15 APRIL 2011


From kidnappings in Darfur to abductions in Côte d'Ivoire, United Nations personnel around the world have continued to face threats to their freedom and security. As the twenty-sixth annual Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members was observed on Friday, 25 March, the independence of the international civil service and the ability to do its work is under constant strain.

Several United Nations civilian personnel are arrested and detained every year in the course of their duties. In 2010, according to the Department of Safety and Security, at least 28 such personnel were detained or arrested in cases that were considered job-related, in that personnel were detained in the course of, or in connection with, the implementation of their duties.

In 2009, 39 civilian personnel were detained or arrested. Most cases were resolved and the detained personnel were released within hours, days or weeks. However, in two cases the United Nations was denied access to a detainee and was given no reasons for the arrests. At least 12 police and civilian personnel were kidnapped in 2010. Fortunately, all abducted personnel were subsequently freed. However, one of the kidnapped civilian staff members was held by the perpetrators in Darfur for nearly three months.

"Member States must do more about protecting United Nations personnel," said United Nations Staff Union President Stephen Kisambira, adding that as of 24 March 2011, 103 Member States had still not become parties to the 1994 Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, which requires States parties to make it a criminal offence to kidnap, murder or attack such personnel. Also, 169 Member States had still not become parties to the Convention's 2005 Optional Protocol, which expands the scope of protection to non-peacekeeping missions. "Member States not only should ratify those agreements, but take determined steps to implement them," Mr. Kisambira said.

In this regard, the Staff Union congratulates Singapore's Parliament for having recently passed the United Nations Personnel Act, which criminalizes attacks against United Nations workers, premises and vehicles. The Act enables Singapore to implement the 1994 Convention, to which it acceded in 1996, and paves the way for it to accede to the 2005 Optional Protocol.

The Day of Solidarity intends to draw attention to 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 is observed on the anniversary of the abduction in Beirut of Alec Collett, who was on assignment for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Mr. Collett was abducted in 1985, and his body was finally found in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley in 2009.

The observance of the Day is organized by the Staff Union's Standing Committee on the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service.

Website: www.un.org/en/events/detainedstaffday .

Killing in Afghanistan

The United Nations Staff Union and its Standing Committee on the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service express their outrage at the killing of UN staff members in Afghanistan.

According to the spokesman of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), UN personnel have lost their lives at the UNAMA operations centre in Mazar-i-Sharif, northern Afghanistan, which was attacked today following a demonstration.

Once again, United Nations staff members have paid with their lives while serving the people of a war-torn country. The Staff Union requests the Afghan authorities to investigate the incident, to take all possible measures to protect UN staff throughout the country and to prevent the reoccurrence of such tragic events.

The Staff Union expresses its heartfelt condolences to the families and colleagues of the victims.

Afghanistan has become one of the most dangerous places for UN personnel. On 28 October 2009, five UN staff members were killed in an attack by militants on a guest house in Kabul. On 18 August 2009, two national UNAMA staff members were killed in Kabul when their UN vehicle was caught up in a suicide car bombing. On 24 December 2009, a World Food Programme warehouse security guard was killed in a suicide bomb attack in Kandahar. On 29 June 2010, a UNAMA civilian staff member was shot and killed at a busy traffic circle in Kabul while riding a UNAMA vehicle.