At its Headquarters in New York and at other duty stations around the globe, the United Nations family today marked the third anniversary of the deadly terrorist attack on the world body’s offices in Baghdad, widely considered the UN’s darkest day, with a series of solemn ceremonies.
Twenty-two people were killed, including the top UN envoy in Iraq and High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello, and hundreds of others were injured when a bomb struck the Canal Hotel in the Iraqi capital on 19 August 2003, three years ago tomorrow.
In the General Assembly building today, the UN Secretariat observed a minute of silence during a formal ceremony in which a message to staff from Secretary-General Kofi Annan was read out by his Deputy, Mark Malloch Brown.
“Their death marked the UN’s loss of innocence,” Mr. Annan said. “This Organization had been attacked before, and it has been targeted since. But the Baghdad attack dealt a fatal blow to the illusion that wearing a blue helmet, or hoisting a UN flag, placed us above the fray.”
The Secretary-General said that “today, more than ever, UN staff confront direct and deadly threats to their safety,” adding that he would do his utmost to ensure that all staff members have the training, protection and policies needed to carry out their work.
“Were they with us today, I believe our murdered colleagues would be immensely proud that, despite the dangers, the difficulties, and the near unbearable grief, our work for peace continues, undeterred and undiminished, whether in Lebanon, in Darfur, in Timor-Leste, Haiti or Iraq.”
Mr. Annan described such work as “our living tribute to fallen friends.”
Also in New York, survivors, families, friends and colleagues associated with the attack held a gathering at the Church Centre to remember those killed, while in Geneva a wreath was laid in front of a commemorative plaque in the Salle des Pas Perdus.
Staff in Addis Ababa gathered in front of the UNCC building to remember the anniversary, while ceremonies also took place in Bangkok, Nairobi, Santiago and Vienna.