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March 3, 2014

International Paralympic Committee comments on Russian adherence to Olympic Truce

International Paralympic Committee comments on Russian adherence to Olympic Truce

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Monday, March 3, 2014

The Olympic Truce wall at the 2012 Summer Paralympics
Image: P.Kurmelis.

In a response published Saturday by The Associated Press, the International Paralympic Committee commented on Russian adherence to the Olympic Truce in regards to the country’s actions in the Ukraine, saying “As with situations around the world, we hope a peaceful resolution can be found in the spirit of the Olympic Truce, which has covered the Paralympic Games since 2006. […] We want the story here to be the great festival of sport that has already taken place in Sochi and will continue now that athletes are arriving for the start of the Winter Paralympics.”

In the past few days, Russian troops entered the Ukrainian Crimea and took control of a number of strategic locations, including an airport and a regional parliament. Yesterday, Russian forces surrounded a Crimean Ukrainian military base.

While the Russian-hosted Olympic Games officially ended on February 23, the Olympic period officially concludes on March 16 at the closing ceremony for the 2014 Winter Paralympics.

The Olympic Truce and its extension to the Paralympic Games is recognized by the United Nations, who did so in A/65/270, para.7, an addition recognised by the United Nations General Assembly in August 2010.

The Crimea region of the Ukraine is located less than 500 kilometers (less than 300 miles) away from Sochi. The British Paralympic team have said they are continuing to monitor the situation, but has no current plans to make changes regarding their participation at the Games. The United States Paralympic team has said they haven’t made any changes to their plans in response to the situation.

Yesterday, the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister David Cameron said on Twitter, “Because of the serious situation in Ukraine, @WilliamJHague & I believe it would be wrong for UK Ministers to attend the Sochi Paralympics.”



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August 9, 2011

Former Prime Minister of Finland Harri Holkeri dies aged 74

Former Prime Minister of Finland Harri Holkeri dies aged 74

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

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Holkeri was Prime Minister from 1987 until 1991

Harri Holkeri, former Prime Minister of Finland and renowned peacemaker, has died at the age of 74. He was known for his role as co-chairman of the multi-party talks to resolve the conflicts in Northern Ireland. His efforts helped form the Good Friday agreement. Holkeri also served as U.N. General Assembly president and as a special representative to Kosovo.

After serving as Prime Minister of Finland from 1987 until 1991 and unsuccessfully running for President in 1982 and 1988, Holkeri focused his attention outside of Finland. He co-chaired the Northern Ireland talks with former US Senator George Mitchell and retired Canadian General John de Chastelain, and honoured with a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II after the Good Friday agreement was made.

Northern Irish politician and leader of Sinn Féin Gerry Adams said “Harri Holkeri enjoyed a distinguished career as prime minister of Finland, and in several prominent UN roles, including in Kosovo. But it will be for his work here alongside George Mitchell in co-chairing the talks which led to the Good Friday Agreement for which he will be most remembered internationally.”

Current Prime Minister of Finland, Jyrki Katainen said “Holkeri … was the person who was able to build the confidence of people in difficult situations. This was one of the important personal characteristics that helped him achieve results in important international roles.”

In 2003 he became the U.N special representative to Kosovo but resigned less than a year later due to ill health. He was badly injured in 2008 after he was knocked to the ground by a thief escaping from a store.

He is survived by his wife, two children and six grandchildren.



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November 6, 2009

UN endorses Israel-Palestinian war crimes report

UN endorses Israel-Palestinian war crimes report

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Friday, November 6, 2009

After two days of debate, the United Nations General Assembly has overwhelmingly endorsed a report from the Human Rights Council calling for domestic investigations into alleged war crimes committed by both Israel’s military and Palestinian armed forces during the Gaza conflict that began last December.

The controversial report concluded that Israel used disproportionate force in the war, deliberately targeted Gaza civilians, used them as human shields, and destroyed civilian infrastructure. One of the 31 chapters of the report discussed crimes by Hamas for firing rockets into Israeli towns.

The remains of a mosque and an orphanage after being shelled by Israeli forces

The final vote was 114 in favor, 18 against and 44 abstentions. Strong support came from the Arab and non-aligned countries, many of whom co-sponsored the draft resolution.

Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour welcomed the vote, saying the implementation of Justice Richard Goldstone’s report will now begin in stages.

Ali Treki, the General Assembly president, called the vote “an important declaration against impunity. It is a call for justice and accountability”. Without justice, there can be no progress towards peace. A human being should be treated as a human being, regardless of his or her religion, race or nationality,” he said.

“In three months we will come back to General Assembly to consider the report of the Secretary-General for further action, including in all parts of the United Nations, including in the Security Council,” said Riyad Mansour, a Palestinian-American diplomat.

The non-binding resolution requests the secretary-general report to the General Assembly within three months on the implementation of the resolution, with a view to considering further action, if necessary.

Israel’s deputy ambassador to the UN, Daniel Cameron said that the resolution, “endorses and legitimizes a deeply flawed, one-sided and prejudiced report of the discredited Human Rights Council and its politicised work that bends both fact and law”.

Cquote1.svg “In three months we will come back to General Assembly to consider the report of the Secretary-General for further action, Cquote2.svg

—Riyad Mansour, Palestinian-American diplomat

Of the countries abstaining or voting no, several said that although they agreed with the essence of the resolution – that the parties should conduct their own independent, credible investigations into alleged violations as called for in the Goldstone report – they could not vote in favor because they had difficulty with two specific items in the resolution.

Another point of some contention is that the resolution leaves the door open for future action in the UN Security Council. The Palestinians have made clear they plan to pursue that option, but most of the council’s five permanent members opposed the idea, saying the right forum for the Goldstone report is in the Human Rights Council in Geneva, where it started.

The United States was the only permanent Security Council member to vote against the resolution. Deputy Ambassador Alejandro Wolff said that although it opposed the resolution, the US strongly supported accountability for human rights and humanitarian law violations relating to the Gaza conflict.

“We believe that the Goldstone report is deeply flawed-including its unbalanced focus on Israel, its sweeping conclusions of law, the excessively negative inferences it draws about Israel’s intentions and actions, its failure to deal adequately with the asymmetrical nature of the Gaza conflict, its failure to assign appropriate responsibility to Hamas for its decision to base itself and its operations in heavily civilian-populated urban areas, and its many overreaching recommendations,” said Alejandro Wolff.

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Israel, which did not cooperate with the Goldstone commission, voted against the resolution, saying that it legitimised a “deeply flawed, one-sided” report, and disregarded Israel’s right to defend its citizens.

“The results of the vote and the large number of member states who voted against or abstained, demonstrate clearly that the resolution does not have the support of the ‘moral majority’ of UN members,” read a statement on the website of Israel’s ministry of foreign affairs. “Israel rejects the resolution of the UN General Assembly, which is completely detached from realities on the ground.”

During the three-week-long Israeli military incursion into the Gaza Strip, at least 1,400 Palestinians died according to Palestinians and human rights groups, although Israel says 1,166, and 13 Israelis also died. The Goldstone Commission criticized both sides for violations of international humanitarian law.



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September 22, 2009

Germany threatens to walk out of UN General Assembly if Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust

Germany threatens to walk out of UN General Assembly if Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

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A spokesman for the German government has announced plans to walk out of the United Nations General Assembly if Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust in a speech he is due to give on Wednesday.

The spokesman said, “We will leave the hall if President Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust or makes anti-Semitic statements … we are making efforts toward a unified European position,” going on to request a “common response” from other European Union member nations. Gabriela Shalev, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, also encouraged a boycott of Ahmadinejad’s speech.

On Friday, Ahmadinejad gave a speech in which he called the Holocaust “a lie” and a “fairy tale”. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier condemned the remarks, calling Ahmadinejad “a disgrace”.

Holocaust denial is a crime in Germany, where the Nazis carried out the Holocaust, a mass persecution and killing of Jews and other minorities, during World War II.



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December 13, 2008

UN General Assembly approves measures to protect economic, social and cultural rights

UN General Assembly approves measures to protect economic, social and cultural rights

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

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The United Nations General Assembly has adopted a new human rights instrument to protect economic, social and cultural rights.

The Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was formally adopted by the General Assembly on Human Rights Day, December 10. The protocol establishes a complaints mechanism to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, allowing individuals to complain to an international body about breaches of the Covenant. Complaints will be heard by the UN’s Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The adoption of the optional protocol has been welcomed by human rights groups, with Amnesty International calling it “a historic instrument that secures access to justice for everyone whose economic, social and cultural rights are violated”. Souhayr Belhassen, President of the International Federation of Human Rights, said that the protocol would strengthen human rights.

