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United Nations Daily Highlights, 97-06-09

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


Monday, 9 June 1997

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.


  • Thirtieth anniversary of the Arab-Israeli war is commemorated, amid calls for intensified efforts to reach a settlement.
  • A UN investigative team gets ready to travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to probe violations of human rights.
  • The Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone to the UN says his Government supports all diplomatic efforts to end the coup.
  • UN spokesman describes the reports of hostilities in Congo/Brazzaville as disturbing.
  • UN Secretary-General says the Guatemala ceasefire agreement was implemented in an exemplary manner.
  • Regional seminars on decolonization remain effective, a UN Committee says.
  • UN Committee on the rights of the child makes wide ranging recommendations on the protection of children.

On the day marking the thirtieth anniversary of the Arab-Israeli war, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has expressed the hope that the Palestinian Authority and Israel would intensify efforts to overcome existing obstacles to a speedy return to the peace process. Addressing on Monday a Special Meeting of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People commemorating the anniversary, the Secretary-General said that the meeting itself reflected continued dedication of the international community to finding a permanent and peaceful solution to the Palestinian question.

Mr. Annan stressed that the United Nations had always played a central role in assisting the parties in their efforts to reach a negotiated settlement. "I will continue to do my utmost to mobilize the resources of the United Nations system to meet the humanitarian and development needs of the Palestinians, in support of the objective of achieving a just and lasting peace", said the Secretary-General.

In his message to the Special Meeting, the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Yasser Arafat, said that the United Nations had a "fundamental role" to play in the achievement of a comprehensive settlement in the Middle East. Mr. Arafat reaffirmed the Palestinians' commitment to the peace process. "We want to continue to proceed forward on the basis of the agreements reached and the full implementation of those agreements in good faith", said the Palestinian leader in the message read out on his behalf at the Special Meeting.

A United Nations investigative team is expected to travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo later this month to probe allegations of gross violations of human rights in the country, UN Spokesman Fred Eckhard confirmed on Monday.

The news that the team would be allowed access into the Congo Republic was announced on Saturday, after the United States Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson had reported to UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan that President Laurent Kabila had agreed to allow the investigative team into the Congo in two stages. Ambassador Richardson met with President Kabila in Kinshasa.

Also on Saturday, Secretary-General Kofi Annan requested the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva to begin preparations for the team's visit. On Monday, Ralph Zacklin, the Officer-in-Charge of the High Commissioner/Centre for Human Rights, said that he had already met with his senior staff to begin preparations for sending the advance team. The team would comprise human rights officers, other Secretariat officials, investigators and forensic experts. The advance team is expected to enter the country on 20 June and the full team on 7 July.

Mr. Zacklin also said he had discussed the issue with the Chairman of the Commission on Human Rights and the three members of the Joint Investigative Mission established by the Commission, which had been earlier prevented from entering the then eastern Zaire. That mission is expected to submit its report to the General Assembly at the end of June.

The Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone to the United Nations says the situation inside the country is deteriorating by the hour. Ambassador James Jonah told a press conference at UN Headquarters in New York that the people of Sierra Leone were suffering immensely. He said the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), which seemed to be in a dominant position, was harassing and coercing the citizens of the capital city, Freetown.

Ambassador Jonah told journalists that the democratically elected government of Sierra Leone had evidence that the junta and the RUF were planning genocide in the event of intervention by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The Permanent Representative said his Government supported all diplomatic efforts to end the illegal coup d'etat in Sierra Leone.

Meanwhile, a United Nations Spokesman has expressed some concern about locally-recruited staff in Sierra Leone, who over the weekend received threats. The Spokesman said the staff continued to meet and manage the security of UN property in Freetown. The UN Security Force and Communication staff remained on duty, however, international staff had been evacuated.

A United Nations spokesman on Monday described the reports of hostilities in Congo/Brazzaville as "disturbing". Noting that fighting continued unabated, and might in fact be increasing, Spokesman Fred Eckhard reminded the UN press corps in New York that Brazzaville was a regional centre for the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN had a significant number of staff and dependents there. He said there were 130 internationally recruited staff members and 400 dependents, adding that most of the staff were in the WHO compound which was currently outside of the area of conflict.
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has commended the Government of Guatemala and the Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca (URNG) for "the exemplary manner in which the Agreement on the Definitive Ceasefire was implemented". In his report to the Security Council on the Military Observer Group attached to the United Nations Mission for the Verification of Human Rights and of Compliance with the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights in Guatemala (MINUGUA), the Secretary-General said the implementation of the agreement was above all a testimony to the determination of both parties to put an end to the bitter armed conflict between them.

"The absence of any major incident during the entire process confirmed what had already been demonstrated by the flawless observance of informal ceasefire since 19 March 1996", Mr. Annan stated. The Secretary-General said credit for the success achieved in the ceasefire process was also due to the international community which showed its own determination to put its resources and experience at the service of the demobilization of URNG combatants.

Regional seminars organised by the Special Committee on decolonization continue to be an important and effective instrument for the discharge of its mandate, according to a report on the seminars approved by the Special Committee on Friday.

The Special Committee, which is charged with making suggestions and recommendations on the progress and implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, said the seminars had become the only available means to ascertaining the views and wishes of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.

The report also addressed recent investigations of the seminars by the Office of Internal Oversight Services. Noting that the Oversight Office had exceeded its mandate in its investigation and that its conclusions had been "unbalanced and unjustified", the Committee underlined that since there had been no misuse or mismanagement of funds, the Oversight Office should have limited itself to that aspect of its investigation.

In other actions, the Special Committee approved draft resolutions on the questions of New Caledonia and Western Sahara, as well as on the dissemination of decolonization information transmitted from Non-Self- Governing Territories, and the United Nations decolonization programme.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has made wide ranging recommendations on the protection of the rights of children following a three-week meeting which concluded in Geneva last week.

The Committee which is charged with monitoring the progress made by States parties in fulfilling their obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, considered reports from Cuba, Ghana, Bangladesh, Paraguay, Algeria and Azerbaijan on their efforts to help and protect children.

The panel of experts recommended that the government of Cuba should give urgent consideration to raising the minimum age of sexual consent and that further resources and assistance be devoted to problems of teenage or unwanted pregnancies.

Urging greater efforts in Ghana to combat discriminatory attitudes against girls and disabled children, the Committee said corporal punishment should be prohibited by law and that disciplinary measures implying the use of physical force be removed from the country's Teacher's Handbook. The Committee also called for measures in Bangladesh to combat traditional attitudes and stereotypes damaging to girls and children born out of wedlock.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most comprehensive treaty ever to address the rights of children and makes States legally accountable for their actions towards children.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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