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Honouring those who gave their lives in the service of human rights

“Let us pledge that we will not bow to those who seek to strike fear in our hearts by savagely attacking colleagues who are in the field with only the best of intentions for the communities they sought to serve. Let us pledge to remember and support those colleagues who are, on a daily basis, working in the face of very real dangers to their lives and health”

– UN Human Rights Chief, Navi Pillay

Brave men and women risk their lives every day serving the cause of human rights. Many of them work in some of the world’s most volatile and dangerous environments with one objective in mind: making the world a more equitable and safer place.

Whether it is through diplomacy, legal advice, training and advocacy, whether through research and investigation or through public campaigning, or through managing logistics and security, budget and technology, human rights staff members strive to make the enjoyment of human rights a reality on the ground, everywhere, at all times.

In February 1997, five human rights colleagues died in an ambush in Cyangugu, Rwanda.

In August 2003, the Canal Hotel in Baghdad was bombed, killing 22 people, including the then High Commissioner for Human Rights, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

In January 2010, the devastating earthquake in Haiti took the lives of two human rights colleagues.

In April 2011, a human rights officer was killed in an attack against the United Nations office in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan.

This page pays tribute to those people who lost their lives working to advance the rights of those around them in the face of great personal risks.

Rwanda, 1997
On 4 February 1997, five human rights colleagues died in an ambush in Cyangugu, Rwanda.

Iraq, 2003
On 19 August 2003, the Canal Hotel in Baghdad was bombed, killing 22 people, including the then High Commissioner for Human Rights, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

Haiti, 2010
On 12 January 2010 thousands of people in Haiti lost their lives in a magnitude 7 earthquake. The United Nations lost 102 of its staff, including two human rights officers.

Afghanistan, 2011
On 1 April 2011, a human rights officer was one of seven foreign nationals, killed in an attack on the UN office in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan.