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United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-02-16

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: unnews@un.org


Tuesday, 16 February, 1999

This daily news round-up is prepared by the Central News Section of the Department of Public Information. The latest update is posted at approximately 6:00 PM New York time.


  • Secretary-General encouraged by progress in case of Libyan suspects in Pan Am Lockerbie bombing.
  • Preparatory Commission for International Criminal Court begins first session in New York.
  • Kurdish demonstrators break into UN offices in Geneva.
  • UN foresees grim months ahead for Angolan war victims.
  • UN food agency and aid partners open emergency feeding centres in Freetown.
  • Eritrea initiates proceedings with International Court of Justice in dispute with Ethiopia.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan is "greatly encouraged" by important progress in the matter of turning over two Libyan suspects for trial in connection with the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said on Tuesday that Ambassador Rihad Massoud, Deputy Chief of Mission of the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington, D.C., had told the Secretary-General that all outstanding issues had been resolved. Mr. Annan and Ambassador Massoud met on Friday to discuss Saudi and South African efforts to help the Secretary-General bring to closure the handing over of the two suspects for trial in the Netherlands.

Mr. Eckhard said the Secretary-General held discussions on Monday with all parties concerned with the matter. He hoped within a week to have a clear indication of what was happening.

As the inaugural session of the Preparatory Commission for the International Criminal Court began Tuesday, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged it to work hard and fast as the world was eager to see the Court established as soon as possible.

The Commission will meet three times in 1999 to discuss how the Court will operate after its Statute comes into force. The Statute, which was adopted by the United Nations diplomatic conference in Rome last summer, has been signed by 75 countries and ratified by one -- Senegal. The Statute will come into force after it is ratified by 60 countries.

In his opening remarks, the Secretary-General said only a permanent Court with universal jurisdiction could finally lay to rest the charge that the international community was being selective or applying double standards in deciding which crimes to investigate and punish.

The establishment of the Court would be a fitting way to inaugurate the new millennium, said Mr. Annan, adding, "It puts the world on notice that crimes against humanity, which have disfigured and disgraced this century, will not go unpunished in the next."

The Preparatory Commission's first session will focus on parts of the Statute dealing with such issues as elements of crimes, rules of procedure and evidence, investigation and prosecution, rights of accused and protection of victims and witnesses.

A group of about 25 Kurdish demonstrators used a fake delivery vehicle to enter United Nations offices in Geneva early Tuesday morning, according to a UN spokesman.

Spokesman Fred Eckhard said in New York that the group got through the gate at approximately 4:30 a.m., Geneva time, broke open Door 4, a main entrance of the Palais des Nations building, and then moved quickly to one of the main conference rooms in the New Building.

The head of UN security in Geneva was trying to persuade the Kurdish protestors to leave the building as about 100 other Kurds demonstrated outside, the spokesman said.

A United Nations aid agency has expressed alarm over the deteriorating condition of more than half a million Angolans who have been forced to flee their homes as a result of the armed conflict.

Reports of rising malnutrition rates and disease among the country's 550, 000 internally displaced people are becoming a cause for extreme concern, the World Food Programme said on Monday.

"If the fighting continues and intensifies, we could be looking at a large- scale humanitarian catastrophe," said Francesco Strippoli, WFP's Representative in Angola and the Head of the UN Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Unit (UCAH).

Several provinces in the country are now reporting severe cases of malnutrition among children and women. The malnourished are falling to disease, with incidences of malaria and tuberculosis on the rise. Relief agencies have had access to many towns in recent weeks, but relentless shelling of Malange continues to block WFP from air deliveries, which stopped last December. Distribution of existing stocks has also been hampered by a serious shortage of NGO partners in the town.

The UN World Food Programme has announced the opening of four emergency food distribution centres for thousands of people in eastern Freetown, the area of the Sierra Leone capital most heavily damaged by rebel attacks last month.

For several days, food monitors at three of the new centres, which are located in the hard-hit districts of Ferry Junction, Kissy and Wellington, have been distributing two-week rations of bulgar wheat, pulses and cooking oil to about 32,000 people. Distribution at Kissy, the fourth centre, will begin this week, WFP said on Monday.

These are the first centres to be opened in eastern Freetown since ECOMOG forces were able to secure large portions of the area over the past two weeks. WFP partners, Catholic Relief Services and CARE, are operating the centres. Sweeping down the hills into eastern Sierra Leone in January, the rebels left a wide path of destruction, burning houses and destroying shops, schools, churches and public buildings.

"Some people who had fled east during the attacks have now begun to return to where they used to live," WFP Programme Officer Sarah Laughton said in Conakry. "What is often left of their homes, however, is nothing but ashes and broken bricks. Many of these people have nowhere else to go and no means of buying or finding food on their own," she said.

Eritrea initiated proceedings in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Tuesday in a dispute with Ethiopia over the alleged violation of the premises and staff of the Eritrean diplomatic mission in Addis Ababa.

Eritrea contends that in the week of 8 February, the Ethiopian Government repeatedly violated the diplomatic immunities of Ghirma Asmeron, Eritrea's accredited representative to Ethiopia and the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Mr. Asmeron was finally declared persona non grata and had to leave the country on 10 February.

In its application, Eritrea maintains that the premises of its embassy in Addis Ababa were forcibly broken into on 11 February and remain occupied by Ethiopia. It also contends that embassy staff, including Eritrea's charge d'affairs, Saleh Omar, are being detained incommunicado or held hostage by Ethiopia.

The Court cannot take action, unless and until the Ethiopian Government gives its consent to the ICJ's jurisdiction.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

From the United Nations home page at <http://www.un.org> - email: unnews@un.org

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