24 March 2011
Press Release
OBV/972
ORG/1539

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Day of Solidarity with Detained, Missing United Nations Personnel,

 

25 March, to Highlight Constant Threats against Staff Worldwide

 


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 is 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 of Solidarity is organized by the Staff Union’s Standing Committee on the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service.


For more information, please see the website:  http://www.un.org/en/events/detainedstaffday.


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For information media • not an official record