20 March 2009

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:

"I Urge all Member States to Do Their Part to Buttress the Architecture of Protection"

Message on the International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members, 25 March 2009

VIENNA, 25 March (UN Information Service) - The International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members draws the attention of the international community to the risks faced throughout the world, day in and day out, by UN staff and peacekeepers and our colleagues in the non-governmental community and the press.

The day also marks the anniversary of the abduction by gunmen, 24 years ago, of Alec Collet from his car near Beirut Airport. Mr. Collett, a former United Nations Information Centre Director and journalist, was on assignment for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). His case remains unresolved.

Locally recruited humanitarian and United Nations personnel are the most vulnerable targets, and account for a majority of security incidents. But anyone serving the United Nations is a potential victim, as recent hostage incidents in Niger and Pakistan attest. Between July 2007 and June 2008, there were 160 arrests by State authorities and 39 cases of detention by non-State actors. At least 19 staff members are still under arrest, detained or missing. I call on Member States and non-State actors to release them immediately.

One hundred and five Member States have still not ratified the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, adopted in 1994. Only 16 Member States have ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention, adopted in 2005, keeping this important instrument from entering into force. The Geneva Conventions, the Statute of the International Criminal Court are also part of the relevant legal regime. I urge all Member States to do their part to buttress this architecture of protection.

I thank the UN Staff Union's Committee on the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service for their untiring efforts to raise public awareness on this matter, including on the needs of the families of detained or missing staff. Let us all redouble our efforts to ensure that all United Nations staff and associated personnel have the protections they need to carry out their vital work for humankind.

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