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Rights community mourns loss of exceptional human rights defenders in Iraq

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The international human rights and development community today mourned the tragic death of some of its most committed and talented individuals following the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad. The attack was described by Minority Rights Group International as ‘a brutal and unprovoked attack on those who offered the hand of friendship, justice and assistance, and an outrage against peace and human rights itself’.

Minority Rights Group International extends its deepest sympathy and condolences to the families and colleagues of all those killed and injured.

Among the many dead is Sergio Vieira de Mello, UN Special Envoy to Iraq and a committed UN diplomat and human rights advocate. Mr de Mello, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, had taken a temporary leave of absence from this post in order to devote his energies and vast experience of international humanitarian crises and conflict situations to the difficult post-conflict transitional period in Iraq. Others killed, whose contribution was less high profile but equally as important and committed, include Fiona Watson from Britain who worked on the oil-for-food programme, and Chris Klein-Beckman, a Canadian official of UNICEF. Arthur Helton, a tireless advocate for human rights over several decades was today also listed amongst those killed.

Minority Rights Group International believes that the United Nations has a vital role to play in Iraq in ensuring peaceful development, transition to Iraqi self-governance, and the promotion and protection of human and minority rights.

‘Those killed in Baghdad, both foreign nationals and Iraqi citizens, through their commitment and sacrifice were helping to establish a foundation upon which to build a society in which human rights principles are respected and valued. The greatest tribute to them will be the continuation of this vital work with renewed vigour and determination to succeed’ stated Mr Lattimer.

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