Friday, March 11, 2016

Prince Zeid speaks out on peacekeeper discipline

From a March 10, 2016 statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein before the Human Rights Council:
The continuing haemorrhaging of allegations that peacekeepers, particularly in the Central African Republic, have committed sexual exploitation and abuse is profoundly disturbing. The recommendations of the CAR Panel report on military peacekeeping contingents, the appointment of Jane Holl Lute as the UN's Special Coordinator, and the Secretary-General's latest announcement on further measures that will be adopted - all point to the urgent need to stop this appalling abuse by UN and other personnel of victims, some of whom are very young. 
I would like to dwell on some basic points, however. The UN is not a sovereign body, and cannot exercise criminal jurisdiction. It has only administrative control over its personnel, and the evidence it collects in the course of administrative fact-finding is not normally admissible in national courts. Only the Member States can act to end impunity for criminal offences, including sexual abuse, that have been committed by their nationals who work for the UN. Only Member States can conduct criminal investigations, and prosecute. 
Member States also have responsibility for investigating and prosecuting UN civilian personnel in peacekeeping environments where the judicial system is unable to do so. For States whose laws do not allow them to prosecute their nationals for offences committed in other countries, the UN, ten years ago, proposed a draft convention. That draft convention is still there. You, the Member States, should now adopt it, together with the Secretary-General's most recent recommendations - the principal ones drawn from my own report ten years ago. 
In addition, every time the UN announces allegations before the press - together with the nationality of the military or civilian staff concerned - I would also like to see the Ambassadors of their countries assume their responsibilities and join the press conference. 
There are few examples of States standing up to meet their responsibilities in respect of sexual exploitation and abuse and other serious offenses, and States that do should be commended for their leadership. Likewise, at the field level, I would like to recall the recommendation I made ten years ago that the UN should issue letters of commendation for military officers who work with the UN to report and resolve these cases. 
But let me also make clear that we cannot deal with sexual exploitation and abuse in isolation. As has been previously reported, we have received credible allegations of other serious crimes by peacekeepers in CAR, including torture and possible executions. All those crimes deserve attention and equally vigorous responses as the sickening acts of sexual abuse that are better known.

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