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United Nations Daily Highlights, 98-01-19

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The United Nations Home Page at <> - email:


Monday, 19 January 1998

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


  • Concerned over stalemate in Tajikistan, Secretary-General urges parties to move peace process forward.
  • United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq meets with protestors to hear their grievances.
  • In tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Secretary-General says human rights are fundamental to humankind.
  • Secretary-General's Personal Representative visits Portugal for ongoing consultations on East Timor.
  • United Nations official says indictments for rape in armed conflict will become routine in international tribunals.
  • Trial of Slavko Dokmanovic, accused of war crimes, begins at International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia.
  • United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights plans visit to Cambodia this week.

The Secretary-General on Monday expressed concern over the current political stalemate between the Government of Tajikistan and the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), which appears to have deepened in recent days.

In a statement issued through his Spokesman, the Secretary-General urged both sides to discuss their differences in an open and constructive manner with a view to overcoming the stalemate and moving forward with the peace process.

The General Agreement on the Establishment of Peace and National Accord in Tajikistan and the Moscow Declaration, signed by the parties in June, 1997, launched a period of transition in the country. During this period, refugees are to return; the UTO fighters are to be demobilized or reintegrated into government structures; the armed forces, police and security apparatus are to be reformed; and the democratic processes in the country are to be improved, leading to elections and the formation of a new government.

The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Dennis Halliday, met with a small delegation of protestors to listen to their grievances on Monday, according to the Spokesman.

The meeting followed a protest of about 1,500 Iraqis in front of a hotel housing a number of United Nations offices in Baghdad. Demonstrators called for an immediate end to the sanctions against Iraq. "This is the first time an organized demonstration of this kind took place at the hotel," said United Nations Spokesman Fred Eckhard.

In addition to housing the offices of the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq and the World Food Programme, the hotel provided accommodations for the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) which is charged with disarming Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

UNSCOM Executive Chairman Ambassador Richard Butler met with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz in Baghdad on Monday. Their meeting ended at 11 p.m.

On the table for discussion was the question of access by United Nations weapons inspectors to certain sites in Iraq. A United Nations Spokesman said that Ambassador Butler will seek clarification from the Prime Minister on a statement that Iraq would set a deadline for the conclusion of UNSCOM's work.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said that giving meaning to human rights would be the best tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Delivering the keynote address at a Brooklyn tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. entitled "Come Share the Dream", the Secretary-General drew parallels between the goals of the late civil rights leader and those of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He said that "the Declaration and the legacy of Dr. King are two voices that speak in unison."

Stressing the universal nature of human rights, the Secretary- General used the example of Africa to question those that viewed human rights as a "luxury" for which that continent is not ready, or a even a "conspiracy" imposed by the industrialized West. "I find these thoughts demeaning -- demeaning to the yearning for human dignity that resides in every African heart."

"Human rights are African rights," Mr. Annan said. "They are also Asian rights; they are European rights; they are American rights. They belong to no government, they are limited to no continent, for they are fundamental to human rights itself."

The Secretary-General said that "nobody spoke more clearly, more consistently or more convincingly than Dr. King of the ideals of peace, dignity and justice."

Ambassador Jamsheed Marker, the Personal Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, is visiting Portugal as part of ongoing consultations on East Timor with the country's officials.

A United Nations Spokesman said that Ambassador Marker met on Monday with Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gama and was scheduled to meet later with Prime Minister Antonio Guterres.

"After the morning talks he reported on substantial progress in the ongoing contacts between Indonesia and Portugal," said Spokesman Fred Eckhard. He added that Ambassador Marker was also planning to meet with representatives of the East Timorese community in Portugal.

The top United Nations official on gender has predicted that more perpetrators of sexual crimes during armed conflict will be held accountable by international tribunals.

"Although indictments for acts of sexual violence have been uncommon in the case of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, recent developments suggest that they will become a routine feature of most future indictments as the central role of rape and other sexual assaults in the genocide is acknowledged," said Angela King, Assistant Secretary- General and Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women.

In an address to the opening meeting of the current session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Ms. King noted that in some cases, sexual violence is increasingly used as a "central strategy of war". Ms. King said the women of the world would continue to scrutinize the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda as well as that for the former Yugoslavia. "Women are demanding sensitive and empowering gender justice and accountability of perpetrators for their atrocities," she noted.

Noting that women in such countries as Afghanistan, Rwanda, Burundi and Algeria are at risk, Ms. King said it was the Committee's role to "devise strategies to assist these women who are in desperate need of aid".

The 23-member expert Committee monitors compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The current session will focus on reports from Azerbaijan, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Zimbabwe, Bulgaria, Indonesia, the Dominican Republic and Mexico.

The trial of Slavko Dokmanovic, who is charged with war crimes in Croatia, began on Monday at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

According to the indictment, Mr. Dokmanovic and three other suspects are "responsible for the mass killing at Ovcara, near Vukovar, Croatia, of approximately 200 Croatian and other non-Serb persons who had been removed from Vukovar Hospital on 20 November 1991." At that time, Mr. Dokmanovic was the President of the Vukovar Municipality.

The Ovcara site was exhumed by the Office of the Prosecutor's forensic experts, who recovered the bodies of 198 men and 2 women.

Slavko Dokmanovic was detained by personnel from the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia (UNTAES) on 27 June 1997 and transferred to the Detention Unit of the Tribunal in The Hague.

During his initial appearance on 4 July 1997, Slavko Dokmanovic pleaded not guilty on each count.

In January, the Tribunal called on the other three co-accused, Mile Marksic, Miroslav Radic and Veselin Sljivancanin to surrender to the Tribunal before the commencement of Mr. Dokmanovic's trial.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson is planning to visit Cambodia this week to meet with government officials.

Ms. Robinson is expected to be in Cambodia from 22 to 25 January, where she will meet with the Second Prime Minister, Hun Sen, other government officials, and members of her own office in the country. According to a United Nations Spokesman, she will also meet with non- governmental organizations and representatives of United Nations agencies working in Cambodia.

The High Commissioner had met with Prince Norodom Ranariddh in Geneva last week in preparation for her visit to Cambodia. Prince Ranariddh, who was First Prime Minister until he was ousted by the Second Prime Minister, had a chance during that meeting to present his concerns on human rights issues in his country.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

From the United Nations home page at <> - email:

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