“As we have seen for other rights, the development of an international complaint mechanism for victims of violations of economic, social and cultural rights will enable the strengthening of redress mechanisms at the national level, and of policies specifically targeted to ensure the realisation of these rights,” he said.

A group of 36 UN human rights experts called the protocol “an essential step towards the establishment of a long-awaited mechanism that reinforces the universality, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelatedness of all human rights”. They called on all states to quickly sign and ratify the protocol.

The optional protocol will now be opened for signature. It will come into force when ratified by 10 parties.

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights came into force in 1976 and obliges its parties to protect and progressively implement economic, social, and cultural rights, including labour rights and rights to health, education, and an adequate standard of living. The Covenant has 159 parties. The United States has signed, but not ratified the Covenant.



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November 21, 2008

UN reports condemn West Bank settlement

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UN reports condemn West Bank settlement

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Speaking before the United Nations General Assembly, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon summarized two reports conducted by the UN concluding that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and other territories is illegal and “a breach of the fourth Geneva Convention.” This is not the first time that the UN has condemned Israeli breach of the convention, but this comes at a crucial time when Israeli blockades of the Gaza Strip, according to Al Jazeera and Democracy Now, are endangering approximately 750,000 Gazans who rely on UN and Israeli food aid for survival.

The statement by Ban Ki-Moon was made after the reissue of two reports condemning Israeli occupation, “The advisory opinion and a number of United Nations resolutions have all affirmed that Israel’s practice of constructing settlements—in effect, the transfer by an occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies —constitutes a breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention,” reads the first report: Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan. “In addition to the construction of the settlements, other activities related to settlements are also illegal. “These include the requisition of land, the destruction of houses and orchards, the construction of roads meant for the use of settlers only, the exploitation of natural resources within the occupied territory and the alteration of the character and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The international community has also raised concerns regarding the depletion of natural resources as a result of settlements,” the report continues.

Israeli Blockade of the Gaza Strip

According to Al Jazeera and other news sources, Israel has sealed off access to the Gaza Strip for aid workers and journalists since early November because of Palestinian rocket fire eminating from the area. 750,000 Gazans are without food or power at the moment, and some Palestinians see this as a violation of the shaky truce brokered in July of this year. Jacky Rowland, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Jerusalem, said: “The ceasefire doesn’t seem to be anything more than a name at this stage.” On November 17th, Israel allowed some UN food aid to pass through its barricades.

Top UN official Jon Ging spoke about the situation, saying: “These people have been reduced to be dependent on this food, and now we can’t even get that food into Gaza. It’s a disaster.”

In addition to disallowing food access, Israel has also barred foreign journalists from entering the area.

According to Democracy Now, on Tuesday, November 20th, executives from the Associated Press, Reuters, New York Times, BBC, CNN, and other news sources sent a letter to the government of Israel condemning the government’s choice to bar foreign journalists from the Gaza Strip saying, “We are gravely concerned about the prolonged and unprecedented denial of access to the Gaza Strip for the international media.” Israel defended themselves by criticizing the media and accusing them of not properly pointing out the reasoning behind the blockade of the Gaza Strip.



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November 17, 2007

UN\’s Third Commission passes resolution condemning capital punishment

UN’s Third Commission passes resolution condemning capital punishment

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

UN Headquarters in New York.

Yesterday, the United Nations General Assembly‘s Third Commission passed resolution L29 against capital punishment; the project was presented by New Zealand and Brazil, and was defended vigorously by Italy. With 99 votes in favor, 52 against and 33 abstentions, the necessary majority was met, needed in order to pass the resolution.

Italy had proposed a resolution against capital punishments several times – in 1994, 1999, and in 2003 – but had been denied in all cases. Massimo D’Alema, Italian Minister of State and Vicepresident of the Council, did not hold and expressed his content towards the result:

Cquote1.svg The Third Commission’s vote constitutes a decisive step towards the definitive adoption of the resolution by the Plenary General Assembly, that would have to happen by the month of December. Italy confirms to be at the forefront regarding protection of human rights. The fight against capital punishment at an international level is one of the priorities in foreign policy, that attracts the government, institutions, political-parliamentary forces, and non-governmental organizations in a campaign […] and we are convinced that it has produced a first relevant result. Cquote2.svg



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September 25, 2007

Iranian President Ahmadinejad speaks at Columbia University

Iranian President Ahmadinejad speaks at Columbia University

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ahmadinejad addresses the University.
Image: Daniella Zalcman.

