Sunday, September 29, 2013

United Arab Emirates Renews its Claim Over Three Islands in Persian Gulf

From the rostrum of the United Nations General Assembly, the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) renewed his country’s demand for the restoration of sovereignty over three islands in the Persian Gulf region.  “My Government expresses, once again, its regret regarding the continued Iranian occupation of our three islands – Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs, and demands the restoration of the UAE’s full sovereignty over these islands,” Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan told the Assembly’s high-level debate. He emphasized that all actions and measures taken by the “Iranian occupation authorities” are null and void, and are contrary to international law and to all norms and common human values. 

“We, therefore, call upon the international community to urge Iran to respond to the repeated peaceful, sincere calls of the United Arab Emirates for a just settlement of this issue, either through direct, serious negotiations or by referral to the International Court of Justice,” he stated.

Responding to the statement by the UAE at the conclusion of today’s session of the Debate, Iran’s representative reiterated his country’s full sovereignty over the islands and categorically rejected any claims to the contrary.

(adapted from  a UN press release)

September 29, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"Our People, Our Future" is Theme for ASEAN

Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, Crown Prince of Brunei told the United Nations General Assembly yesterday that, as current chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), his country has chosen the theme “Our People, Our Future,” to highlight the role of the region’s people in ASEAN community-building efforts. “We hope this people-to-people approach will promote cultural exchange and understanding,” he said, noting that ASEAN’s work has also been strongly influenced by the current Millenium Development Goals. Brunei has encouraged ASEAN member States to begin working on a regional strategy beyond 2015 to further strengthen the collective mission in promoting peace, stability and prosperity.

(adapted from a UN press release)

September 29, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Armenia Highlights Importance of Cooperation Between UN and Regional Organizations

Citing his own country’s chairmanship of the Council of Europe, Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian yesterday highlighted the importance of cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations in securing a more just world.  He called the Council of Europe “a key partner of the United Nations in our shared global quest united behind the principles of fundamental freedoms, defence and promotion of human rights and continuous efforts for peace and security.

“The cooperation between these two organizations is also well established in the fields of the fight against racism, xenophobia, hate-speech and intolerance,” he told the UN General Assembly as it wrapped up the first week of its annual General Debate. 
Mr. Nalbandian stressed that the difficulties in that have arisen in implementing the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which seek to slash extreme poverty and hunger and a host of other social ills by the end of 2015, show that that no country can achieve in isolation the MDGs in the world of growing interdependence and interconnectedness.

(Adapted from a UN press release)

September 29, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Vanuatu Calls for Investigation of Human Rights Abuses in Indonesia

UNGA-VanuatuVanuatu today called on the United Nations to appoint a Special Representative to investigate alleged human rights abuses in the Papuan provinces of Indonesia and their political status, with its Prime minister declaring that the West Papuans have been consistently denied any sort of recognition by the world body.

“We are now deliberating on the issue of Syria, but when it comes to the issue of the rights of the people of West Papua, our voices are muted even in this podium” Prime Minister Moana Carcasses Kalosil told the General Assembly’s annual General Debate, referring to the civil war that has killed some 120,000 Syrians, driver some 6.6 million from their homes and seen the use of chemical weapons. 

“How can we then ignore hundreds of thousands of West Papuans who have been brutally beaten and murdered? The people of West Papua are looking to the UN as a beacon for hope… Let us, my colleague leaders, with the same moral conviction yield our support to the plight of West Papuans. It is time for the United Nation to move beyond its periphery and address and rectify some historical error.”

In May UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay voiced concern over a crackdown on mass demonstrations in the Papuan provinces and called on the Indonesian Government to allow peaceful protests and hold accountable those responsible for the violence. “There has not been sufficient transparency in addressing serious human rights violations in Papua,” she said. During the crackdown, Indonesian police reportedly shot and killed two protesters on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the former Dutch New Guinea, occupying the western half of New Guinea Island, becoming part of Indonesia. At least 20 protesters were arrested, many for raising pro-independence flags. 

