It was a sunny Tuesday afternoon when, on 19 August 2003, the UN Headquarters in the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, Iraq, suffered a devastating bomb attack. Twenty-two staff members died, including Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was at that time the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Representative of the Secretary General to Iraq. More than 150 people were wounded.
To remember those colleagues who died while serving the UN and the cause of human rights, the UN Human Rights office in Geneva held a memorial ceremony on Friday, 17 August, two days before the ninth anniversary of the Baghdad bombing.
“I am sure many of us are struggling with a complex mix of feeling – sadness, anger, frustration, reverence,” said UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay addressing family members, survivors, and colleagues of whose who died in the line of duty.
In her remarks, Pillay remembered all colleagues killed in the attacks in Rwanda in 1997, where five UN human rights colleagues died in an ambush, in Baghdad in 2003 and in Afghanistan in 2011, where three UN staff, including a human rights officer, as well as four international security guards were killed in an attack. She also paid tribute to the numerous other colleagues who have died while on mission or while based in field duty stations in accidents and natural disasters, including the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010.
“As we mark this day,” she said, “our thoughts go to their families and friends.”
The UN Human Rights office has strongly backed the UN Secretary-General’s initiatives to ensure that victims and their families are given the necessary assistance, information and remedies in a timely manner by the UN. “Despite all the efforts that have been made, there is still a long way to go for the United Nations. It is in the spirit of our Organization to provide support and assistance to them,” Pillay stressed.
Pillay remarked that the commemoration must continue every day, through our efforts to carry forward the important work of our fallen colleagues “with the dedication, diligence and courage that defined them.”
“Each and every one of us today is enrolled in the cause of making the enjoyment of human rights a reality on the ground, everywhere, at all times,” she said.
A space on the website of the UN Human Rights office will soon be launched to honour all colleagues who have died while serving the United Nations in the cause of human rights.
After Pillay spoke, colleagues took turns reading the names of the fallen. Readers included survivors, friends of the victims and the wife of a fallen colleague.
After a minute of silence, bouquets of flowers were laid at a memorial plaque outside the UN Human Rights office headquarters.
To honour those who lost their lives while serving in humanitarian operations, 19 August was proclaimed by the United Nations as World Humanitarian Day.
In memory of
Saad Hermiz Abona, Reham Al-Farra, Emaad Ahmed Salman Al-Jobory,
Raid Shaker Mustafa Al-Mahdawi,Omar Kahtan Mohamed Al-Orfali,
Leen Assad Al-Quadi, Ranilo Buenaventura, Sastra Chim Chan, Gilian Clark,
Luis Arturo Diaz, Mohammad Djilani, Joakim Dungel,
Manuel Martín-Oar Fernandez-Heredia, Arthur Helton, Rick Hooper, Reza Hosseini, Ihssan Taha Husain, Jean-Sélim Kanaan, Christopher Klein-Beekman, Yo Kubota,
Lisa Mbele-Mbong, Jean Bosco Munyaneza, Agrippin Ngabo, Aimable Nsengiyumvu, Khidir Saleem Sahir, Emmanuel Sindambiwe, Alya Ahmad Sousa, Martha Teas, GrahamTurnbull, Basim Mahmood Utaiwi, Andrea Loi Valenzuela, Sergio Vieira De Mello,
Fiona Watson, Nadia Younes.
17 August 2012