On this International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members, I am deeply concerned at the unlawful detention and arrest of United Nations and humanitarian personnel, as well as at the lack of access to those staff. I call for immediate action to secure their freedom and rights.
The majority of those cases involve locally recruited United Nations personnel. They are full and valued members of the UN family with all the same rights and privileges, but they are also most vulnerable to arrest and detention. I strongly urge those Member States holding United Nations personnel to provide immediate access and fully respect their rights and privileges.
It is deeply disappointing that nearly 20 years after its adoption, less than half of all Member States have ratified the 1994 Convention of the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, and only 28 have ratified its 2005 Protocol. I call on all countries to ratify the Convention and its Protocol without delay.
The world is a far more dangerous place for United Nations and humanitarian personnel today than it was even a few short years ago. As of 21 March, 56 United Nations personnel remained in detention and 4 United Nations and associated personnel abducted by non-State actors remain in captivity. I urge all concerned to do everything possible to secure their immediate release.
I am especially worried about brave individuals working in Syria. According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Middle East (UNRWA), 22 staff members were detained or presumed detained as of mid-March. Three additional staff members were missing.
I am deeply concerned about the increase in abductions for ransom. I am also dismayed by the impunity that prevails; the vast majority of cases regarding arrested, detained and missing staff members do not result in prosecution. I call for an end to this culture of impunity and for the full prosecution of all those responsible for these crimes.
I urge all Member States to do the utmost to resolve cases of missing staff members, to prevent abduction and hostage-taking by armed groups or criminal gangs operating in their territory, to refrain from arresting UN staff members, and to release those who are detained.
These courageous individuals carry out the life-saving work entrusted to the United Nations and its partner organizations. On this International Day, we show our solidarity by demanding immediate action to end their ordeal so they can enjoy the rights and freedoms they deserve.