Sun, Mar 27, 2016 - Page 6 News List

UN secretary-general calls for release of missing staff

AP, UNITED NATIONS

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday appealed for the release of all missing and detained UN personnel and urged that those responsible for killing a UN official in Iraq and others be brought to justice.

In Syria alone, the UN said 35 staff members are missing or detained, the majority from the agency for Palestinian refugees.

Ban on Friday said in a message marking the International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff that five UN personnel are being held by unnamed member states “without any reasons given for the arrests.”

He said six staffers were held hostage by armed groups last year before being released.

“Personnel, especially those deployed under dangerous conditions, deserve full protection and rights,” Ban said.

“I call on all parties to respect the rights, privileges and immunities of United Nations personnel,” he added.

Ban singled out the killing of Amer al-Kaissy, an Iraqi who headed the UN Development Programme office in Iraq’s Diyala Governorate and was abducted outside the government building in Baqubah on April 26 last year. His body was found and finally identified last month.

In 2014, the UN reported that 128 UN civilian employees were detained or arrested, and only a minority involved legitimate national criminal charges, the UN Staff Union said.

It urged Ban to establish a high-level panel to review security and laws related to UN personnel who are “increasingly facing deliberate attacks, kidnapping, abductions and unlawful detentions.”

Kevin Kennedy, the UN regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis, said that since March 2011 when the conflict began, 17 UN staff members have lost their lives.

In addition, 53 Syrian Arab Red Crescent staff and volunteers, eight Palestine Red Crescent Society staff and hundreds of medical workers have been killed, he said.

Credible reports indicate that at least 55 staff working for humanitarian organizations were killed in Syria since January last year, Kennedy said.

“This is a shocking and bleak reality,” he said.

“These people are not numbers. They have lives, stories, families and friends,” he added.

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