15 MAY 2012


The United Nations Staff Union and its Committee on the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service express great concern at recent events that represent a breach of the independence of the international civil service. Holding staff for long periods without charge is alarming, and continued harassment is a violation of international agreements that is affecting the ability of the United Nations to operate.

The Staff Union and the Committee call on all Member States, as well as other parties, to respect the independence of the international civil service and to guarantee to all staff, national and international, the conditions necessary for the United Nations to carry out its mission.

Following are recent incidents of detention of United Nations personnel in the Sudan and Ethiopia.

According to a U.N. official and press reports, two peacekeepers of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) are being held in the Sudan after being abducted on 24 February from a base in South Sudan's Northern Bahr Al Ghazel state. No details are available about who abducted the peacekeepers, why they are being held in the Sudan and why they have not been released.

According to press reports, Yusuf Mohammed, an Ethiopian national and United Nations Local Security Assistant, has been languishing in a remote regional jail, without charges, since December 2010. Abdirahman Sheikh Hassan, a colleague of Mr. Mohammed in the United Nations Department of Safety and Security, has been detained since July 2011 and is prosecuted for links with the Ogaden National Liberation Front.

The Ethiopian authorities are also said to regularly harass United Nations operations: equipment is impounded at customs, spouses of United Nations staff spouses are denied work permits, and vehicles are searched in contravention of the 53-year-old Agreement between the United Nations and Ethiopia regarding the headquarters of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, in force since 1958.

These acts continue a consistent, unacceptable pattern of violations of the independence of the United Nations staff by Ethiopia.

United Nations staff members, whether internationally or locally recruited, are protected by the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, to which Ethiopia -- the host of a United Nations Regional Commission -- is a party. United Nations goods are protected under the 1958 Agreement between Ethiopia and the United Nations.

The Staff Union urges the Secretary General to exert all efforts on the Government of the Sudan to ensure the release of the two detained peacekeepers. It calls upon the Secretary General to demand the Ethiopian Government to release all United Nations staff members, to rescind its restrictions on United Nations equipment and to respect the independence of all United Nations staff, in accordance with international law.