Press Releases

    Note No. 5928
    24 March 2005

    Note to Correspondents

    Day of Solidarity with Detained, Missing Staff to Be Observed at Headquarters on 28 March

    Will Stress Risks Faced by UN Staff, Reporters around World

    NEW YORK, 23 March (UN Headquarters) -- The twentieth annual Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members, 25 March 2005, will be observed with a ceremony on Monday, 28 March at

    11 a.m. in the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) Club on the 3rd floor of the Secretariat Building.  The observance intends to draw attention on the United Nations staff members who have been arrested, detained, abducted or “disappeared” while in the service of the Organization, and the importance of staff safety and security.

    The Day marks the abduction by armed men in 1985 near Beirut Airport of Alec Collett, on assignment for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).  The fate of Mr. Collett, a journalist and former Director of the United Nations Information Centre in Accra, has never been determined.  Following his abduction, UNCA made Mr. Collett Honorary President, a title he has retained ever since.

    Speakers include General Assembly President Jean Ping; Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland, who will deliver the message of the Secretary-General; UNCA President James Wurst; Elaine Collett, wife of Alec Collett; and Rosemarie Waters, President of the United Nations Staff Union.

    Last year, at least eight United Nations staff members were taken hostage in separate incidents in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and the Sudan.  The three United Nations electoral workers abducted in Afghanistan were detained for almost four weeks.

    The latest report of the Secretary-General on the safety and security of humanitarian personnel, issued last September, lists 26 United Nations staff members as under arrest, missing or detained -- one of them being Alec Collett.  Twenty were in detention in Israel (19 in the West Bank and one in Gaza), two were being held in Lebanon, two in Rwanda, and two were being held or were missing in Eritrea.  The first missing case dated back to 1983.

    In the report, the Secretary-General expresses his “dismay” at the frequent unwillingness of Member States to provide timely information on the arrest or detention of locally recruited staff members.

    United Nations staff in field operations continue to be subjected to “hostage-taking, physical assault, robbery, theft, harassment and lengthy detention”, says the report, noting that, “owing to their heightened visibility as representatives of the international community, United Nations personnel are at substantial risk of being targeted by many diverse entities and individuals”.

    The observance is organized by the Staff Council Standing Committee on the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service (CSIICS).

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