Closure of Chechen refugee camps could endanger safe haven principle UN

In a meeting yesterday in Geneva with Ingushetia’s President, Murat Zyazikov, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Ruud Lubbers voiced his concern over a recent announcement by Russian officials that the three remaining tented camps will be closed prior to presidential elections in the Russian Federation in March.Mr. Lubbers was reassured by Mr. Zyazikov, who said he was personally committed to respecting the principle of voluntary return, UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski told a news briefing in Geneva today. Nearly 66,800 people fleeing the fighting in neighbouring Chechnya are registered for assistance in Ingushetia, with most of them in temporary settlements or private accommodation, but 7,069 people are still registered in three tented camps. Mr. Lubbers reiterated his wish to promote a positive engagement of the international humanitarian community through a two-pronged approach in which safe haven would be guaranteed in Ingushetia for those not wishing to return, while those returning of their own free choice would receive increased support from humanitarian agencies operating at a higher level in Chechnya. Representatives of the Chechnya administration have been soliciting applications for compensation for destroyed housing and lost property in Chechnya. Planned at approximately $10,000 per family, such compensation – if actually paid – would constitute a major incentive for return, but the authorities acknowledge that a number of refugees will choose to remain in Ingushetia or elsewhere. While the refugees continue to cite insecurity in Chechnya as their primary reservation to return, lack of shelter there is also a major constraint, Mr. Janowski said. read more

Yemens political transition on track but facing serious challenges – UN envoy

Yemen has been undergoing a democratic transition, under the leadership of President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi Mansour, who came to power in an election in February. This followed the agreement signed by warring factions in November 2011 on a transitional settlement in the wake of widespread protests similar to those seen across the Middle East and North Africa and the resignation of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. “The transition is on track, but there have been challenges – serious challenges in various areas, including in the political and the security fields,” Jamal Benomar, the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on Yemen, told reporters at UN Headquarters.Mr. Benomar, who recently returned from his 14th mission to Yemen, told the Security Council in a closed-door briefing that, for the State to be able to function, it will need to reassert its authority in various parts of the country, especially where armed groups are in control.Last week a terrorist attack in the capital, Sana’a, resulted in numerous deaths and injuries, including among the security detail of Yemen’s defence minister.Mr. Benomar had strongly condemned the attack, which was the sixth attempt on the minister’s life, in a statement issued over the weekend. “This atrocious terrorist attack, which killed a number of innocent Yemenis, civilian and military alike, cannot be justified in any way, and every effort must be made to arrest the perpetrators and bring them to justice,” he had stated.He told the Council today that with that terrorist attacks and with the recent attack on the United States Embassy in Sana’a, the re-structuring of the armed forces will need to proceed and the Council will need to support the President in pushing forward this process. Council members voiced their support for the steps taken by Yemen’s President in reforming and restructuring the security sector, while sharing the concerns by Mr. Benomar about ongoing attempts to undermine the transition process.They also agreed that “comprehensive and inclusive national dialogue should begin without delay in order to lay the foundations for a stable and unified Yemen,” Ambassador Peter Wittig of Germany, which holds the Council’s rotating presidency for this month, told reporters.Initial preparations have begun for the national dialogue conference, whose outcome will feed into the constitution-making process that is to conclude in late 2013, enabling general elections to take place in February 2014. Mr. Benomar described the national dialogue as a “historic opportunity” for all Yemenis to come together to address important issues and reported that the preparatory committee for the national dialogue has made progress. “I told the Council that the atmosphere in this committee was very constructive and the national dialogue is really what will make or break this transition, and it is important that we support this process.”A high-level meeting of the Friends of Yemen is scheduled to take place in New York on 27 September on the margins of the general debate of the General Assembly with the aim of reaffirming the international community’s strong support for the transition process. read more