“It is clear from many historical records that the Melanesian people of West Papua were the scapegoat of Cold war politics and were sacrificed to gratify the appetite for the natural resources which this country possess,” Mr. Kalosil said. “Today they are still the victims of ignorance of the UN.”

(UN press release)

September 28, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Human Rights Violators Escape Prison in DRC

The top United Nations official in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on Saturday voiced deep concern at the escape from prison of two national army officers who were convicted of gross human rights violations, including rape and murder.

A colonel in the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) escaped from Bukavu prison in the eastern province of South Kivu during the night of 21-22 September, less than two weeks after he was sentenced to life imprisonment by a military court. The colonel escaped along with another inmate, an army major, according to a news release issued by the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC (MONUSCO).
“I am appealing to the Congolese officials to take the necessary actions to provide security for the witnesses, lawyers and magistrates who participated in the trial that led to the conviction of the two fugitives, as well as to open judiciary investigations with a view to determining the exact circumstances of the escape and the responsibilities of the suspected accomplices,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of MONUSCO, Martin Kobler.  “I also urge them to take the necessary actions to arrest the escapees,” he said.

MONUSCO said the escape represents “a step backward” in the fight against impunity for the perpetrators of gross human rights violations. It also voiced concern over the faulty security and surveillance system of the prison, which led to the escape of the two FARDC officers.

(UN press release)

September 28, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

ABA Section of International Law - International Courts Committee

Shahram Dana PhotoThe International Courts Committee of the American Bar Association Section of International Law will have a committee telephone conference on Wednesday morning, October 2, 2013.  Speaking on the phone call will be Professor Shahram Dana of The John Marshall Law School in Chicago, who will discuss the appeals court decision of the Special Court for Sierra Leone in the Charles Taylor case, which last week affirmed a 50-year sentence for Mr. Taylor.  The former Liberian President had been convicted in 2012 on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He was convicted in April 2012 and subsequently sentenced to 50 years in prison.  On appeal, the prosecution had urged an even longer sentence.

The speaker, Professor Dana, worked at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and as a lecturer at Maastricht University Faculty of Law in the Netherlands. 

For information on how to join the phone conference or the American Bar Association Section of International Law International Courts Committee, contact Committee Co-Chair Professor Mark Wojcik (The John Marshall Law School) or leave a comment on this message and the call-in information will be sent to you.


September 28, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Urges More UN Involvement to End Dispute Over Name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

UNGA-FYROMInsisting that the name a country and people choose is “our fundamental individual and collective right,” the Prime Minister of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Nikola Gruevski, yesterday called on the United Nations to become more directly involved in the dispute with Greece over his country’s name. “I am convinced that only essential engagement by the international community, above all, that of the UN, will lead to a solution,” he told the General Assembly during its annual General Debate, citing a 2010 decision by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the UN’s principal judicial organ, that found that Greece, by objecting to his country’s admission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), breached part of the Interim Accord.

That UN-brokered accord, signed in 1995, provided for diplomatic relations between the two countries and addressed related issues, including a Greek obligation not obstruct his nation’s accession to NATO, he said. Greece has also prevented the start of negotiations for his country’s membership in the European Union four years in a row, although it has met the necessary requirements, he added. “If there is not any progress, the UN must not stand still and be satisfied with the status quo, because it would mean showing additional irresponsibility,” Mr. Gruevski said, referring to his country as the “Republic of Macedonia,” although it was admitted to the UN in 1993 under the name of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Greece applies the name Macedonia to its second largest region, which in ancient times was the home of ethnic Greeks, whose most famous member was Alexander the Great. 

“The UN should, aware of this already discouraging situation, help with their mechanisms, through the General Assembly, and also the Security Council, on the basis of whose resolution we are talking with our neighbour, to arrive at a solution that will unlock the perspectives of my country,” the prime minister said. “Otherwise, the UN will be faced with failure again and will bear the responsibility because of not reacting in accordance with its own principles and values.”

The Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy on the dispute, Matthew Nimetz, has been holding talks with both sides since 1999 in an effort to resolve the issue.

(Adapted from a UN press release)

September 28, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sudan Foreign Minister Says that U.S. Denial of Visa to Sudanese President Al-Bashir Violated UN Headquarters Agreement; Al-Bashir Has Been Indicted by the International Criminal Court

UNGA-SudanAddressing the United Nations General Assembly, the Foreign Minister of Sudan yesterday urged the international community to do more to support cooperation between his country and South Sudan, and to lift unilateral sanctions that undercutting efforts to achieve sustainable development.  

Ali Ahmed Karti opened his address by informing the Assembly that he was deeply disturbed to report that the United States Government denied a visa for President Omar Al-Bashir to attend to proceedings in New York. This action violates the Headquarters agreement, he declared. 

He said that President Bashir is known throughout Africa as a man of peace; the man ended a bloody war in Sudan that had been a residual from the days of colonialism. He said that the decision by the United States to deny a visa to the leader of a sovereign nation must be addressed by the international community. “If this is allowed to happen to Sudan, then the same thing can happen to any other member of the United Nations,” he said. 

In 2009, President Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

September 28, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

China Says it Will Not Take Sides in Syria

UNGA-ChinaChina will firmly promote global governance reform with the United Nations at its core, the country’s Foreign Minister yesterday told the General Assembly, while also stressing Beijing’s commitment to play an active role in international diplomacy and be a voice on behalf of developing countries.

“It is our consistent position that the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations form the cornerstone of current international relations and provide safeguards for world peace and stability,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the 68th General Assembly high-level debate.  Respecting national sovereignty and opposing interference in internal affairs, safeguarding peace and opposing aggression, and promoting equality and opposing power politics must be observed, he added.

Underscoring the country’s stance as the second biggest economy and a permanent, veto-carrying member of the Security Council, Mr. Wang stressed that China “will firmly fulfil its due international responsibilities and obligations.”   He also called for greater representation and voice of developing countries in the global governance system to make the international order “fairer and more equitable.”

Turning to the wider global scene, the Foreign Minister said that China plans to play a “more proactive and constructive role” in addressing international and regional hotspots. In reference to the situation in Syria, Mr. Wang called for an immediate end to hostilities and violence to create necessary conditions for the verification and destruction of chemical weapons. “China seeks no self gains in Syria and does not take side on the Syrian issue,” he stated, but said the Government is following with “great concern” the humanitarian situation in the country and its impact on the neighbouring States. 

(adapted from a UN press release)

September 28, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Caribbean Island States Address UN General Assembly

Leaders of Caribbean island States addressing the United Nations General Assembly yesterday outlined progress made at eradicating poverty and urged greater support from the international community to meet the universally accepted goals, particularly those on health and climate change.

In his speech to the 68th high-level debate, Prime Minister Denzil Douglas of Saint Kitts and Nevis stressed that special attention must be placed to the high incidence of diabetes and other non-communicable diseases plaguing the Caribbean. “No discussion on the issue of development can progress without reference to the area of health and in particular to chronic illnesses that continue to plague our societies with relevant loss of lives, thus retarding our development thrust,” said Prime Minister Douglas. He noted that there is a strong nexus between a nation’s health and its level of productivity, a “nation’s wealth lies in the health of its people.”

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of Saint Vincent and The Grenadines similarly urged greater official development assistance (ODA) amidst “significant backsliding” in global partnerships. “Without predictable flows of meaningful, nondiscretionary assistance, the post-2015 development programme will remain, substantially, a fleeting illusion to be pursued, but rarely if ever attained,” he cautioned in his statement to the Assembly. Mr. Gonsalves also had harsh words for the international community on its “endless, rudderless and seemingly vacuous” negotiations on climate change. Caribbean countries are on the forefront of climate change and while for major emitters and historical polluters the fallout is a question of “dollars and cents,” for the people on the islands, it is “life and death.” 