Invited to participate in a debate at Columbia University during his visit to New York City this week to address the United Nations General Assembly, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad engaged University president Lee Bollinger on a number of topics, including his country’s human rights record, opinions on Israel and the Holocaust and the role of nuclear weapons and terrorism on the global stage. The Iranian president’s speech was marked by protests, but also drew applause from students.

Bollinger opened the debate addressing critics, stating that “To those who believe that this event should never have happened, that it is inappropriate for the university to conduct such an event, I want to say that I understand your perspective and respect it as reasonable…it is an experiment, as all life is an experiment. This is the right thing to do and indeed, it is required by the existing norms of free speech”

Bollinger then gave his opening address, turning to Ahmadinejad and stating:

Cquote1.svg Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator, and so I ask you, why have women, members of the Bahá’í Faith, homosexuals and so many of our academic colleagues become targets of persecution in your country?”

“Why do you support well-documented terrorist organizations that continue to strike at peace and democracy in the Middle East, destroying lives and the civil society of the region? Frankly, and in all candor Mr. President, I doubt that you will have the intellectual courage to answer these questions, but your avoiding them will in itself be meaningful to us. I do expect you to exhibit the fanatical mind-set that characterizes what you say and do.

Cquote2.svg

After reciting the Bismillah and asking for guidance from God, Ahmadinejad countered that “In Iran, tradition requires that when we invite a person to be a speaker, we actually respect our students and the professors by allowing them to make their own judgment and we don’t think it’s necessary before the speech is even given to come in with a series of claims…”

Ahmadinejad’s most pointed arguments, though, were directed at the administration of George W. Bush. “They do not respect the privacy of their own people. They tap telephone calls … They create an insecure psychological atmosphere, in order to justify their war-mongering acts in different parts of the world.”

The Iranian president attacked what he considered to be errors of American imperialism. “By using precise scientific methods and planning, they begin their onslaught on the domestic cultures of nations, which are the result of thousands of years of interaction, creativity and artistic activity. They try to eliminate these cultures in order to strip people of their identity.”

Ahmadinejad questioned U.S. nuclear policy. “Making nuclear, chemical and biological bombs and weapons of mass destruction is yet another result of the misuse of science and research by the big powers.” He added, “Without the cooperation of certain scientists and scholars, we would not have witnessed production of different nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Are these weapons to protect global security? What can a perpetual nuclear umbrella achieve for the sake of humanity? If nuclear war is waged between nuclear powers, what human catastrophe will take place?”

Student Sunsara Taylor saw the event as just an instrument in the larger symphony of American imperialism.
Image: David Shankbone.

In a rebuttal to claims that his country oppressed women and homosexuals, Ahmadinejad responded by claiming “It is wrong for some governments, when they disagree with another government, to…spread lies”, pointing to the fact that over 50% of Iranian voters are female, and the two female Vice Presidents. When challenged by Bollinger for Iran’s treatment of gays he stated that “In Iran we don’t have homosexuals like in your country,” drawing laughter from the audience. “In Iran we do not have this phenomenon, I don’t know who has told you that we have it.”

He framed questioning of the Holocaust as stifled academic debate: “Right now, there are a number of European academics who have been sent to prison because they attempted to write about the Holocaust or research it from a different perspective, questioning certain aspects of it,” later adding that “you shouldn’t ask me why I’m asking questions, you should ask yourselves why you…want to stop. Do you ever take what is known as absolute in physics? We had principles in mathematics that were granted to be absolute for over 800 years, but new science has…gone forward.”

The first question from the audience addressed the controversial issue of the leader’s position on Israel. Ahmadinejad did not directly respond to the subject of Israel – stating “We love all nations. We love the Jewish people. There are many Jews living in Iran, with peace and security.”, and concluded that it was not a question of Israel’s right to exist, but of Palestinian self-determination.

Countering claims that his country supports terrorism, he replied, “We’re a cultured nation. We don’t need to resort to terrorism. We’ve been victims of terrorism ourselves. It’s regrettable that people who argued they are fighting terrorism — instead of supporting the Iranian nation — are supporting the terrorists and then turn the finger at us.”

