UN staff members draw attention to missing, detained and disappeared colleagues
Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on Member States today to impose greater accountability on those who commit crimes against United Nations and associated personnel carrying out their assignments, as staff members gathered to draw attention to the abduction, detention and disappearance of nearly 30 of their colleagues.
“Last year, at least eight UN staff were taken hostage in separate incidents,” he said in a message delivered by UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland to a staff meeting convened at UN Headquarters in New York to raise awareness of the problems on the International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members, which is observed on 25 March.
“So far this year, at least 12 peacekeepers have been killed. And at least 26 UN staff members remain under arrest, missing or detained,” Mr. Annan said.
He called on the 113 Member States which had not yet become party to the UN Convention on the Safety of UN and Associated Personnel, especially those with UN peacekeeping forces, to join the 78 which had done so.
Accountability for crimes against those workers was woefully inadequate, he said. “Prosecutions are rare and, even in cases where there have been convictions, sentences have been light,” he said.
His report on the safety of humanitarian personnel, issued last September, says 19 UN and associated personnel were being held in West Bank and one in Gaza, two in Lebanon, two in Rwanda and two were unaccounted for in Eritrea.
The Day of Solidarity also marked the 20th anniversary of Alec Collett’s abduction in Beirut, Lebanon, while working for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA). To mark his former career as a journalist, Mr. Collett has remained honorary president of the UN Correspondents Association (UNCA), in whose rooms the observance was held.
“His fate has never been determined. Today is also a time to express, yet again, our sorrow and to reaffirm our solidarity with his wife and loved ones,” Mr. Annan said.
Other speakers included UN General Assembly President Jean Ping, UN Staff Union President Rosemarie Waters, Alec Collett’s wife, Elaine, and UNCA President James Wurst.