Saturday, August 15, 2015

Peacekeeper misconduct

The excellent Just Security blog has this timely post about UN peacekeeper misconduct by executive editor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin. She writes in part:
. . . It is fair to say that peacekeeping has a positive impact in many countries experiencing or emerging from conflict and its absence would create multiple other insecurities for populations in conflict-affected states. Taking away the peacekeepers is not the solution. However, when readily identifiable troop contributing states have been consistently implicated in sexual violence, and have consistently shown an unwillingness to train, discipline, and make their soldiers criminally accountable, then the privilege of UN service should be withheld. The bottom line on preventing sexual violence by peacekeepers in the [Central African Republic] and elsewhere is accountability. 
That accountability starts at the very top. Where a force has been implicated in sexual violence then, the United Nations Secretary General has an obligation to seek the resignation of the force commander. This realisation emerges in the decision taken by the Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon asking General Babacar Gaye, the head of UN peacekeeping operations in the Central African Republic to resign. In a universe of military command responsibility, the head of a peacekeeping mission is ultimately responsible for the systematic exploitation and violence against populations that troops have a responsibility to protect. 
The second step is to meaningfully implement investigation and prosecution procedures. In most cases of sexual violence, a UN investigation takes up to or beyond 18 months. By the time the investigation is over, the evidence has disappeared, victims are more vulnerable and the soldiers have been whisked off home. Investigations have to be resourced intensively and become effective mechanisms to show those harmed that their injuries are taken seriously. 
The third step is punishment. In most cases of peacekeeper violence, there are few consequences for the perpetrators. Consistent standards must be enforced by the terms of Status of Force Agreements with troop contributing states. These standards must set out consistent processes and penalties for sexual violence without exception. When soldiers know that the penalties and costs are near zero for violence committed in places far from home, a culture of impunity reigns. 
The United Nations continues to issues platitudes to the victims, and occasionally senior heads will roll. In reality though, unless there is consistent articulation and enforcement of penalties within the military chain of command, including for commanding officers, the litany of sexual violence will not go away.
We've suggested it before: how about sending trial observers, such as retired judge advocates, to sit in on courts-martial and summary trials arising from peacekeeper misconduct, and requiring them to report back on the proceedings. Were they shams? What were the outcomes? If you have a better suggestion, please comment. [Real names only, please.]

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