11 September 2006

United Nations Staff Union Demands Halt to Continued Harassment of UNMEE Staff by Eritrea

Recent Decision to Expel United Nations Staff Members Illegal

NEW YORK, 7 September (UN Staff Union) -- The United Nations Staff Council's Standing Committee on the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service is demanding an immediate halt to the continued harassment of United Nations staff in Eritrea.  The recent decision of Eritrea on 5 September to give five United Nations staff members just 24 hours to leave the country, after accusing them of being "involved in spying activities", is part of a campaign against United Nations personnel that is illegal under international law.

This act continues a consistent pattern of violations of the independence of the United Nations staff by Eritrea.  Recently, the authorities arrested without explanation a staff member of the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), refusing to provide access to him by United Nations officials.

In June 2006, Eritrea detained 10 UNMEE staff members, following the detention and subsequent release of national staff members for several months without an explanation of the reason for the arrests.

In March, an UNMEE peacekeeper, Kamble Ramesh Annappa, died of cardiac arrest in Addis Ababa because Eritrea's restrictions on the movements of United Nations staff did not allow for evacuation to a much closer facility in Asmara.

In February, Eritrea arrested 27 locally recruited UNMEE staff, detaining them for varying durations.

The Committee calls upon the Secretary-General to demand that the Eritrean Government release all United Nations staff members, rescind its restrictions on the movements of United Nations personnel and respect the independence of all United Nations staff in accordance with international law.

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