Fri, Oct 03, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Attacks on UN workers on the rise, Ban warns


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned on Wednesday that UN staff and humanitarian field workers are being deliberately targeted for attack by extremists, armed groups and disgruntled elements at an alarming level.

In a report to the UN General Assembly, Ban said the number of deaths of UN civilian staff members as a result of malicious acts rose to 25 in the year ending on June 30, up from 16 the previous year — an increase of 36 percent.

The year ending in June was also the worst in recorded history for humanitarian and other nongovernmental organizations, which lost 63 national and international workers to malicious acts, he said.

“I’m gravely concerned by the wide scale of threats, the rise in deliberate targeting of humanitarian and UN personnel and their vulnerability worldwide,” the secretary-general said in his report.

“The security of humanitarian and United Nations personnel continues to deteriorate,” he said.

“Violent acts against United Nations and humanitarian personnel in conflict and post-conflict areas continue unabated,” he said.

Ban called for UN security efforts to be strengthened but he said “the primary responsibility for the protection of United Nations staff rests with host governments.”

“Current security challenges call for global collective responsibility and steps to promote compliance with internationally agreed principles” to protect humanitarian and UN staff, he said.

The secretary-general urged all 192 UN member states to address the unlawful arrest, detention and harassment of UN staff and obstructions to their free movement as well as impunity for crimes committed against UN and humanitarian personnel.

During the year ending in June, he said: “humanitarian and United Nations personnel were the targets of deliberate attacks by extremists, armed groups and disgruntled sections of populations in all areas of humanitarian and United Nations operations.”

“While threats by extremists existed in the past in a few locations, the threats have expanded indiscriminately to all locations,” Ban said.

The attack against UN offices in the Algerian capital, Algiers, on Dec. 11, in which 17 UN staff members were killed, provides stark evidence of this disturbing trend, he said.

Ban said key factors in the alarming growth of malicious incidents include the expansion of UN operations, particularly in conflict and post-conflict areas; rising criminality; the spread of terrorist tactics; sharp increases in food and fuel prices leading to violent protests; rising public expectations and local dissatisfaction with UN operations; and the climate of impunity for violent acts against UN and humanitarian personnel.

During the year ending in June, Ban said, there were 490 non-fatal attacks on UN premises, installations and convoys and 546 cases of harassment and intimidation, 578 robberies, 263 physical assaults and 199 hijackings of UN staff. There were also 160 arrests of UN staff members by governments — and 39 cases where rebels or other non-state actors detained UN staff, he said.

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