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Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel
Report of the Secretary-General**
The present report outlines the threats against the safety and security of United Nations personnel over the past year as well as an update on the implementation of initiatives approved during the fifty-sixth session of the General Assembly. Because those initiatives are to be implemented over the course of the biennium 2002-2003, the report is a progress report on actions that have already been taken and an indication of what remains to be done.
** The present report was delayed because of difficulties in obtaining accurate data regarding the status of detained staff members from United Nations agencies, programmes and funds.
1. In its resolution 57/155 of 16 December 2002, the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to submit to it at its fifty-eighth session a comprehensive, updated report on the safety and security situation of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel and on the implementation of the resolution, including progress made by the Secretary-General in pursuing accountability and assessing responsibility for all individual security incidents throughout the United Nations system, as well as an account of the measures taken by Governments and the United Nations to prevent and respond to such incidents.
2. The report has been prepared in consultation with the members of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination and covers the period from 1 July 2002 to 30 June 2003.
II. Threats against United Nations personnel
3. As reported in past years, United Nations personnel continue to face significant threats to their personal safety and security in all regions in which they operate, the most dangerous of which is physical violence directed against them. Aside from deaths due to illness or vehicle and aircraft accidents, 196 United Nations civilian staff members have been killed since 1992 as a result of malicious acts. Five of those deaths occurred during the reporting period, the majority of victims being Palestinians working for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) (see annex I). (The figure of 196 deaths does not include uniformed peacekeepers. It also does not include 18 United Nations civilian staff members who have lost their lives since 1992 as a result of aircraft accidents due to technical problems. The losses resulting from the attack on the Canal Hotel in Baghdad on 19 August 2003 fall outside the reporting period.) A consolidated list of staff members who have lost their lives as a result of a malicious act, as well as an indication of the status of legal proceedings undertaken by the relevant Member State, is included in the report, entitled “Scope of legal protection under the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel” (A/58/187), which was submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 57/28.
4. The security of United Nations personnel continues to be compromised by numerous incidents of hostage-taking, kidnapping and sexual assault. In the past year seven incidents of hostage-taking and kidnapping occurred involving 14 United Nations personnel in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Georgia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Somalia.
5. The most prevalent threats to the security of United Nations operations are physical attacks, robbery and theft. More than 258 incidents of assault on United Nations and non-governmental organization (NGO) personnel were reported during the period, including 69 in Afghanistan, 30 in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory and 53 reported by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo. Harassment of United Nations personnel also continues to be widespread, with at least 168 such incidents reported during the past year.
III. Arrest, detention and other restrictions
8. The number of persons arrested, under detention or missing and with respect to whom the United Nations has been unable to exercise fully its right to protection declined slightly over the past year, from 39 to 34 cases. One case dates back to 1983, another to 1985, one to 1995 and another to 1997. A consolidated list of the staff members concerned is provided in annex II.
9. According to information provided by UNRWA, in the Gaza Strip a total of nine staff members were arrested and detained by the Palestinian Authority during the reporting period. Of those, seven were subsequently released. In the West Bank, the Israeli authorities detained 59 staff members, 23 of whom remained in detention at the end of the reporting period. Regrettably, UNRWA was not always provided with adequate or timely information by the relevant authorities on the reasons for the arrest or detention of its staff members. In the absence of such information, it was not possible to determine whether there were circumstances that would warrant the assertion by UNRWA of its right to functional immunity.
10. Throughout the reporting period, the United Nations community in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory experienced considerable difficulty and delays due to the closure of access roads. United Nations vehicles were stopped at Israel Defense Forces checkpoints and roadblocks, often for very extended periods of time. While passing through the checkpoints, United Nations personnel were on occasion abused and even physically assaulted. There were many incursions by both the Israel Defense Forces and the Palestinian Authority into UNRWA installations, resulting in substantial damage. UNRWA is particularly concerned at the number of incidents in which Israel Defense Forces operations were carried out in densely populated civilian areas, thereby causing an increasing number of incidental civilian injuries and fatalities, including the deaths of four UNRWA staff members and a school counsellor working under contract for the agency.
Civilian personnel who have lost their lives during the reporting period (1 July 2002-30 June 2003)
Consolidated list of staff members under arrest, detained or missing and with respect to whom the United Nations, the specialized agencies and related organizations have been unable to exercise fully their right to protection (as at 31 May 2003)