20 March 1996

Press Briefing



Ahmad Fawzi, Deputy Spokesman for Secretary-General Boutros Boutros- Ghali, began today's noon briefing by saying that he had an announcement regarding Nigeria. The Secretary-General, at the request of the Government of Nigeria, had decided to send a fact-finding mission to that country. The mission would comprise: Atsu Koffi Amega, former Minister for Foreign Affairs, former President of the Supreme Court of Togo and a member of the African Commission for Human and People's Rights; Justice V.S. Malimath, member of the National Human Rights Commission of India; and John P. Pace, Chief of Legislation and Prevention of Discrimination Branch, Centre for Human Rights. Accompanied by Amer Araim, Senior Political Affairs Officer in the Department of Political Affairs, the mission would depart for Nigeria on 27 March.

According to the announcement, the mission was in fulfilment of the mandate entrusted to the Secretary-General in accordance with General Assembly resolution 50/199. The mission, therefore, would address itself to two issues of concern to the international community. The first was the trial and execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and others, including the judicial procedures of the trial. Those matters would be reviewed in the context of relevant Nigerian law and of the various international human rights instruments to which Nigeria was a party. Second, the mission would address the plans of the Government of Nigeria to implement its declared commitment to restore the country to democratic rule. Upon completion of its work, the mission would report to the Secretary-General.

The Deputy Spokesman said that the Secretary-General had learned with great sadness of the earthquake in China. It hit north-western China in the early hours of 19 March, killing 24 people, most of them children. As many as 80 people were injured, approximately 25 of them seriously. The Secretary- General had sent a message of sympathy to the Government of China expressing his condolences and sympathy to the families and to the Government.

The Secretary-General was on his way to Paris from Geneva, Mr. Fawzi said. At 10:15 a.m. (Geneva time), he had met the Permanent Representative of the United States, Madeleine K. Albright. They discussed a number of issues of mutual interest. Iraq and Security Council resolution 986 (1995) outlining the oil-for-food formula were at the top of the list. Also discussed were the United Nations financial crisis and questions before the Security Council, in particular, Western Sahara and the situation in the Sudan in view of the Secretary-General's latest report on it.

The Deputy Spokesman said that, at 11 a.m., the Secretary-General had received Guy Olivier Segond, President of the Council of State of the Canton and Republic of Geneva. Mr. Segond informed the Secretary-General of a number of positive initiatives taken by Geneva to support the work of the United Nations. He said that Switzerland and Geneva would provide backing for the establishment of a telecommunications centre for humanitarian operations, and that the city would back the organization of an event to mark the International Year for the Eradication of Poverty. The event would be held the next time the Secretary-General came to Geneva. The Secretary-General said Geneva was an important centre for the United Nations and for human rights, and it was home to the second largest United Nations headquarters.

The Secretary-General then met President Paul Biya of Cameroon, Mr. Fawzi continued. The Secretary-General will be attending the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Summit Conference in Cameroon on 7 July. He said that he was pleased and honoured to be attending that Summit. The two men also discussed at length the Initiative on Africa which the Secretary-General had launched on Friday, 15 March, from Geneva and via a video-conference with New York, along with other participants, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and several United Nations agencies. The Secretary- General and President Biya also had a tour d'horizon of a number of other international problems. The Secretary-General informed the President about his participation in the Summit for Peacemakers which took place last Wednesday, 13 March, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. They discussed the post- Summit follow-up and measures to combat international terrorism. They also reviewed a number of problems in Africa, including Burundi, Rwanda, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The Security Council was not meeting formally today, the Deputy Spokesman said. It would be meeting tomorrow, 21 March, to review the sanctions against Libya. Today, however, it would be holding a meeting at 3:30 p.m. under the "Arria formula" which allows a non-member of the Security Council to brief the Council. The meeting would be with the OAU representative to the United Nations, Ibrahima Sy, to obtain further information on the Sudan, particularly in light of the report of the Secretary-General on the Sudan which was briefly taken up by the Council yesterday. It was also agreed that the Council would hold another session of informal consultations before 31 March, that being the end of the 60-day reporting period mandated by Council resolution 1044 (1996), which called for the cooperation of the Sudanese Government in extraditing the three individuals suspected of attempting to assassinate Egyptian President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak on 25 June 1995 in Addis Ababa. The Secretary-General had submitted his report, but the Council had not yet made any decisions based on that report.

Mr. Fawzi said journalists had posed a few questions regarding the International Commission of Inquiry into events in Burundi. The Secretary- General had asked that Commission to continue its field work until the end of

Daily Press Briefing - 3 - 20 March 1996

May. The final report would be expected for the end of June, after which point the Secretary-General would report to the Council. Security Council resolution 1012 (1995), which had requested the Secretary-General to establish the Commission, had not set a deadline for the completion of its work. The Commission had begun its work near the end of 1995 and had recently informed the Secretary-General that an additional two months would be necessary for it to complete its final report.

