UNHCR staff mark second anniversary of West Timor, Guinea murders

News Stories, 9 September 2002

© UNHCR/A.Kellner
In remembrance.

GENEVA, September 9 (UNHCR) Staff of the UN refugee agency gathered on Monday at its Geneva headquarters for a brief ceremony marking the second anniversary of the brutal murder of four UNHCR workers in Atambua, West Timor and Macenta, Guinea. High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers laid a wreath at the UNHCR Memorial, erected outside the agency's office to commemorate staff who had died in the line of duty.

"We can only pray for such incidents never to happen again," said Lubbers. "But our prayers will be more credible if we also try to protect ourselves better," he added.

On September 6, 2000, a mob of anti-independence East Timorese militia stormed UNHCR's Atambua office, killing Samson Aregahegn, Carlos Caceres and Pero Simundza, in the worst single security incident in the agency's history. Eleven days later, marauding rebels in Guinea, Western Africa, shot and killed Mensah Kpognon, the head of a UNHCR office in a remote area of the country.

Dozens of UNHCR workers and staff of partner agencies have been killed, abducted or taken hostage since the agency was established in 1950, but the sheer brutality of the Timor and Guinea murders was particularly shocking for the agency's staff and the entire humanitarian community.