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Security Council calls protection of UN workers

Condemning violence, Security Council calls for protection of UN workers

One week after the terrorist attack against United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, the Security Council today strongly condemned all forms of violence against relief workers and urged countries to ensure that crimes against such personnel did not go unpunished.

The Council unanimously adopting a new resolution reaffirming the obligation of all parties involved in armed conflict to comply fully with the rules and principles of international law "related to the protection of humanitarian personnel and United Nations and its associated personnel, in particular, international humanitarian law, human rights law and refugee law."

The move comes exactly one week after the deadly terrorist bombing of the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, which served as the UN headquarters in Iraq. Killed in the blast were Sergio Vieira de Mello, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's top envoy for Iraq, and at least 22 others.

Immediately before the vote, the Secretary-General said: "I can think of no issue about which I feel more strongly…than the safety of those brave men and women who serve…in zones of conflict and danger." Calling for consensus on the resolution, Mr. Annan said a unanimous vote would "send an unambiguous message to all those who mistakenly believe that, in today's turbulent world, they can advance their cause by targeting the servants of humanity."

Today's text urged "all concerned, as set forth in international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Regulations, to allow full and unimpeded access by humanitarian personnel to all people in need of assistance, and to make available, as far as possible, all necessary facilities for their operations, and to promote the safety, security and freedom of movement of humanitarian personnel and United Nations and its associated personnel and their assets."

The Council also expressed its determination to take appropriate steps to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian and UN personnel, including by requesting the Secretary-General to seek the inclusion of, and that host countries include, key provisions of the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and its Associated Personnel.

Among those terms were those regarding the prevention of attacks against members of UN operations, the establishment of such attacks as crimes punishable by law and the prosecution or extradition of offenders, in future, as well as, if necessary, in existing status-of-forces, status-of-missions and host country agreements.

Another step would include issuing the declaration of exceptional risk, under that Convention, in certain situations, and inviting the Secretary-General to advise the Council where circumstances would support such a declaration.

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