Among other topics discussed in their speeches, both leaders also highlighted the legacy of slavery and the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) support for reparation associated with the atrocities of slavery. While difficult to quantify, Mr. Douglas said, the deleterious effects associated with the atrocities of slavery translated into much hardship and poverty for their descendents. Meanwhile, Mr. Gonsalves called reparation a “special pillar in the post-2015 development agenda” and called on European countries engaged in the trade centuries ago “to repair the contemporary legacy of their historic wrongs.” 

(mew) (adapted from a UN press release)

September 28, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Vietnam Urges New Efforts to Promote Peace and Protect the Planet

UNGA-VietnamCiting his own country’s example in moving from a war-ravaged, hunger-stricken State to becoming a leading rice exporter, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung of Viet Nam yesterday called on the United Nations to use a "One for All and All for One" strategy in developing a long-term blueprint for sustainable development. “I urge the global community, with a sense of responsibility and humanity, to craft an ambitious post-2015 development agenda and re-double our efforts to promote peace, end hunger, poverty and protect our planet,” he told the General Assembly during its annual General Debate. 

The theme of this year’s 68th General Assembly, “The Post 2015 Development Agenda: Setting the Stage!” aims at drawing up an even more ambitious blueprint to totally eliminate poverty and its attendant ills in the decades following the end in 2015 of the current anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) cycle. While acknowledging that the MDGs are currently the world’s most successful endeavour against hunger and poverty, he noted that close to 40 per cent of global wealth is in the hands of not more than 1 per cent of its population, the rich-poor gap continues to widen, over 1 billion people are still living in extreme poverty, and hundreds of millions, especially children, still lack food, basic medicine and education. “Let us develop a roadmap of actions for poorer nations to effectively participate in international agreements, institutions and face and overcome global challenges and dangers in the spirit of (French novelist) Alexander Dumas' (Three) Musketeers "One for All and All for One,” he said.

Turning to his own country’s experience of becoming a leading rice exporter after decades of suffering from hunger, Mr. Nguyen stressed that Viet Nam is now living up to its global obligations and developed countries should do likewise.“We have achieved national food security but consider it our responsibility to help maintain global food security. Not only exporting, we also assist countries to become self-reliant in food production, as we have done in Cuba, Mozambique, Angola, Mali, Madagascar, Myanmar and others. “We hope developed countries and international organizations will participate in supporting similar programs as a meaningful and substantive multi-partite model of cooperation.”

(mew) (adapted from a UN press release)

September 28, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

UN Security Council Adopts Resolution 2118 on Syria

In the wake of an August chemical attack in Syria which a United Nations team later confirmed had killed hundreds of civilians, the Security Council on Friday called for the elimination of the country’s chemical weapons, while endorsing a diplomatic plan for Syrian-led negotiations toward peace.

Through the unanimous adoption of resolution 2118 (2013), the Council called for the speedy implementation of procedures drawn up by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) “for the expeditious destruction of the Syrian Arab Republic’s chemical weapons programme and stringent verification thereof.” In the text, the Council underscored “that no party in Syria should use, develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, retain, or transfer chemical weapons.”

Defiance of the resolution, including unauthorized transfer of chemical weapons, or any use of chemical weapons by anyone in Syria, would bring about measures under the UN Charter’s binding Chapter VII, which can include sanctions or stronger coercive action, the Council said.

The 15-member body added that it would work with the OPCW in deploying a chemical weapons “monitoring and destruction team” – expecting the full cooperation of the Syrian Government – and it appealed to UN Member States for support, including personnel, expertise, funding and equipment. It also authorized Member States to acquire, control, transport, transfer and destroy chemical weapons identified by the Director-General of the OPCW, in a way consistent with the Chemical Weapons Convention and the interest of non-proliferation.

“Today’s historic resolution is the first hopeful news on Syria in a long time,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Council following the adoption. “For many months, I have said that the confirmed use of chemical weapons in Syria would require a firm, united response. “Tonight, the international community has delivered,” he stated.  “As we mark this important step, we must never forget that the catalogue of horrors in Syria continues with bombs and tanks, grenades and guns,” Mr. Ban added. “A red light for one form of weapons does not mean a green light for others.  This is not a license to kill with conventional weapons. All the violence must end. All the guns must fall silent.”

