Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

Preview Language:   English
04-Jan-2019 00:15:27
Briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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The Secretary-General deeply regrets the decision of the Government of the Federal Republic of Somalia to declare the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), Nicholas Haysom, persona non grata.

The Secretary-General has full confidence in Mr. Haysom, an experienced and respected international civil servant who has distinguished himself in numerous senior leadership roles, in the field and at UN Headquarters.

The doctrine of persona non grata does not apply to, or in respect of, United Nations personnel. As described in the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the doctrine applies to diplomatic agents who are accredited by one State to another in the context of their bilateral relations. The United Nations is not a State and its personnel are not accredited to the States where they are deployed, but work under the sole responsibility of the Secretary-General.

At the same time the Secretary-General is totally committed to ensuring that the needs of the Somali people are at the forefront of the work of the United Nations in Somalia. UNSOM needs to be able to carry out in the most effective manner its mandate to support the country. Therefore, he intends to appoint in due course a new Special Representative for Somalia and Head of UNSOM.

The Secretary-General remains strongly committed to assisting Somalia in its efforts to achieve peace, stability and prosperity for all.

Our humanitarian colleagues are extremely concerned by reports that civilians, including women and children, have been killed and injured due to ongoing intense hostilities between non-state armed groups in north-western Syria. Fighting has been reported in north-western Aleppo governorate, northern Hama governorate and various parts of Idleb governorate.

There are indications that some of the latest fighting between non-state armed groups has taken place near the sites of internally displaced people, with reports that some displaced people have been forced to flee to other areas. The violence is also reported to have affected several medical facilities. Most humanitarian activities in affected areas have been suspended due to insecurity.

The increased hostilities have also reportedly resulted in road closures and curfews being imposed in some affected areas, with bakeries also reported to be closed.

The humanitarian situation in the north-west of Syria has been further complicated by the impact of flooding in several areas. Flooding is now estimated to have affected some 23,000 displaced people.

The United Nations continues to strongly urge all parties to take all feasible precautions to avoid harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure, including medical facilities, and to facilitate humanitarian access, in line with their obligations under international humanitarian law.

The second meeting of the Redeployment Coordination Committee, or RCC, convened in Hodeidah City, Yemen from 1 to 3 January and discussed the modalities for the implementation of the RCC mandate.

The parties discussed and agreed on the operationalization of a monitoring and liaison mechanism to oversee the ceasefire and redeployment of forces from Hodeidah and its three ports. The RCC Chair, General Patrick Cammaert, remains heartened by the continued goodwill of the parties to tackle the difficult issues in front of them.

The next meeting of the RCC is scheduled for 8 January. In the meantime, General Cammaert continues to urge the parties to ease restrictions on life-saving humanitarian operations and to uphold the ceasefire.

In a statement issued yesterday, Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said that the stoning attack on Palestinian Prime Minister Hamdallah’s convoy on Christmas is a very worrying incident. He said that it is absolutely unacceptable and the perpetrators must be brought to justice. Such violence, he said, must stop immediately.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights calls on the Government of Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab and to ensure that all Bahrainis are able to exercise their rights to freedom of opinion and expression without fear of arbitrary detention.

Mr. Rajab has been imprisoned since June 2016, and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had last year declared his detention to be arbitrary.

The Human Rights Office urges the Government of Bahrain to stop criminalising dissenting voices.


The UN Human Rights Office today expressed its concerns over the violence and alleged rights violations in Bangladesh before, during and after the December 30th elections.

The Office said that there have been credible reports of fatalities and numerous injuries on the polling day alone, and there are worrying indications that reprisals – notably against the opposition – continue to take place, including harassment, disappearances and filing of criminal cases.

On the Philippines, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that more than 120 people are believed to have died with nearly 30 more missing after Tropical Depression Usman made landfall near Borongan late last month.

More than 480,000 people across 14 provinces have been affected by the storm, with more than 57,000 people staying in shelters and nearly 160,000 people staying with relatives and friends.

The national Department of Social Welfare and Development is leading the humanitarian response, and the United Nations remains closely engaged with authorities to offer any support that might be needed.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said today that it regrets India’s decision to repatriate a family of Rohingya asylum-seekers to Myanmar, the second such return in three months.

The family, which was registered with UNHCR in India, was sent back to Myanmar yesterday from India’s Assam province, where they had been in prison since 2013 for illegally entering the country.

Despite repeated requests, UNHCR did not receive a response from Indian authorities for access to the family to assess the voluntary nature of their decision to return.

There are an estimated 18,000 Rohingya refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR in India.

UNHCR is supporting local authorities in the Republic of the Congo to provide humanitarian assistance to some 16,000 recently arrived refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The agency says that people are fleeing deadly clashes that erupted at the end of December 2018 between two communities in Yumbi, Mai-Ndombe Province, in the western DRC. This is the largest influx of refugees from the DRC into Congo-Brazzaville in almost in a decade.

Refugees, mostly women and children of the Banunu tribe, continue to enter the Republic of Congo where the Congolese authorities and UN agencies, including UNHCR, are providing medical treatment, food and non-food items.
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