Sign in to comment!

Menu
Home

Report: U.N. Shares Security Responsibility

Senior U.N. officials must share responsibility for serious lapses and "inadequate precautions" that caused unnecessary injuries in the bombing of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad (search), a confidential internal report says for the first time.

The highly critical report, obtained late Friday by The Associated Press, said World Health Organization (search) medical authorities estimated that "perhaps as many as 80 percent of the injuries and perhaps some deaths were caused by flying shards of glass" from windows that did not have shatter resistant film.

The Aug. 19 truck bombing outside U.N. headquarters in the Canal Hotel (search) killed 22 people and wounded more than 150.

In late June, the United Nations finally decided to get shatter resistant film for the windows but a U.N. official turned down an offer from the WHO to pay for immediate installation because competitive bidding already had started, the report said.

The report, by a U.N. team sent to Baghdad immediately after the Aug. 19 bombing, was the first to state that top U.N. officials bear some responsibility along with those dealing with security. It also said warnings before the attack were ignored.

The combined effect of "a series of individual lapses exposed staff to great risk even without the threat of or attack by a truck bomb," the report said. "A poorly functioning security management team, slow and bureaucratic in coming to decisions, not fully understanding their role and sloppy in its procedures led to inadequate precautions and lack of security discipline."

"Even though the professional security officers consistently raised other threats there was no real sense of urgency to deal with them. The security staff was not prepared for any major serious incident, there was no security plan and due to the lack of cooperation by (U.N.) agencies, staff numbers and locations were not known," the investigators said.

As harsh as this criticism is, the U.N. investigators said the security staff weren't the only ones responsible.

"Some responsibility for the vulnerability of staff lies at all levels of the organization and the associated agencies, funds and programs," the report said.

All senior U.N. executives and managers "must now ask themselves why many of their staff had no training" and why so many excess staff were sent to a conflict zone when the security level only allowed deployment of staff involved in emergency activities.

The report was one of the documents discussed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the heads of U.N. funds and agencies at their semiannual meeting on Friday.

Before that closed-door session began, Annan sent a letter to over 25,000 U.N. staff members worldwide saying he was appointing an independent team of experts to assess responsibility for the lax security that failed to prevent or reduce the high number of casualties.

Annan also pledged to take immediate action to implement recommendations in another highly critical report that was released last week that blamed "dysfunctional" U.N. security for unnecessary casualties in the Aug. 19 attack.

That report was prepared by a U.N.-appointed panel chaired by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari who said the United Nations must address the issue of accountability.

The U.N. investigators cited in the report seen Friday paint a picture of an organization that was "strongly influenced by considerations of image, politics, funding, and enthusiasm to deliver programs" in deciding to send U.N. staff back to Iraq after the U.S.-led war -- and that didn't pay enough attention to their security.

U.N. agencies and departments widely ignored the ceiling of 200 international staff in Baghdad set by security staff, according to the report. At the time of the bombing, there were about 350 international staff in Baghdad, and by some independent accounts as many as 560, the report said.

The report also said U.N. staff ignored warnings of an attack.

On Aug. 10-11, there were indications of an attack in the Canal Road area near the hotel in the next 10 days, the report said, and the daily U.N. security reports on Aug. 18 and Aug. 19 clearly identified the threat of an attack on the United Nations using "improvised explosive devices." But little attention was paid to the deteriorating security conditions, it said.

The report says the initial opinion of both the U.N. and FBI investigation teams was that "this was a well-planned and executed attack, probably directly targeting" top U.N. envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello "and other senior staff." Vieira de Mello and several top aides were in his outside office near the spot where the truck bomb exploded and were killed.

Unidentified U.N. security guards responsible for protecting Vieira de Mello were quoted as saying they had recommended moving his office because of its vulnerable location, but he had stated "that he was not concerned and would leave the decision to move to his replacement."