Press Releases

                                                                                                                            30 March 2004

    Secretary-General Releases Findings of Iraq Accountability Panel Report, Decides on Disciplinary Measures

    NEW YORK, 29 March (UN Headquarters) -- The following statement was issued today by the Spokesman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan:

    1. On 10 November 2003, the Secretary-General established the Security in Iraq Accountability Panel to undertake an independent audit and accountability procedure to review the responsibilities of all individuals and UN organizations/offices/entities involved in the security of the UN operation in Iraq.  The Panel should, in particular, examine the actions or omissions of the UN Headquarters in Baghdad and its staff which might have prevented or mitigated the effect of the attack, or diminished the loss of life and injury to UN personnel.

    2. The Panel members were Mr. Gerald Walzer (Chair), a former Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees; Mr. Sinha Basnayake, former Director of the General Legal Division of the Office of Legal Affairs in the United Nations; Mr. Kevin Carty, Assistant Commissioner of National Police of Ireland; and Mr. Stuart Groves, Senior Security Manager and Security Focal Point in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  The Panel was assisted in its work by Mr. Bryan Deschamp, Senior Special Adviser, UNHCR.

    3. The Panel submitted its report to the Secretary-General on 3 March 2004.

    4. While it reached the conclusion that there was no blurring in the relevant chains of command, the Panel identified the following principal failures: 

    -- Contrary to the established practices and procedures of the Organization, no prior security assessment mission was sent to Iraq before the first humanitarian staff returned to Baghdad on 1 May 2003, or before the decision was taken to send staff from Amman to Baghdad by road rather than by air.

    -- At the executive level in Headquarters in New York, the Steering Group on Iraq (SGI), lacked due care or diligence in the manner in which it dealt with the circumstances of the return to Baghdad.  It should have asked some searching questions about the security aspects of the proposed return plan.

    -- The SGI endorsed a flawed concept of operations paper received from the Designated Official and endorsed by the UN Security Coordinator.  The SGI failed to insist on clarifying the extent of the risk the staff would be running.  It also failed to insist on respect by all entities involved regarding staff ceilings and security clearances, in contravention of the established practice and procedures of the Organization. 

    -- No comprehensive, documented review was undertaken of the security requirements at the Canal Hotel (where the UN headquarters in Baghdad was located), following the return of UN staff on 1 May.

    -- The UN Security Coordinator, the Designated Official, and the Security Management Team in Baghdad, appeared to be blinded by the conviction that UN personnel and installations would not become a target of attack, despite the clear warnings to the contrary. 

    -- Meanwhile, security updates compiled and disseminated between 23 May and 19 August gave a picture of how the security situation deteriorated during that period of time.  There was a conflict between information received from UN and from US military sources as to whether requests were made by senior UN staff in Baghdad to vacate US military personnel and equipment from critical positions around the Canal Hotel before the attack on 19 August.

    -- The standard of security management as regards the Canal Hotel was seriously deficient and lacking cohesion.  This deficiency was exacerbated by the inadequate support that the Field Security Coordinator received from senior security management in New York, and from the Designated Official.

    -- The UN Security Coordinator failed to take remedial action with regard to difficulties being encountered by UNSECOORD staff in Baghdad to cope with increasing demands on their services and rising stress levels.

    -- The Chief Administrative Officer of the UN Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq (UNOHCI), and the Building Manager of that Office, did not demonstrate any serious intention to procure and install blast-resistant film for the entire Canal Hotel.  These two officers displayed profound lack of responsibility and ineptitude in the manner they sought to implement the request for installation of the film.  Their combined response to the issue indicates a lethargy that is bordering on gross negligence.

    -- Given the security community’s awareness of the deteriorating security circumstances in Baghdad, there was a failure on the part of the Designated Official, the UN Security Coordinator and the SGI to take appropriate remedial action, either by reducing staff numbers or by a concerted effort to improve security measures.

    5. In the light of the above failures, the Secretary-General, having reviewed the Panel’s findings and conclusions, with the assistance of his senior advisers not directly involved in the issues considered by the Panel, has decided on the following action: 

    a. Refer the matter of the Chief Administrative Officer of UNOCHI and the Building Manager of UNOCHI to the Office of Human Resources Management to initiate disciplinary proceedings against the two staff members, who are being charged with misconduct;

    b. Immediate reassignment of the Field Security Coordination Officer from UNSECOORD to an appropriate post not involving any functions related to security matters;

    c. Letter of reprimand to the Security Management Team in Iraq;

    d. Request for the immediate resignation of the Humanitarian Coordinator/Designated Official from his current ASG post in the United Nations and return to his D-2 post in WFP.  His future assignments will not include any responsibilities for security matters;

    e. Request for the resignation of the UN Security Coordinator from the United Nations;

    f. A letter to each head of a UN Fund or Programme who had staff in Iraq during the period 1 May–19 August 2003, critical of their management and lack of respect for staff ceilings and security clearances (applicable in Iraq);

    g. A letter addressed to the Deputy Secretary-General, in her capacity as Chairperson of the SGI, expressing his disappointment and regret with regard to the failures identified by the Panel which are attributable to the SGI.  This letter would be shared with all members of the Steering Group.

    6. In the light of the above findings and conclusions of the Panel, the Deputy Secretary-General tendered her resignation to the Secretary-General.  The Secretary-General, taking into account the collective nature of the failures attributable to the Steering Group on Iraq as a whole, declined to accept the resignation.

    7. The Secretary-General regretted the failures identified by the Panel and expressed his determination to take all corrective measures, within his authority, to enhance the safety and security of all UN staff, especially those deployed in dangerous conflict areas.  The Secretary-General paid tribute to the staff who lost their lives or were injured in the attack on the UN in Baghdad on 19 August 2003.  He renewed his confidence in the staff of the Organization for their devoted service and unflinching dedication to the United Nations.

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