7 February 2006

General Assembly Hears Call for All UN Member States to Honour Olympic Truce in Connection with Forthcoming Winter Games

Assembly Also Acts on Khmer Rouge Trials, Honours Memory of Late Amir of Kuwait

NEW YORK, 6 January (UN Headquarters) -- With the people of the world counting down to the opening Friday of the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy, the President of the General Assembly today called on all United Nations Member States to honour the ancient Greek tradition of the Olympic Truce -- a period during which all conflicts ceased -- and to take "appropriate measures to ensure a peaceful global environment" for the two-week international sporting event.

Evoking the "hallowed principle" of "ekecheiria", or "Olympic Truce", born in the eighth century B.C., Jan Eliasson (Sweden) solemnly appealed to the world's nations to demonstrate their commitment to the ancient armistice, as well as to the Olympic movement overall, which "aspires to contribute to a peaceful future for humankind through the educational value of sport".

"[The Olympic movement] brings together athletes from all parts of the world in the greatest of international sports events, the Olympic Games, and it aims to promote the maintenance of peace, mutual understanding and goodwill -- goals it shares with the United Nations", he said. 

He recalled that in 1992, the International Olympic Committee renewed the tradition by calling upon all nations to observe the Truce. The next year, the Assembly adopted a resolution which urged United Nations Member States to observe the tradition "from the seventh day before the opening to the seventh day following the closing of each Olympic Games".  The appeal had also been renewed by world leaders in the Millennium Declaration.

Traditionally, during the Truce period, athletes, their families, and all others wishing to do so could travel in total safety to participate in or attend the Olympic Games and return afterwards to their respective countries. This year's Games are set to run from 10 to 26 February, and Mr. Eliasson noted that an earlier resolution adopted by the Assembly urged Member States to also observe the Truce during the subsequent Paralympic Winter Games, also to be held in Turin, from 10 to 19 March 2006.

In other action, the Assembly adopted a draft decision on the Khmer Rouge trials (document A/60/L.47), thus concurring with the Secretary-General's recommendation in his latest report on the matter that the international judges, the international co-prosecutor and the international co-investigating judge should be deemed officials of the United nations for the purposes of their terms and conditions of service, and approved granting of that status to them for those purposes.

Immediately following that action, Imtiaz Hussain of Pakistan said that his delegation had joined the consensus on the decision and understood that it would go a long way towards promoting reconciliation in Cambodia. But he was nevertheless concerned about the legal implications that taking such a decision had for other countries. He requested clarification from the co-sponsors.

President Eliasson assured the Pakistani delegation that a written reply or other communication from the decision's co-sponsors would be forthcoming.

The United Nations and Cambodia signed the landmark agreement in 2003 to set up a trial court and a Supreme Court within the Cambodian legal system to "prosecute those most responsible for crimes and serious violations of Cambodian and international law between 17 April 1975 and 6 January 1979". The courts will comprise a mix of international and Cambodian judges.  According to the agreement -- which stresses the impartiality and independence of the prospective jurists -- decisions in the two chambers would be taken by majorities of four judges and five judges, respectively.

President Eliasson opened today's meeting on a sombre note, calling for a moment of silence in honour of His Highness Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al Sabah, the Amir of Kuwait, who passed away in mid-January. Saying that the Kuwaiti leader would be remembered for his wisdom and dedication to country and people, Mr. Eliasson praised Sheikh Jaber's tireless efforts to restore Kuwait's sovereignty and territorial integrity during the time of crisis in the 1990s.

In other business, Mr. Eliasson announced that Afghanistan, Nauru, Republic of the Congo, and the Republic of Moldova had made the necessary payments to reduce their arrears below the amount specified in Article 19 of the Charter. That Article states that a United Nations Member State in arrears in the payment of its financial contributions to the Organization "shall have no vote in the General Assembly if the amount of its arrears equals or exceeds the amount of the contributions due from it for the preceding two full years".

Expressing condolences on the passing of Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al Sabah were the representatives of: Sierra Leone (on behalf of the African Group), Kazakhstan (on behalf of the Group of Asian States), Serbia and Montenegro (on behalf of the Eastern European States), Bolivia (on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean States), Spain (on behalf of the Western European and Other States), United States (as representative of the host country), and Jordan (on behalf of the Arab States).

Kuwait's representative thanked all those who conveyed condolences.

The General Assembly will meet again at a time and date to be announced.


The General Assembly met this morning to pay tribute to the late Amir of Kuwait, Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Al Sabah, who passed away on 15 January. It was also expected to take up sport for peace and development, as well as human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Tribute to Late Amir of Kuwait

Assembly President JAN ELIASSON (Sweden) opened today's meeting on a sombre note, saying it was the world body's sad duty to pay tribute to Amir Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Al Sabah, who passed away in mid-January. The Sheikh had skilfully and wisely managed the political, social and economic affairs of Kuwait, and his decisions had made it possible for the country to take many crucial steps towards development and prosperity. Under his leadership, Kuwait and its people had proudly been able to take their place in the international community.

