Tokyo – Japanese Emperor Akihito said declining health might hinder ability to fulfill his duties, in sign of possible future abdication.Emperor Akihito, 82, said in a rare video address to the public that he worried his age may make it difficult for him to fully carry out his duties.In nationally televised remarks on Monday, Akihito also said there were limits to reducing the emperor’s duties as the “symbol of the state”, the status accorded to the monarch. “When I consider that my fitness level is gradually declining, I am worried that it may become difficult for me to carry out my duties as the symbol of the state with my whole being, as I have done until now,” he said.Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said shortly after the address that he would take the emperor’s remarks “seriously”.With MAP
In his message to mark the International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members, Mr. Ban said 24 UN civilian members of staff who have been arrested or detained in relation to UN-specific activities or under circumstances when access or due process was denied.“I demand full justice and due process for all and call for action on behalf of the two individuals, one in Eritrea and one in Somalia, who remain missing,” said Mr. Ban.The Secretary-General commended States that have ratified the 1994 Convention on the Safety of UN and Associated Personnel and urged all others to support the treaty without delay. He noted that the 2005 Optional Protocol to the convention, which extends legal protection to other humanitarian workers, is now two countries short of the 22 ratifications needed for its entry into force.He pledged to work with the UN staff union’s committee on security and independence of the international civil service to raise public awareness on the matter. “We must not relent in our efforts to secure justice in all pending cases and prevent further abuses,” Mr. Ban said.Staff Union President Stephen Kisambira said colleagues who had been arrested, detained, abducted or disappeared and their families would not be forgotten, and demanded better protection for international civil servants.“Civilian personnel carry out their work in strict neutrality and impartiality and should not be hindered in their functions,” said Mr. Kisambira. “It is ironic and sad that United Nations personnel have become pawns in violence,” he added.The International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members is marked every year on the anniversary of the abduction of Alec Collett, a former journalist who was working for the UN Relief and Works Agency in the Near East (UNRWA) when he was abducted by gunmen in 1985. This year’s commemoration comes four months after his remains were finally found and returned to his family. 25 March 2010Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged all States to strengthen the legal protection afforded to United Nations staff and associated personnel by adopting the main treaty aimed at preventing attacks committed against them and punishing those responsible.