Earlier yesterday, Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said that the UN team led by Swedish scientist ?ke Sellström has been able to resume its fact-finding activities related to all pending credible allegations of chemical weapons use, following its return to Syria this week.  Those allegations include the 19 March incident at Khan al-Asal, reported first by Syria and subsequently by other Member States. As previously agreed with Syria, the other allegations to be investigated include the 13 April incident at Sheikh Maqsud, reported by the United States, and the 29 April incident at Saraqueb, reported by France and the United Kingdom. In addition, he said, the mission has continued to follow-up with the Government of Syria and to evaluate information it has provided on three additional allegations, including the incidents at Bahhariyeh on 22 August, at Jobar on 24 August, and at Sahnaya on 25 August. 

The team, assisted by experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the OPCW, visited the country last month and found “clear and convincing evidence” that Sarin gas was used in an incident that occurred on 21 August in the Ghouta area on the outskirts of Damascus in which hundreds of people were reportedly killed.

Under the General Assembly-approved guidelines, the spokesperson recalled, the mission is obliged to evaluate all available information related to all allegations reported by Member States, for the purpose of preparing its final report. 

Also in yesterday’s resolution, the Council endorsed a plan for a Syrian-led process, with participation of all parties, to end the conflict, which has claimed over 100,000 lives since it began in March 2011 and has led to over 2 million people fleeing the country, with some 4 million internally displaced. It also called for convening, as soon as possible, an international peace conference that is fully representative of the Syrian people.

The text of Security Council Resolution 2118 will be available soon on the UN website.

(mew)(adapted from a UN press release)

September 28, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 27, 2013

The President of the Gambia Says that Homosexuality is One of the Three Greatest Dangers to the World

Speaking at the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly, Al Hadji Yahya A.J.J. Jemmeh, the President of The Gambia, today identified the three biggest threats to human existence:

  • excessive greed and addiction to material wealth, mostly through violent or immoral schemes;
  • obsession with world domination, including the resolve to use nuclear, biological and chemical weapons; and,
  • "homosexuality in all its forms and manifestations, which though very evil, anti-human as well as anti-Allah; is being promoted as a human right."

The Gambian President said that all living things needed to reproduce for posterity and would become extinct when they could no longer reproduce. He also said that any person promoting the end of human reproduction was promoting human extinction. 

How can we say this nicely?  His remarks are undoubtedly the low point of this week's addresses to the United Nations.  



September 27, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Security Council Congratulates Special Court of Sierra Leone on Charles Taylor Judgment

Members of the Security Council today welcomed the decision by a United Nations-backed court to uphold the conviction of former Liberian President Charles Taylor for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during Sierra Leone’s civil war. In a statement issued to the press, the Council said the ruling by the Appeals Chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) is “an important step in bringing to justice those individuals who bear the greatest responsibility for such crimes, regardless of their official status.”

Mr. Taylor was convicted in April 2012 on 11 counts for crimes committed during Sierra Leone’s decade-long civil war and subsequently sentenced to 50 years in prison. The crimes included murder, rape and enlisting children into armed forces.

“The members of the Security Council congratulate the Special Court for Sierra Leone on the delivery of this final judgment concluding the appellate proceedings in the case against Charles Taylor and welcome the pending completion of the Special Court’s mandate,” the statement said.

The SCSL is an independent tribunal set up jointly by the Government of Sierra Leone and the UN. It is mandated to try those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law committed in the country since 30 November 1996.

The Court will close its doors before the end of 2013, and will be immediately replaced by the Residual Special Court. A primary function of the Residual Special Court will be the continued protection and support of Special Court witnesses and individuals at risk on account of testimony. It will respond robustly and effectively to any reports of interference with, or harassment of, witnesses. The 15-member Security Council said it will continue to offer strong support to the Residual Special Court as it commences its functioning in the coming weeks and called on Member States to contribute generously to it.