The final question from the audience asked whether Iran would engage in talks with the United States, to which he replied “If the U.S. government recognizes the rights of the Iranian people, respects all nations and extends a hand of friendship to all Iranians, they will see that Iranians will be among their best friends.”

In closing, Ahmadinejad extended gratitude and thanks to the University, and welcomed both students and faculty to attend Iranian universities and give lectures themselves to the students.



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  • “Protests mark Ahmadinejad’s visit to Columbia University” — Wikinews, September 25, 2007

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October 14, 2006

General Assembly elects Ban Ki-moon as next UN chief

General Assembly elects Ban Ki-moon as next UN chief

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Saturday, October 14, 2006

Ban Ki-moon

South Korean Ban Ki-moon, 68, has been endorsed unanimously by the general assembly to succeed Kofi Annan as the secretary-general of the United Nations, on October 13.

He will take the position of Secretary General on January 1.

When asked by assembly president Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa to adopt the resolution by an oral vote, the room filled with hundreds of diplomats and UN staff clapping loudly. A formal vote was not conducted as the decision was unanimous.

She banged her gavel after the vote and said, “It is so decided. I have the honor to announce that His Excellency Ban Ki-moon has been appointed by acclamation secretary-general of the United Nations. This is a historic day for the organization as it continues to evolve and live up to the values and principles of the [UN] Charter.”

At the time of the decision itself, the South Korean was the only candidate for the job – when informal polls were carried out within the UN, the other five individuals fared so badly that they all dropped out of the leadership race.

“I will work diligently to materialise our responsibility to protect the most vulnerable members of humanity and for the peaceful resolution of threats to international security and regional stability,” Mr. Ban told the Assembly.

“The true measure of success for the UN is not how much we promise, but how much we deliver for those who need us most.”

“The UN is needed now more than ever before.”

Mr. Ban, the first Asian Secretary General since U Thant from Burma, said he was committed to meeting U.N. Millennium Development Goals, expanding peace operations and dealing with threats posed by terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, HIV/AIDS and other pandemics, environmental degradation and protecting human rights.

He also mentioned reform of the UN, something the United States — which contributes the largest part of the budget of the UN, with 22 % , but also has arrears of 1.3 billion dollars — has long called for. However, the new Secretary General made clear that any changes would occur at his own pace.

“We reform not to please others, but because we value what this organisation stands for,” he said.

“We cannot change everything at once. But if we choose wisely, and work together transparently, flexibly and honestly, progress in a few areas will lead to progress in a few more.”

Kofi Annan, 68, described Ban as “a future secretary-general who is exceptionally attuned to the sensitivities of countries and constituencies in every continent. A man with a truly global mind at the helm of the world’s only universal organisation.”

He added that he wished Ban strength and courage as he prepared to take over the job and to “have fun along the way.”

“We believe he is the right person to lead the United Nations at this decisive moment in its history, particularly as the UN struggles to fulfill the terms of the reform agenda that world leaders agreed to last fall,” U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton told the assembly.

Israeli Ambassador Danny Gillerman said that it was good for Israel’s standing in the organization.

“If the secretary general is serious and fair and appoints underlings who are serious and fair, and the UN will be serious, clean and organized, this will be good for the Jews,” said Mr. Gillerman.

Mr Ban will hold the position for five years until the next election in 2011.

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October 10, 2006

Security Council recommends Ban Ki-moon for UN Secretary-General

Security Council recommends Ban Ki-moon for UN Secretary-General

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Ban Ki-moon

The United Nations Security Council has recommended the South Korean foreign minister Ban Ki-moon for appointment as the next Secretary-General of the United Nations. The UN General Assembly now has to decide on the appointment. Ban Ki-moon placed ahead of India’s Shashi Tharoor, currently UN Under-Secretary-General, in informal voting by the Security Council members.

Ban Ki-moon’s recommendation will be presented to the UN General Assembly.

The current Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, said, in a statement, that he has the “highest respect for Mr. Ban, having had the pleasure of working with him both in his present capacity and when he was Chef de Cabinet to the President of the General Assembly”.

Kenzo Oshima, Japanese Ambassador to the United Nations expressed a hope that the Assembly presidency will act rapidly to elect him.

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