their situation.”
While most migrants in Libya appear to be locked in official and unofficial detention for the time-being, arrival numbers in Italy are creeping back up. In August, just under 4,000 arrived. In September and October, the number has been just shy of 6,000. “Most of them are not leaving from Sabratha, so other sea routes have been opening up, but just a tiny bit,’ said Villa.
In Italy, where clandestine migration from Libya has ebbed and flowed since the mid-1990s, the expectation is that the movement of people across the Mediterranean is far from over, especially as Libya continues to be embroiled in chaos. “I don’t expect the flows to remain this low,” Villa said. In the meantime, this temporary reprieve for Italy and the EU is having horrible and untold consequences. As Villa put it bluntly: “It’s at the cost of human lives… in detention centres.”
PHOTO CREDIT: Pictures from Alessio Romenzi/UNICEF, Kevin McElvaney/MSF, and Eric Reidy.Read more
SECRETARY TILLERSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Chairman Corker, Ranking Member Cardin, distinguished members. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today. I know the Senate’s desire to understand the United States’ legal basis for military action is grounded in your constitutional role related to foreign policy and national security matters. I understand your sense of obligation to the American people well in this regard.
In the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, or AUMF, Congress authorized the President to “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.” Congress granted the President this statutory authority “in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations, or persons.”
The 2001 AUMF provides statutory authority for ongoing U.S. military operations against al-Qaida, the Taliban, and associated forces, including against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.
The administration relies on the 2001 AUMF as a domestic legal authority for our own military actions against these entities, as well as the military actions we take in conjunction with our partners in the Coalition to Defeat ISIS.
The 2001 AUMF provides a domestic legal basis for our detention operations at Guantanamo Bay, where the United States currently detains members of al-Qaida, the Taliban, and associated forces.
The 2001 AUMF also authorizes the use of necessary and appropriate force to defend U.S., Coalition, and partner forces engaged in the campaign to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. In Syria, the efforts of the U.S.-led Coalition are aimed at the defeat of ISIS; the United States does not seek to fight the Syrian Government or pro-Syrian-Government forces. However, the United States will not hesitate to use necessary and proportionate force to defend U.S., Coalition, or partner forces engaged in the campaign against ISIS.
The President’s authority to use force against ISIS is further reinforced by the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq, or, in more plain terms, the “2002 AUMF.”
In addition to authorities granted to the President by statute, the President has the power under Article II of the Constitution to use military force in certain circumstances to advance important U.S. national interests, including to defend the United States against terrorist attacks. As an example, President Reagan relied on his authority as Commander-in-Chief in 1986 when he ordered airstrikes against terrorist facilities and military installations in Libya following a terrorist attack by Libya in West Berlin which killed and wounded both civilians and U.S. military personnel.
The United States has the legal authority to prosecute campaigns against the Taliban, al-Qaida, and associated forces, including ISIS, and is not currently seeking any new or additional congressional authorization for the use of force. The 2001 AUMF remains a cornerstone for ongoing U.S. military operations and continues to provide legal authority relied upon to defeat this threat.
However, should Congress decide to write new AUMF legislation, I submit to you several recommendations that the administration would consider necessary to a new AUMF:
First, new AUMF authorities must be in place prior to or simultaneous with the repeal of old ones. Failure to do so could cause operational paralysis and confusion in our military operations. Diplomatically speaking, it could cause our allies in the Global Coalition to question our commitment to defeating ISIS. And potential repeal of the 2001 AUMF without an immediate and appropriate replacement could raise question about the domestic legal basis for the United States’ full range of military activities against the Taliban, al-Qaida, and associated forces, including against ISIS, as well as our detention operations at Guantanamo Bay.
Second, any new authorization should not be time-constrained. Legislation which would arbitrarily terminate the authorization to use force would be inconsistent with a conditions-based approach and could unintentionally embolden our enemies with the goal of outlasting us. Any oversight mechanism in a new AUMF also would have to allow the United States the freedom to quickly move against our enemies without being constrained by a feedback loop.