(Adapted from a UN press release)

September 27, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Upholding the International Rule of Law -- U.N. Non-Alligned Movement Meeting Chaired by Iranian President

Nations belonging to the international grouping of more than 100 countries known as the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) today highlighted the importance of cooperation among States to strengthen the rule of law as they met at the United Nations.

Addressing the NAM Ministerial Meeting on Cooperation for the Rule of Law at the International Level, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the meeting was an opportunity to ensure that States uphold the rule of law not just domestically but internationally. “International humanitarian law safeguards the protection of innocent civilians in all conflicts. It is a cornerstone of our common humanity,” Mr. Ban said.  “We must hold accountable all those responsible for serious breaches of international humanitarian and human rights law. The Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court has been widely ratified to ensure this accountability.”

Mr. Ban added that upholding the rule of law at the international level is the collective responsibility of Member States, and added that it should be a priority particularly now when various conflicts are unfolding across the world.

General Assembly President John Ashe said the participation of NAM countries was critical in all aspects moving forward, not just regarding the rule of law but also in the shaping of the post-2015 development agenda. 

Chairing the meeting was Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who underlined that without the rule of law “any efforts towards sustained and inclusive economic growth and sustainable development are doomed to failure.” He added that the rule of law at the international level is indispensible for global peace as well as the full achievement of economic and social development, particularly in developing countries.

(UN Press release)

September 27, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

King of Tonga Addresses UN General Assembly

UNGA-TongaKing Tupou VI of Tonga joined leaders of other small island developing States (SIDS) in urging that sustainable development agenda address climate change in a way that is integrated throughout its targets.  “Tonga joins SIDS in calling for the inclusion of climate change as a cross-cutting issue of sustainable development goals (SDGs),” King Tupou said in reference to the environmental and anti-poverty targets now under discussion for implementation following the 2015 deadline of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

“Oceans are a thematic priority and should also be prominently featured in the SDGs and post-2015 agenda,” he added.  Commending UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for his initiative to convene a high-level climate change summit in 2014 and urged leadership from developed countries to “enhance their mitigation ambition.”  He also joined other small islands in affirming that, in laying the groundwork for a post-2015 development agenda - a priority for the 68th General Assembly that is now holding its General Debate - be influence by the outcome of the Third International Conference on SIDS to be convened in 2014 in Samoa.

Pointing to examples of international cooperation that could assist Pacific islands in their struggle for equitable sustainability, he stressed, in particular the importance of the establishment of a Pacific Regional Data Repository for the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative, plans for which were made public today with the participation of Secretary-General Ban.

In a separate event today, Mr. Ban also met with Pacific Island Forum leaders on the sidelines of the General Debate, praising them for their resolve on climate change and other areas as shown in the adoption of the Majuro Declaration. Thanking Samoa for agreeing to host the SIDS conference, he said, “The Forum and the United Nations are becoming close partners,” not only on climate change but also many other issues. “The Pacific region is changing rapidly,” Mr. Ban said. “The United Nations is very aware of the shifting geo-political dynamics and the increasing involvement of Pacific countries in regional and global issues,” he added.

September 27, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

WTO Agrees on Membership Terms for Yemen

Members of the Working Party on the Accession of Yemen agreed on 26 September 2013 the terms of World Trade Organization membership for Yemen. The accession package will be presented ti the 159 WTO members and subsequently to the 9th Ministerial Conference in Bali, December 3-6, 2013, for a formal decision by ministers.


September 27, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

50-Year Sentence for Charles Taylor for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity; First Former Head of State Convicted by an International Tribunal for War Crimes Since Nuremberg

The Prosecutor of the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) welcomed the court’s decision this week to uphold the conviction of former Liberian President Charles Taylor for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Mr. Taylor was convicted in April 2012 on 11 counts for crimes committed during Sierra Leone’s decade-long civil war and subsequently sentenced to 50 years in prison. 