During troubling times in the early 1990s, Sheikh Jaber's efforts to ensure the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity had been tireless. President Eliasson also paid tribute to Kuwait's peaceful transition of leadership and offered his best wishes to Sheikh Saad Al-Abdulla Al Salem Al Sabah, as he had assumed leadership of the country.

JOE ROBERT PEMAGBI (Sierra Leone), on behalf of the African Group, expressed his deepest condolences on the passing of Sheikh Jaber. The Sheikh cared for his people and contributed immensely to the development of the State of Kuwait. He would be remembered for his role in modernizing his country. He was the embodiment of unity, stability, justice and freedom. Africa would remember him for his deep understanding of the problems of the continent, and even more so for his generosity.

YERZHAN KH. KAZYKHANOV (Kazakhstan), on behalf of the Group of Asian States, hailed Sheikh Jaber as a man of vision and courage, who had devoted his entire life to the cause of peace and development. His 28 years of tireless service and wise leadership had greatly contributed to the prosperity of his country. In Kuwait, he was regarded as "Baba Jaber", the father of the nation, and would be remembered particularly as a great man who was able to translate his dreams into reality, for the benefit of his people. Kuwaitis and the international community as a whole had lost a great leader, who had touched and inspired millions.

SLAVKO KRULJEVIC (Serbia and Montenegro), on behalf of the Eastern European States, said that during his long and distinguished reign, Sheikh Jaber had been tireless in promoting the modernization of Kuwait. The country, under his leadership, had achieved prosperity, high international standing and the consolidation of State institutions. The Sheikh was an outstanding statesman, who had safeguarded the Emirate's stability and prosperity.

MARIA ALICIA TERRAZAS ONTIVEROS (Bolivia), speaking on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean States, said the group joined other nations in paying tribute to the outstanding work the Amir had done on behalf o his people and country. The Latin American and Caribbean Group conveyed its deepest sympathies and condolences to the people and Government of Kuwait.

JUAN ANTONIO YÁÑEZ-BARNUEVO (Spain), on behalf of the Western European and Other States, said that the international community had lost an outstanding leader. For more than 28 years, he wisely had guided his country towards economic prosperity, social modernization and political openness. He had introduced a new approach to democratic rule in Kuwait and the promotion of women's rights in an Islamic society. During his long reign, the late Amir also had gone through difficult times, but knew how to lead the Kuwaiti people to recover its unity and sovereignty, with the support of the international community. He deserved the admiration and respect of States that saw in his achievements a model of leadership within the Arab world.

ALEJANDRO D. WOLFF (United States), speaking as representative of the host country, was also among those who extended the sympathies of his Government to the people of Kuwait. He said the Sheikh had been a steadfast friend of the United States and had led his own country through its darkest hour when many believed that the brutal invasion ordered by Saddam Hussein would erase Kuwait from the world map. Throughout the difficult times following those events in the early 1990s, Sheikh Jaber never wavered in his faith that right would prevail. He had provided hope and confidence to his people. After his return to Kuwait following the 1991 liberation, he had unified the country under the Kuwaiti Constitution and had overseen elections and the re-establishment of Kuwait's Parliament. Last May, in what would no doubt be an important part of his legacy, he had succeeded in leading the generation-long effort to extend full political rights to women.

Prince ZEID RA'AD ZEID AL-HUSSEIN (Jordan), speaking on behalf of the Arab States, said the Kuwaiti people's loss had been a loss for the entire world. He recalled that the Kuwaiti Amir had set out the basic framework for the development of a new and modern State. The Arab States stood by the people of Kuwait during this time and would pray that God would give them strength.

NABEELA ABDULLA AL-MULLA (Kuwait) thanked all those who had conveyed condolences following the demise of Sheikh Jaber, who had passed away on 15 January. During his reign, Kuwait had experienced some great challenges and crises. However, with his vision, the Sheikh had maintained the security and stability of the country. He had made commendable efforts towards the renaissance of Kuwait, which had experienced great developments in the entrenchment of democracy, the promotion of human rights and the strengthening of relations with other countries.

In 1990, the Sheikh had appeared in the Assembly to appeal to the international community to assert the right of Kuwait to restore its legitimacy, she recalled. At that time, the international community had set a precedent by adopting a position allowing Kuwait to regain its independence. In 1991, he returned to the Assembly to express the gratitude of his people and Government to the international community for the noble stance it had adopted in defending the rights of Kuwaitis.

He had worked constantly to entrench the values of understanding and solidarity with other Arab States and with all States, she said. He was among the first leaders to call for the cancellation of the debts of developing countries, and had called on the international financial institutions to ease the borrowing terms for those countries. He adopted noble positions that left their mark on the people of Kuwait. She remembered with pride when he asked her to represent Kuwait as the first woman ambassador, which demonstrated how interested he was in the advancement of women. He had also taken the historic step to ensure women's right to vote. History would remember his noble achievements.

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