NEWS

UN Personnel No Longer Protected From Attack

By Matthew Harwood

The new director of a United Nations panel to review security standards at UN buildings globally says UN personnel are increasingly targeted for attack as the perception of the organization's impartiality has eroded.

The New York Times reports Lakhdar Brahimi, the veteran Algerian diplomat tapped to lead the panel, said, “We have got to recognize that things have changed, and our blue flag does not protect us any more.”

Brahimi and his six member panel's creation stems from this past December's terrorist attack on UN offices in Algiers, Algeria, which killed 17 staff members and 42 people overall. Responsibility for the attack was claimed by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

The panel, according to Reuters, will not single out anyone in the UN or in the Algerian government for blame.

Brahimi insisted he was conducting a security review and not a full-scale investigation.

"I don't like the word investigation because it makes it look like I'm going to be a policeman," he said. "I'm not Sherlock Holmes. I don't know how to do those things."

Brahimi's refusal to hold those responsible for the security lapses in Algiers has roiled the United Nations Staff Union, which criticized the UN's Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for choosing Brahimi without consulting it. Reuters reports the union sent a letter this week to Ban that it wanted a full investigation into security at its Algiers' offices and "expressed disappointment that he appeared 'to have no interest in seeking a determination of accountability.'" Many officials at the UN and in the union have blamed the Algerian government for not doing more to protect UN offices and ignoring recommendations to up security.

The union, clearly frustrated that blame will not be assigned, wrote to Ban "that without accountability, there is impunity," and urged him “not to be complicit in a cover-up of what happened.”

The Algerian government had initially opposed the probe, fearing the UN would deflect blame onto Algeria for its own security lapses. But in an interview with the Times on Thursday, Algeria's deputy ambassador said his "country 's objections had been addressed" and that it would cooperate with the panel.

When questioned if his prior representation in the Algerian government presented a conflict-of-interest, Brahimi said no, because the bombing had affected him deeply and had also killed the son of a close friend.

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