Loss of over 40 colleagues makes 2007 one of UN’s deadliest years – Staff Union
At least 42 United Nations staff members – including 17 who died in the 11 December 2007 attack in Algiers – were killed on duty last year, making it one of the deadliest years for the Organization, according to its Staff Union.
“While we mourn our colleagues and the other civilians killed, we cannot but stress the need for prevention and punishment,” said Stephen Kisambura, the Union’s president.
He called for Member States to bolster prevention efforts as well as bring those behind “heinous acts” to justice.
“Very seldom are perpetrators prosecuted, perpetuating the climate of impunity,” Mr. Kisambura noted.
Ranging from bombings in southern Lebanon to armed attacks in Afghanistan, at least nine peacekeepers and 33 civilian staff members lost their lives in 2007, according to figures from the Union’s Committee on the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service. This is an increase from 32 UN staff killed in fatal attacks in 2006 and at least 15 staff deaths in 2005.
Seventeen UN staff members were among dozens who perished in two car bomb attacks in the Algerian capital on 11 December. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon characterized the incident as a “despicable strike against individuals serving humanity’s highest ideals under the UN banner.”
In the wake of the tragedy, Mr. Ban promised the world body’s staff that he would spare no effort to ensure their safety and ordered an immediate review of the Organization’s security precautions and policies, stressing that “the security and welfare of UN staff is paramount.”
A half dozen UN staff also lost their lives in war-wracked Sudan. Four drivers serving with the UN World Food Programme (WFP) were killed – three in the Darfur region and one in southern Sudan, while two peacekeepers serving with the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) lost their lives in separate incidents.
A 24 June bomb attack killed six blue helmets and injured two serving with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) while they were patrolling near Khiyam, a town in southern Lebanon. The following month, a French peacekeeper with UNIFIL lost his life while clearing unexploded ordnance left over from the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbollah.
Afghanistan also proved to be dangerous for UN staff, as a remote-controlled explosive device killed an Afghan driver and four Nepalese contractors working with the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) on 17 April. Meanwhile on 2 December, a WFP truck driver was killed by armed men on the road from Kandahar to Helmand in the country’s south while delivering 14 tons of high-energy biscuits.
Last year also saw UN staff being arrested or detained in Darfur, Somalia and Myanmar.
Staff members of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) traveling in two vehicles clearly marked with the agency’s logo were abducted on 30 April while en route to making a routine visit to a refugee camp near the town of El Geneina, West Darfur. After an hours-long search, the six aid workers were found unharmed.
Also in Africa, the head of WFP’s Mogadishu office, Idris Osman, a Somali national, was taken away by dozens of armed Government forces on 17 October and released nearly a week later with no explanation given for either his arrest or his release.
In Myanmar, UNDP Programme Assistant Mynt Ngwe Mon, her husband and brother-in-law were arrested in the early hours of 3 October in Rangoon and released the following day. On 4 December, the top UN official in the country, Charles Petrie, was expelled after a 24 October statement by the UN Country Team denouncing Myanmar’s “deteriorating humanitarian situation.”