Secretary-General reports high number of attacks on UN staff overseas

10 October 2003

United Nations civilian personnel at overseas duty stations have suffered an unprecedented number of physical attacks leading to hostage-taking, injuries and death, but the UN Security Coordinator's office has been strengthened for an ever widening range of missions, Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a report on staff safety issued today.

United Nations civilian personnel at overseas duty stations have suffered an unprecedented number of physical attacks leading to hostage-taking, injuries and death, but the UN Security Coordinator's office has been strengthened for an ever widening range of missions, Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a report on staff safety issued today.

Since 1992, aside from deaths due to illness, or vehicle and aircraft accidents, 196 UN civilian staff members have been killed as a result of malicious acts, the report to the General Assembly says.

Most of the victims killed were Palestinians working for the UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees, it said. The majority of the 34 persons being detained were also employees of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA).

Five of the deaths occurred during the reporting period of 1 July 2002 to 30 June 2003, which excludes the 19 August terrorist bombing of the UN's headquarters in Baghdad that left 18 UN civilian staff dead, including top envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.

"Because of the dangerous environments in which they work, which are often characterized by high rates of crime and unemployment, United Nations staff members often become the targets of street crime," the report says. "The increased number of physical assaults, thefts, attacks, incursions, hostage-taking incidents and kidnappings reported during the past year speaks to this most disturbing trend."

In the reporting period, seven incidents of hostage-taking, kidnapping and sexual assault, affecting 14 personnel, took place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Georgia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Somalia.

Of 258 incidents of assault on UN and non-governmental organization (NGO) personnel, 69 took place in Afghanistan, 30 in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory and 53 in Kosovo. In addition, 168 cases of harassment were reported. More than 30 bomb threats turned out to be hoaxes.

At least 83 incursions into UN compounds took place, often non-violent political protests, along with 270 violent attacks on UN and NGO compounds and convoys. Incidents of theft of office equipment, official vehicles and personal belongings numbered 550.

 

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