Press Releases

    29 March 2005

    Accountability for Crimes against UN, Associated Personnel “Woefully Inadequate”, Secretary-General Says in Message on Day of Solidarity with Missing Staff

    NEW YORK, 28 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following is UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message on the International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members, 25 March, as delivered today by Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland at a Headquarters observance in the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) Club:

    The International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members is an occasion to raise global awareness about the risks faced in the line of duty by United Nations staff and peacekeepers, our colleagues in the non-governmental community and our friends in the press.

    Last year, at least eight UN staff were taken hostage in separate incidents.  So far this year, at least 12 peacekeepers have been killed.  And at least 26 UN staff members remain under arrest, missing or detained.

    That number includes Alec Collett.  This year’s International Day marks the twentieth anniversary of his abduction in Beirut while on assignment for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.  His fate has never been determined.  Today is also a time to express, yet again, our sorrow and to reaffirm our solidarity with his wife and loved ones.

    Seventy-eight States are now party to the United Nations Convention on the Safety of UN and Associated Personnel.  However, very few of them are countries in whose territories peacekeeping forces are currently deployed, where the greatest threats typically exist.  I therefore call upon those countries to provide UN and associated personnel with the protection they need to pursue their mandate, and become party to the Convention.  I urge the rest of the Organization’s membership to become States parties, too.  And I call on all parties to armed conflict to uphold their responsibilities under international humanitarian law to ensure the safety of all civilians caught in combat.

    Accountability for crimes against UN and associated personnel remains woefully inadequate.  Prosecutions are rare, and even in cases where there have been convictions, sentences have been light.  I call on Member States to do more to bring to justice those who attack and murder UN and associated personnel.

    The United Nations, for its part, has taken important steps to strengthen the protections it provides.  The new Department of Safety and Security (DSS) began work on 1 January of this year, and brings together, for the first time, all the security elements of the United Nations system, including those formerly known as the Office of the UN Security Coordinator (UNSECOORD), the Security and Safety Services (SSS), and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations security elements responsible for civilian personnel in DPKO missions.  More information about the Department’s work can be found at its Web site,

    On this International Day, I commend the Staff Union’s Committee on the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service for its efforts to focus attention on this critically important issue.  And I vow to continue doing my utmost to ensure that all staff have the protections, policies and accountability measures they need to enable them to carry out their vital work on behalf of humankind.

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