Prosecutor Brenda J. Hollis today welcomed the judgment of the Court’s Appeals Chamber upholding the convictions and sentencing of Mr. Taylor, the first former head of State to be convicted for war crimes by an international criminal tribunal since Nuremberg in 1946. “This final decision affirms Mr. Taylor’s criminal responsibility for grave crimes which caused untold suffering to many thousands, if not tens of thousands, of victims in Sierra Leone,” she stated in a news release. “Today’s judgment brings some measure of justice to those victims who suffered so horribly because of Charles Taylor.”

The SCSL is an independent tribunal set up jointly by the Government of Sierra Leone and the United Nations. It is mandated to try those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law committed in the country since 30 November 1996. The Court will close its doors before the end of 2013, and will be immediately replaced by the Residual Special Court. A primary function of the Residual Special Court will be the continued protection and support of Special Court witnesses and individuals at risk on account of testimony. 

(mew) (adapted from a UN press release)

September 27, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Syrian Opposition Told it has a Critical Role in Future of Country

At United Nations Headquarters yesterday, members of the Syrian National Coalition, a major opposition group, were told that they had critical roles and responsibilities in negotiating peace and fostering democracy, and helping to preserve the unity of their strife-torn country.

“The Coalition has a key and central role to play in making Geneva II a success,” the group was told concerning the peace conference now under discussion, in a message to the Ministerial Meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People which was delivered by Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, UN Assistant-Secretary-General for Political Affairs. “It also has a fundamental duty to ensure that Syria does not break apart, and that its people are served by a state that remains stable and cohesive but that also reflects its citizens’ democratic aspirations,” Mr. Fernandez-Taranco said, adding, “The alternative is chaos.”

Reaffirming Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s position that the only way out of the devastating crisis was through dialogue and political compromise, he said that the Geneva Conference on Syria, which the UN has been working to bring about for months, is meant to launch such a dialogue. He said that yesterday ministers of the five permanent members of the Security Council agreed to work together and separately to make sure that the Syrian participants come to the Conference to negotiate in good faith.

Tomorrow, he said, the Secretary-General and Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi will continue this dialogue to see if, on the basis of all the consultations that have taken place these past few days, a date can be set for the Conference. He said no one was naïve to the challenges of ending the conflict peacefully, given that some in Syria did not share the vision of a unified and democratic country that protected the diversity of its people and rejected extremism.  In the face of such challenges, leaders must make tough choices, he said. 

(Adapted from a UN press release)

September 27, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Belgium--Where Chemical Weapons Were Used for the First Time--Calls for a "UN Veto on Tyrants"

Citing his own country’s experience as the first place in the world where chemical weapons were used in a conflict nearly 100 years ago, Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo decried the recent use of such weapons in Syria, declaring that a veto should be imposed on tyrants. “If there must be a veto, then that veto applies to tyrants and their crimes,” he told the United Nations General Assembly, referring to the veto right of the five permanent members of the Security Council – China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and Unites States – used to prevent the 15-member body from taking action on resolutions. 

“It’s in my country, at Ypres, in Belgium, during the First World War that chemical weapons were used for the first time in a conflict,” he said on the third day of the Assembly’s annual General Debate. “We still have imprinted on our memory the terrible suffering of thousands of soldiers.

“Nearly 100 years later it is this same suffering that today afflicts thousands of Syrians – and this despite the 1925 international protocol that bans all use of chemical weapons, From Ypres to Damascus, the history of the world is a joint history.”

He noted that when he addressed the Assembly last year 30,000 Syrians had been killed in the fighting between the forces of President of Bashar al-Assad and those seeking to oust him. Now 120,000 have been killed, he said.  “Within the United Nations, we have everything needed to act while those who are fighting often have only their courage to survive,” Mr. Di Rupo said, stressing that it was “our duty” to fight crimes and suffering everywhere in the world. “In all humility I call on everyone to live up to their responsibilities within the Security Council to re-establish peace wherever murderous conflicts are raging,” he added.

(Adapted from a UN press release)

September 27, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)