The Deputy Spokesman said that, at the noon briefing tomorrow, there would be a special guest: the Head of the United Nations Human Rights Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA), Leonardo Franco. He would talk to the press about that Mission, established by the General Assembly in 1994 in the framework of peace negotiations between the Government of Guatemala and the Unidad Revolucionaría Nacional Guatemalteca (UNRG). Mr. Franco would be appearing at the noon briefing in advance of the meeting of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), on the problems of financing several United Nations missions from "existing resources, which are non-existent". That meeting, originally scheduled for today, has been postponed until Friday, 22 March.

Turning to the situation in Sarajevo, the Deputy Spokesman said that the suburb of Grbavica remained quiet. Following the transfer of that town to Federation control yesterday, thousands of former residents had arrived from Sarajevo and elsewhere and settled down peacefully. Most of them came to inspect or repossess their property. The United Nations now had 693 civilian police monitors deployed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, of which 405 were in the Sarajevo region and 252 were going through indoctrination in Zagreb. At the current pace of deployment, the International Police Task Force (IPTF) would have more than 50 per cent of its authorized strength of 1,721 monitors deployed by the end of March. The full complement of police might be deployed by the end of April.

Regarding events and press conferences, Mr. Fawzi said today was Earth Day and, therefore, the Peace Bell in the courtyard in front of the Secretariat Building would be rung at 1:10 p.m. Ambassador Richard Butler of Australia would speak and ring the bell. The ceremony would begin with speeches and music in the Visitors' Lobby at 12:30 p.m., whereafter the group would move to the courtyard. The ceremony was scheduled to end at 1:30.

Mr. Fawzi said copies of a report by Special Rapporteur Hannu Halinen on the "Question of the Violation of Human Rights in the Occupied Arab Territories, Including Palestine" (document E/CN.4/1996/18) were available in the Spokesman's Office. At 4:30 p.m. tomorrow, 21 March, in room 226, Sharon Brennen-Haylock, Chairperson of the Commission on the Status of Women, would discuss the outcome of the fortieth session of the Commission, which was being held at Headquarters from 11 to 22 March. The session was dedicated to the follow-up to the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women. It was also deliberating on drafting an Optional Protocol to the Women's Convention.

Daily Press Briefing - 4 - 20 March 1996

Friday, 22 March, was 1996 World Tuberculosis Day, he said. As part of that, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the New York City Health Department would hold a 30-minute satellite press conference between Geneva and New York. From Geneva, WHO Senior Programme Management Officer Richard Bumgarner and the Chief of Research and Surveillance, Dr. Paul Nunn, along with senior officials of the WHO Global Tuberculosis Programme, would participate. In New York, Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the New York City Bureau of TB Control, and Fred Winters, Associate Commissioner for External Affairs of the Health Department, would appear in room 226.

A correspondent said that Security Council President Legwaila Joseph Legwaila of Botswana had said he was going to talk last week with Jonas Savimbi, leader of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), and asked what had been discussed. Mr. Fawzi said he had not been briefed on that phone call, but would look into it. (It later transpired that the call had not taken place, yet.)

A correspondent said Federico di Roberto, Representative of the Presidency of the European Union for Cyprus, was having consultations with the United Nations, and he wanted to know what specifically they concerned. Mr. Fawzi said he had not heard of such consultations, but would look into it. (Upon checking, it was learned that Mr. di Roberto had indeed met Marrack Goulding, in the context of routine consultations between the United Nations and the European Union.

What was the United Nations reaction to Libya's decision to use its own planes to transport pilgrims to Mecca? a correspondent asked.

The Deputy Spokesman said that every year the United Nations was faced with the question of pilgrims to Saudi Arabia from Libya and Iraq, countries against whom the international community had imposed sanctions, including the prohibition of international flights to and from those countries. Therefore, every year before the annual pilgrimage, a third country such as Egypt would present a request on behalf of Libya or Iraq to fly a specific number of pilgrims on a specific number of flights, and those requests had been regularly been approved. He was not aware that the Libyans had decided to use Libyan planes, but he would look into it. [Subsequent inquiries showed that no Libyan aircraft were used.]

Had Nigeria requested the United Nations fact-finding mission and what level of cooperation had they proposed to give it? a correspondent asked.

Mr. Fawzi said Nigerian President Sani Abacha himself had requested last year that the Secretary-General send a mission, right after the executions of Mr. Saro-Wiwa and his eight co-defendants and the international uproar that ensued. Since the request had come from the President, it could be assumed that cooperation would be provided at the highest levels.

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Daily Press Briefing - 5 - 20 March 1996

For information media. Not an official record.