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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

UN Protests Aid Worker Abduction




GENEVA -- United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata on Wednesday appealed for the release of an official from her UNHCR agency who was kidnapped in southern Russia three months ago.


Ogata issued her appeal as the staff of the UNHCR's Geneva headquarters, supported by representatives from other international aid organizations, staged a silent march in the city in support of the official, Vincent Cochetel.


"In recent years, an increasing number of humanitarian aid workers have been victimized around the world," Ogata said in a statement.


"It is outrageous that aid workers, who help people in need become deliberate targets of murder, hostage-taking, harassment and other forms of violence," she said.


Ogata said all governments should do their utmost to secure the release of the some 50 staffers of various UN and other aid bodies who were currently known to be held by abductors or were missing.


Cochetel, a 37-year-old Frenchman, was seized at gunpoint in Vladikavkaz in Russia's northern Caucasus region. He headed the UNHCR's local office, which had been involved in helping some 100,000 refugees and displaced in the troubled area.


A native of Tours in central France and a former employee of the European Commission, he had previously served as a legal officer at UNHCR centers in Turkey and France as well as at its Geneva headquarters.


A similar march to draw attention to his plight was planned later in the day in Tours, UNHCR officials said.


In the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, international aid workers stationed in the city held a march organized by the UNHCR office there to show their solidarity in calls for the release of Cochetel.


Representatives of other United Nations groups and the International Committee of the Red Cross took part in the Tbilisi rally.


Two British aid workers have been held hostage in Chechnya since last July, and several other foreigners have been kidnapped in and around the separatist region, where Russia fought a bloody two-year war before withdrawing in humiliation in August 1996.