On the eve of the International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members, the UN refugee agency is again appealing for the immediate release of John Solecki, who was abducted in Pakistan nearly eight weeks.
“The last we heard, John’s health was deteriorating and we are increasingly worried about his medical condition,” Ron Redmond, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters in Geneva today, the 50th day of captivity for the agency’s head of office in Quetta.
Mr. Solecki was abducted in an attack on 2 February that also left another colleague, Syed Hashim, dead.A group known as the Balochistan Liberation United Front claims to be holding him and has demanded the release the people it says are in Pakistani custody. Since 2004, rebels in the province have called for political autonomy and a larger share of natural resource profits.
Mr. Solecki is one of 19 UN staff members currently under arrest, detained or missing. The annual International Day is aimed at raising awareness globally of the risks faced by UN staff and its non-governmental organization (NGO) partners and journalists in carrying out their work.
“High Commissioner António Guterres and more than 6,000 UNHCR staff in some 120 countries around the world don’t really need a special day to remember John because he and his family have been in our thoughts each and every day since 2 February,” Mr. Redmond said.
“But the High Commissioner wants to take this occasion to remind everyone that attacks on humanitarian workers are occurring all too often and in far too many places around the world,” he added. “People like John Solecki have one goal – to help those in need. Attacking them hurts all of us, but especially the most vulnerable.”UN News Service