A commemoration ceremony was held on 19 Aug 2023 to mark the 20th anniversary of the truck bomb attack on 19 Aug 2003 on the UN Headquarters at the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, Iraq that killed 22 people including the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello who was the then High Commissioner for Human Rights. The bomb targeted the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI).

More than 150 people were injured in the attack and they included local and international aid workers who were helping to reconstruct the country following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Vieira de Mello joined the UN in 1969 and he served with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva.  He worked in the newly established Bangladesh, in South Sudan, in Cyprus, Mozambique and Peru.  He returned to Geneva in 1980 and in Nov 1981 he went to UNIFIL.  This was his first involvement with a peacekeeping operation.  He returned to Geneva in Jul 1983. He later served with the UN Transitional Authority for Cambodia (UNTAC) and in Bosnia as the Political Director for UNPROFO.  He carried out an evaluation mission to Kosovo (UNMIK). Upon his return to New York, he delivered his report to the Security Council and was shortly afterwards named by the Secretary General as his Special Representative in charge of the UN Interim Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). Upon his return to New York in July 1999, he resumed his function as Head of OCHA.  He worked in East Timor with the International Forces of Intervention (INTERFRET) and subsequently with the UN Transitional Authority for East Timor (UNTAET),

In Sep 2002, he was named by the Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, as High Commissioner for Human Rights, based in Geneva. In May 2003 he deployed as Secretary General’s Special Representative in Baghdad.

The bombing is just one in a long line of atrocities that impacted on the lives of ordinary Iraqi citizens; it also highlights the risks for UN and humanitarian personnel in conflict zones. 



The full list of those whose lives were cut short twenty years ago reads as follows:

UN Staff
Sergio Vieira de Mello (Brazil)
Reham Al-Farra (Jordan)
Emaad Ahmed Salman Al-Jobory (Iraq)
Raid Shaker Mustafa Al-Mahdawi (Iraq)
Leen Assad Al-Quadi (Iraq)
Ranilo Buenaventura (Philippines)
Rick Hooper (USA)
Reza Hosseini (Iran)
Ihssan Taha Husain (Iraq)
Jean-Sélim Kanaan (Egypt, Italy and France national)
Christopher Klein-Beekman (Canada)
Martha Teas (USA)
Basim Mahmood Utaiwi (Iraq)
Fiona Watson (UK)
Nadia Younes (Egypt)

Saad Hermiz Abona (Iraq)
Omar Kahtan Mohamed Al-Orfali (Iraq)
Gillian Clark (Canada)
Arthur Helton (USA)
Manuel Martín-Oar (Spain)
Khidir Saleem Sahir (Iraq)
Alya Ahmad Sousa (Iraq)

Twenty years on, we remember them and the sufferings of their families.

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