Third, a new AUMF must not be geographically restricted. As is the case under the current AUMF, the administration would need to retain the statutory authority to use military force against an enemy that does not respect or limit itself based on geographic boundaries. As ISIS’s fraudulent caliphate in Iraq and Syria has crumbled, it has tried to gain footholds in new locations.
As was discussed with the Senate during a closed defeat-ISIS briefing in July, the United States has a limited military presence in the Lake Chad Basin to support partners, including France, in their counterterrorism operations in the region. This information has also been conveyed to you in multiple periodic reports submitted to Congress consistent with the War Power Resolution. The collapse of ISIS’s so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria means it will attempt to burrow into new countries and find new safe havens. Our legal authorities for heading off a transnational threat like ISIS cannot be constrained by geographic boundaries. Otherwise, ISIS may re-establish itself and gain strength in vulnerable spaces.
The United States must retain the proper legal authorities to ensure that nothing restricts or delays our ability to respond effectively and rapidly to terrorist threats to the United States. Secretary Mattis and I, along with the rest of the administration, are completely aligned on this issue. We fully recognize the need for transparency with you as we respond to what will be a dynamic regional and global issue. We will contend to – continue to regularly update Congress and to make sure you and the American people understand our foreign policy goals, military operations, and national security objectives.
I thank the Committee for supporting our efforts and look forward to your questions.Read more
12 October 2017 – After a brief mission to Libya, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Thursday said the Government “can and should” lead efforts to urgently address arbitrary detention, torture and other grave violations that must be brought to an end in the crisis-torn North African country.
“No United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has ever made an official visit to discuss the human rights situation in Libya in the days of Muammar Gaddafi or in the years have followed the end of its dictatorial regime,” Mr. Zeid said in a statement issued by his Office (OHCHR) at the end of his mission.
The High Commissioner travelled to Libya for one day, having not announced the visit in advance for security reasons. While there, he met with Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Serraj, the Ministers of Justice and the Interior, and the head of the department responsible for the management of migrant detention centers.
Mr. Zeid was also able to make brief visits to one of the country’s major prisons and a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs). “My trip was enlightened by a very useful meeting with Libyan civil society and women human rights defenders,” he said.
Despite the high hopes that followed the 2011 revolution, the human rights situation in Libya continues to be marked by widespread abuses and violations perpetrated by all parties to the conflict with impunity, he stated, explaining: “Thousands of people are arbitrarily detained in detention centers across the country, some since the 2011 armed conflict, many of whom are subjected to torture and ill-treatment.”
He went on to note that armed groups are killing and illegally holding civilians and fighters hostage. “Civilian men, women and children are killed and injured every week by the indiscriminate use of weapons […] Yet these aspects of the human rights situation in Libya rarely [make it into] the headlines.”
Displaced Libyans and representatives of civil society met by the High Commissioner presented him with a clear picture of the serious abuses committed by armed groups and the impunity they currently enjoy. “The actions of armed groups are hampering significant progress towards stability, development and peace in the country,” Mr. Zeid underscored.
Alarming situation of migrants
While in Libya, the human rights chief also spoke with authorities about the alarming situation of migrants in the country. “I call on the Government to establish alternatives to detention in Libya, to put an end to the practice of arbitrary detention and to report on abuses committed against migrants in detention centers,” he stressed.
Overall, he said that while the challenges facing human rights in Libya are “massive,” they are not insurmountable. At the same time, he recognized that the large-scale collapse of the judicial system, power and influence of armed groups and the many challenges facing the Government are very real.
“But the Government can and should lead. It can begin to combat the practice of arbitrary detention and to take back the powers conferred on armed groups. The situation in detention centers can be addressed,” Mr. Zeid stated, stressing that a concerted effort by the Government and all stakeholders, including the UN and the international community, can change and improve the situation.Read more