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United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-02-22

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Monday, 22 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.


  • Security Council hears calls for stronger enforcement of humanitarian laws to protect civilians during conflicts.
  • Three Security Council advisory panels on Iraq begin work.
  • Secretary-General urges continued support for UN's decolonization committee.
  • Head of Yugoslav Tribunal says guarantees for its investigators should be included in any Kosovo agreement.
  • Preparatory commission for International Criminal Court reviews progress reports by working groups.
  • Genocide suspect surrenders to international criminal tribunal for Rwanda.
  • Governmental experts on small arms begin meeting at UN headquarters in Geneva.
  • UN special envoy to meet with Taliban officials in Pakistan.

The UN Security Council on Monday resumed discussions on the protection of civilians during armed conflict.

The Council took up the issue last on 12 February when it adopted a Presidential Statement condemning attacks and violence directed at civilians, especially women, children, refugees and internally displaced persons in violation of international law.

During Monday's meeting, which was held to allow countries that are not members of the Security Council to share their views, several delegates drew attention to the anarchic nature of contemporary conflicts, most of which are internal. Parties who were accountable to no one often ignored or had no knowledge of international humanitarian and human rights laws, they said.

Speakers called for stronger enforcement of humanitarian law, unimpeded access for humanitarian workers and an end to the recruitment of child soldiers. The problems of land-mines and the proliferation of small weapons must be tackled, they stressed. Other speakers said economic sanctions should be targeted so as not to increase poverty and the suffering of the primary victims of war -- women, children and the elderly.

Three advisory panels on Iraq set up by the Security Council to make recommendations on disarmament issues, humanitarian conditions and the status of Kuwaiti prisoners-of-war are set to begin their substantive work.

The Council decided in January to establish the panels to assure full implementation of its resolutions on Iraq. They will draw on a variety of views and experts, including agencies in the field. The panel on Disarmament and Current and Future Ongoing Monitoring and Verification, which will meet on Tuesday is scheduled to continue until 27 February. The panel on Humanitarian Issues will begin its substantive work on 1 and 2 March and the panel on Prisoners of War and Kuwaiti Property will meet next on 3 and 4 March.

The panels, which are being chaired by Ambassador Celso Luis Amorim of Brazil, will make their recommendations by 15 April.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has urged the specialized agencies, the offices of the UN system and the international financial institutions to continue assisting one of the UN's main bodies dealing with decolonization matters.

The Committee, which is commonly known as the Special Committee of 24 on Decolonization, was established by the General Assembly in 1961 as the Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial countries and Peoples. It meets annually, hears representatives of non-self governing territories, dispatches missions to the territories and organizes seminars on the political, social, economic and educational situations in the territories.

In his address at the opening of the Committee's 1999 session on Monday, the Secretary-General recalled that the centrality of human rights in the struggle for independence was reaffirmed during the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights last year.

In that spirit, the Secretary-General encouraged the Administering Powers to work closely with the Decolonization Committee, and especially with the people remaining in non-self-governing territories, to help them reach a full measure of self-government and to realize their aspirations.

The Secretary-General noted that more than 80 nations whose peoples were formerly under colonial rule had joined the United Nations as sovereign independent States since 1945. Many other territories had achieved self- determination through political association with other independent States or through integration with other States, he added. He said that this was "great progress," and called for the redoubling of efforts to see the process through to its conclusion as the century came to a close and "as we mark the penultimate year of the Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism."

Judge Gabrielle MacDonald, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, has expressed concern about reports from Rambouillet that an explicit reference to the Tribunal has been cut out of the text of a possible agreement on Kosovo.

Speaking to reporters in the Hague on Monday, Ms. MacDonald said she had heard that a paragraph stating that Tribunal investigators should have complete, unimpeded, and unfettered access had been amended, removing the explicit reference to the investigators.

Judge MacDonald described the amendment as "shortsighted and dangerous". She said a peace deal would not curtail the parties' obligations to the Tribunal and a reference to it should be explicit in any agreement. Judge MacDonald said that she would be writing to members of the Contact Group to notify them of her concerns.

After almost a week of closed-door consultations, the Preparatory Commission for the International Criminal Court on Monday heard progress reports from its two working groups.

The two groups are considering proposals by States on the parts of the Court's Statute dealing with rules of procedure and evidence and elements of crimes.

The Coordinator for the Working Group on Rules of Procedure and Evidence, Silvia Fernandez de Gurmendi of Argentina, said so far it had focused on Part 5 of the Statute, dealing with the investigation and prosecution of crimes. It planned to take up Part 6 of the Statute on Trial proceedings in the Court on Tuesday.

Herman Van Hebel of the Netherlands, Coordinator of the Working Group on Elements of Crimes, said it was working on proposals dealing with the crime of genocide.

The Commission will meet three times in 1999 to discuss how the Court will operate after its Statute comes into force with 60 ratifications. So far, only Senegal has ratified the Court's Statute which was adopted by a UN diplomatic conference in Rome last Summer.

A former mayor of Mabanza commune in Rwanda surrendered to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and was transferred to the tribunal's seat in Arusha, Tanzania, on Saturday.

The arrest of Ignace Bagilishema in South Africa followed a declaration he had signed on 16 February in which he agreed to his transfer to face charges of involvement in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Mr. Bagilishema, who was indicted on 28 November 1995, is charged with conspiracy to commit genocide, genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the Geneva Conventions.

He is alleged to have, among other acts, conspired with other Rwandan officials to kill all the Tutsis in the Kibuye Prefecture. The former Rwandan officials allegedly ordered Tutsi men, women and children to seek refuge in the Catholic Church, the stadium and the Home of St. Jean Complex in Kibuye, knowing that these locations would be attacked during the genocide.

Bagilishema's surrender brings the total number of indictees in the Tribunal's custody to 35. Most of them were high-ranking political, military and media leaders during the genocide.

Amid heightened international interest in wide-ranging threats posed by small arms, a group of experts from 23 countries on Monday gathered at UN headquarters in Geneva for a week-long review of recommendations for future international action in dealing with the problem.

At is current second session, the Group of Governmental Experts on Small Arms will review several chapters of its draft report, including those dealing with the implementation of the recommendations made by Secretary- General Kofi Annan in his August 1997 Report on Small Arms, which was prepared with the Group's assistance. One of those recommendations dealt with the convening of an international conference on the illicit arms trade in all its aspects. During the current session, the experts will be also briefed by a representative of a United Nations technical study group on ammunition and explosives, which will submit a separate report to the General Assembly.

The Group is scheduled to hold its third and final session in New York in July before submitting its final report to the General Assembly later in the year. During its last session, the General Assembly adopted an unprecedented four resolutions dealing with small arms, three of them by consensus. The primary focus of the adopted texts was the illicit trade in small arms which appears to be the focus of a growing consensus among Member States.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Envoy for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, is scheduled to meet with a Taliban delegation from Kandahar during his current visit to Pakistan, a UN spokesman said on Monday.

Mr. Brahimi, who is in Islamabad on the second stop of his current mission to the region, will also meet with Pakistani officials, including the Foreign Minister, Sartag Aziz. The Special Representative is then expected to travel to Tehran and Moscow.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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