Press Briefing by Adrian Edwards Spokes person for the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Afghanistan

 

United Nations Day
Todays United Nations Day. It marks the 60th anniversary of the United Nations.

Ina message for the occasion, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for better efforts to deal with hunger, disease and environmental degradation. His message refers to last month’s World Summit in New York, and speaks of the challenges the UN now faces in areas such as climate change, Security Council Reform, and nuclear proliferation.

Today’s occasion is being marked around the world. Here in Afghanistan the event has been celebrated this morning at the Law Faculty of Kabul University, where the Secretary-General’s message was delivered, speeches were made, and a short film showing UN activities was screened.

Click hereto read the Secretary-General’s English message.

UNAMA concerned with jail sentence given to Afghan journalist
Unmans closely following the case of journalist Ali Mohair Nasal who has been sentenced by the primary court to two years in prison for publishing an article that the court considered offensive to Islam.

UNAMA notes the differences in approach to the case between the Media Monitoring Commission and the primary court. The Media Monitoring Commission concluded last week that Mr. Nasal has not blasphemed and recommended his release from detention.

UNAMA understands that Mr. Nasal has the right to appeal his conviction under Afghan law on grounds relating to the substance of the case, as well as on procedural grounds if he considers that due process has not been observed.

UNAMA believes the right to freedom of expression, enshrined in the Constitution of Afghanistan as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, applies to everyone, including journalists, and should be strongly defended.

UNAMA considers the widespread attention given to this case in local media is an encouraging sign.

High Commissioner to present human rights report to General Assembly
Then High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbor, is due to present report on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan to the UN General Assembly next week. In the report she says that while many of the benchmarks in the Bonn Agreement have been achieved, the human rights situation in Afghanistan remains of great concern.

Many of the problems are attributed to the security situation, corruption and to weaknesses in governance. Rule of law, she says, is emerging only slowly, reform in the justice sector is patchy and impunity remains a major concern.

There port calls for further progress in building of state institutions and determined efforts to better address the rights of suspects, women, children, disabled people, returnees and other vulnerable groups. It also notes MS. Arbor’s strong support for the government led process of transitional justice that was presented to members of the international community in June at a conference in The Hague.

An accompanying statement by Ms. Arbor to the Third Committee of the General Assembly will be available after next week’s session, but the report itself (A/60/343) is already in the public domain and can be found on the UN documents website: http://documents.un.org/.

UNIFEM newsletter focuses on child marriage in Afghanistan
earlier this month we told you about the UNFPA campaign against child marriages in Afghanistan. The same topic is one of four featured in UNIFEM’ recently released newsletter. The others are men and public harassment, former male child soldiers and protection of women.

The newsletter itself aims to provide journalists, activists, humanitarian workers and policy-makers easy access to the information they would need for their gender campaigning efforts.

Visit the UNIFEM website to view the newsletter (http://afghanistan.unifem.org).

UNICEF, UNAIDS join forces with global campaign on children and HIV
UNICEF and UNAIDS are this week launching a joint global campaign on children and AIDS. Members of the media are invited to a press briefing about this important campaign. The briefing will be on Thursday October 27, at 11:30 min the library of the Ministry of Public Health.

Children are often missing in global action on HIV and AIDS, resulting in less than 5 percent of infected children receiving treatment worldwide. At the same time it is estimated that globally one child is infected with the disease every minute.

Afghanistan has yet to see a serious incidence of the epidemic, but the risks of infection rates increasing remain high.

DDR: Former AMF officers awaiting reintegration package to report to ANBP offices
Former Afghan Military Forces officers who have undergone the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration programmer but not received any reintegration package are being asked to report to ANBP’s regional offices.

They will be informed how their respective cases will be addressed. Some maybe offered to join the Afghan National Army or choose any of the reintegration options offered by ANBP.

They have until November 15 to report.

Winter’s arrival has WFP pre-positioning food
anticipating another harsh Afghan winter, the United Nations World Food Programmed (WFP) continues to pre-position food to remote and inaccessible areas of Afghanistan.

Tomorrow convoy of 33 trucks carrying 441 tons of mixed food will depart Kabul and head to Bayan and Daikundi Provinces.

While the delivery of approximately 5,900 tons of various food commodities has been allocated to hard-to-reach districts in Badakhshan, another 1,300tons of food will be arriving from Tajikistan to more districts in Badakhshan by way of trucks and boats.

At this stage nearly 80 percent of the 23,000 tons of food has been distributed. By the time this project is completed 500,000 vulnerable Afghans will have sufficient food in the North, North East, Central and Western Highlands.

Questions & Answers

Question: The Ministry of Defense mentioned yesterday that an earthquake killed five people in Patoka province. Today they are saying the earthquake happened in Kabul province. Do you have any extra information?

Spokesperson: I am afraid I don’t have any specific information on that. I swathe same report you did. If we get more information about the number of casualties I would be happy to pass that on to you. I think it is fair to say that attention remains largely focused on what is happening in Pakistan and Kashmir with the earthquake there at the moment.

Question: Is there any UNAMA reaction regarding the burning of Taliban bodies bus soldiers in Southern Afghanistan?

I’ll defer comment to a later stage on this. What I will point toys that on May 22, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General ,Jean Arnault, made a statement about abuses by Coalition Forces. That statement said that such abuses are totally unacceptable, that they arena affront to the work of the international community in Afghanistan. The full statement is on our website.

Question :( from Dari) recently you witnessed demonstrations from candidates demanding recount of the ballots. Does UNAMA have any programmer on hand to convince the candidates?

Spokesperson: That’s probably a question you need to ask the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB). However in principle everyone has the right to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. Such rights have limits, and these relate to [demonstrations] being within the law and to being peaceful. Beyond that you know that there is a complaints process going on through the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC)… But on that you will have to go to the ECC for details if you are looking at specific demonstrations and specific issues behind them

Question :( from Dari) if the complaints are convincing does UNAMA start recounting the ballots.

Spokesperson: I think the important thing here is to understand that UNAMA is not the same thing as the JEMB. It’s not the same as the ECC. We are very distinct and different institutions with very different roles. It would be wrong to think of UNAMA as being involved in the counting or adjudication of results – we are not. It’s an important distinction. I understand it is one that people sometimes don’t fully grasp, but it is a very important difference.