At the age of 23, Sergio Vieira de Mello conducted the repatriation and integration of thousands of refugees on behalf of UNHCR after the proclamation of Bangladesh’s independence in 1971.
It was the first of many field operations during his 34-year career, and he was responsible for repatriation processses of refugees or peacekeeping in places like Sudan, Mozambique and East Timor.
A skilled negotiator, he held various positions at the UN until he was appointed High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2002. With the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, the then Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Vieira de Mello as his special representative in Baghdad, where he was the fatal victim of a terrorist attack at the UN headquarters.
In all the conflict zones in which he acted, he showed commitment and concern for the dignity of the victims of wars and humanitarian crises.