29/09/2003

Murders of Afghan aid workers condemned by UN

UN officials in Kabul have deplored the murder of two Afghan aid workers who died of gunshot wounds near Kandahar earlier this week.

David Singh, a spokesman for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) condemned “in the strongest possible terms the vicious and deliberate killing” of the pair. Both men were working for the Voluntary Association for Rehabilitation of Afghanistan (VARA), a local non-governmental organization (NGO) which partners with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The incident took place on Wednesday, when assailants, who were in a taxi, attempted to divert a VARA vehicle. When the driver refused, they opened fire and shot one worker, killing him instantly. The driver sustained serious injuries and died the following day in the Coalition hospital in Kandahar.

“These acts are being committed against dedicated Afghans who, on a daily basis and in spite of the risk, deliver critical services to their own people,” Mr Singh said. “These crimes can have no justification.”

Under international law, attacks knowingly and intentionally directed against personnel involved in humanitarian assistance constitute war crimes, Mr Singh pointed out.

“These recent killings once more confirm the critical necessity for all parties concerned to establish security throughout the country,” he said.

Two suspects in Wednesday's attack have been arrested by the authorities. The UNHCR spokesperson voiced hope that the perpetrators would be brought to justice and that security would be improved as soon as possible so that the agency can fully resume its assistance operation in the area.

The spokesperson also addressed the broader problem of attacks on humanitarian personnel.

“We are shocked and angered by the brutal targeting of aid workers, which is happening all too frequently these days,” he said.

A number of relief staff in Afghanistan have been killed this year. Two weeks ago, four Afghans working with the Danish aid agency DACAAR were murdered in Ghazni.

(gmcg)

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