As Independence of International Civil Service Foundation of Work of United Nations, Staff Union Concerned by Arrests, Detentions of UN Personnel

29 June 2011
ORG/1543

As Independence of International Civil Service Foundation of Work of United Nations, Staff Union Concerned by Arrests, Detentions of UN Personnel

29 June 2011
Press Release
ORG/1543
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

As Independence of International Civil Service Foundation of Work of United Nations,

Staff Union Concerned by Arrests, Detentions of UN Personnel

The Staff Union and its Committee on the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service deplores the recent deliberate intimidatory actions directed at the United Nations staff by the Governments of the Sudan and Cambodia.  Such actions represent a breach of the independence of the international civil service and undermine the ability of the United Nations to carry out its mission.  This growing trend also undermines the fundamental principle that allows the Organization and its staff to operate.

In the Sudan, there is concern for the safety and security of Hawa Abdullah Mohammed, a staff member of the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID).  She was arrested on 5 May by national security personnel at her home in Abu Shouk, a camp for internally displaced persons where she worked.  She is reportedly being denied contact with lawyer and family in spite of the call by UNAMID head Ibrahim Gambari for the immediate and unconditional release of Ms. Abdullah and another civilian staff member.  Mr. Gambari stated that her arrest contravened the Status of Forces Agreement between UNAMID and the Government.  Under the Agreement, the Government should inform UNAMID of criminal offences committed by its staff, presenting evidence.

Also in the Sudan, the Sudan Armed Forces on 22 June arrested six United Nations staff members of southern origin at the airport in the state capital, Kadugli, as they were being relocated from the northern state of South Kordofan.  They were among 23 Sudanese staff being flown to the southern city of Wau as part of the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) relocation plan.  The authorities did not present to UNMIS any evidence of illegal activities.  Two were subsequently released.  The arrests come soon after Sudan Armed Forces soldiers detained and harassed four peacekeepers in Kadugli, subjecting them to a mock execution on 16 June.

In Cambodia, Seng Kunakar, an employee of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) was released on 20 June after serving a six-month prison term for sharing with co-workers articles printed from an anti-Government website.  According to media reports, he was arrested on 17 December 2010 and convicted of “criminal incitement” in what some have called an ongoing campaign of intimidation against United Nations staff by the Cambodian Government.

In May, Christophe Peschoux, the head of the Cambodia Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, was forced to leave the country.  His departure came months after Prime Minister Hun Sen was reported as saying that he wanted the office closed and Mr. Peschoux dismissed.

The Staff Union and its Committee call on the Sudan and Cambodia to respect due process, as well as the international character of the United Nations and its personnel.  In particular, detained staff must not be held without charge and must be expeditiously brought before a regular trial, and freedom of movement of staff to do their work must be ensured.  The Committee requests the Sudan to release all staff members unconditionally and without delay.

The Staff Union expresses deep concern about the impact of these incidents on the staff members and their families and the operations and functions of the United Nations.  They urge Member States, especially those that are parties to the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, such as the Sudan and Cambodia, to honour their obligations.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.