Secretary-General’s Press Encounter
New York, 10 October 2016
Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen. As you know, I returned last night from a productive trip to some European countries. This morning I would like to focus on two urgent challenges – the situations in Haiti and Yemen.
I wish to express my strong solidarity with the people of Haiti in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. I take this opportunity again to express my deepest condolences and sympathies to the people who have been affected by this Hurricane Matthew.
Hundreds have died.
At least 1.4 million people need assistance at this time.
Some towns and villages have been almost wiped off the map.
Crops and food reserves have been destroyed. At least 300 schools have been damaged.
These numbers and needs are growing as more affected areas are reached. Tensions are already mounting as people await help.
A massive response is required. UN teams are working with local officials to assess needs.
This past Friday, we allocated an initial $5 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund.
Today in Geneva, we launched a $120 million flash appeal covering the UN system’s needs for the next three months.
The consequences of the storm include an increase in the risk of diseases, including those borne by water, such as cholera.
As you know, I am developing a new approach to the cholera situation. This will encompass support for people affected by the disease and for efforts to build sound water, sanitation and health systems in order to help eliminate cholera in Haiti. This disaster makes it even more vital to significantly step up our support -- and to do so right now.
The United Nations is mobilizing across all fronts to support the people, the Government and local groups such as the Red Cross in getting recovery under way as quickly as possible. I call on the international community to show solidarity and generosity – and to work together effectively in responding to this emergency.
Let me turn now to the situation in Yemen.
Saturday’s funeral bombing was a heartless attack on civilians and an outrageous violation of international humanitarian law. This was a community centre known to all. It was crowded with families and children. Bombing people already mourning the loss of loved ones is reprehensible.
Aerial attacks by the Saudi-led coalition have already caused immense carnage, and destroyed much of the country’s medical facilities and other vital civilian infrastructure.
Initial reports from the site indicate that this, too, was a coalition attack.
Excuses ring hollow given the pattern of violence throughout the conflict. Parties cannot hide behind the fog of this war. A man-made catastrophe is unfolding before our eyes.
Impunity has only compounded the pain. Despite mounting crimes by all parties to the conflict, we have yet to see the results of any credible investigations.
This latest horrific incident demands a full inquiry.
More broadly, there must be accountability for the appalling conduct of this entire war. That is why the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has rightly called for the creation of an international independent body to carry out comprehensive investigations of alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. I urge the Human Rights Council to fulfil its duty and act.
Most immediately, well over 20 million Yemenis -- an astounding 80 percent of the population -- need humanitarian assistance. I urge the international community to increase its support; the most recent UN appeal is only half funded.
Humanitarian relief is no substitute for political action. I call for a cessation of hostilities as the only way to protect civilians – and the resumption of political talks as the only way to end the conflict.
Thank you very much.
Q: If I could ask you, Secretary-General, you have mentioned violations of international law in Yemen. In the past, you have mentioned possible war crimes in Syria. And yet on both subjects, both wars, the Security Council has no agreement at all. They can’t even come up with a statement on Yemen. They can’t even agree the words of a statement. What is your message to the Security Council about their duty?
SG: I have raised and urged the Security Council already on several times that the situation in Syria should be referred to the International Criminal Court. I am urging this message again. As far as the Yemen situation is concerned, as I just said, the Human Rights Council should take action. The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid, has already raised this issue. There should be an independent inquiry body established as soon as possible to investigate all the cases of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. That is my – again - strong message.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, about Yemen first, the Coalition leadership has offered to do its own investigation. Do I understand that you prefer that they don’t, that you prefer only that Prince Zeid is the one who launches this investigation? And Prince Zeid himself has also endorsed the idea of going to the International Criminal Court. But nothing is happening. Are you willing to lend your good offices to push that forward regarding Syria, to refer the issue of Aleppo and the issue of Syria to the International Criminal Court? Because you know, it needs more passion from your side, as it looks.
SG: When it comes to the Yemeni situation, as you know, I have met the Deputy Crown Prince twice already and the Crown Prince once, during the General Assembly and before. I have made a strong case that they should be fully abiding by international humanitarian and international human rights law. This review on Children and Armed Conflict is still under review. I have received in late July from the Government of Saudi Arabia their strong commitment on how they can improve, how they would be conducting their military operations if needed. We are still closely coordinating this matter. I am again urging. Considering all what had happened, this is a totally unacceptable situation, where so many hundreds of people have been killed, particularly children. Again, abide by their commitment, abide by existing international norms. That is my message.
The situation in Aleppo – again heart-breaking – and I was deeply disappointed when the Security Council last Saturday again failed to unite. There is no time to debate and disagree on what Security Council should take action. This answer is evidently clear. They have to work to protect human lives, to bring this matter to a political solution. For that [to be] possible, there must be some atmosphere created. As Staffan de Mistura has always been urging and I have been urging to the Security Council, and also in public statements, that first of all there should be a cessation of hostilities. This is again very important, to build trust and confidence among the parties. And bombing, in Aleppo or elsewhere, must be stopped immediately. Let the negotiators, the Special Envoy, be able to convene this political dialogue. There is no substitute, no alternative to political dialogue.
Q: My question is about the ICC, about referring the question of Syria to the ICC. Are you willing to use your Article 99 authority and bring this issue to the International Criminal Court?
SG: I already answered. I asked and urged the Security Council to bring this matter to the ICC. I am urging again.
Thank you very much.