Friday, December 18, 2015

UN report on handling of complaints about peacekeeper misconduct (now what?)

The External Review Panel created by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to investigate issues relating to the handling of complaints about peacekeeper sexual misconduct in the Central African Republic has submitted a hard-hitting report, as noted here in The New York Times. The full report is available here. Excerpt from The Times's account:
. . . In one of the most damning indictments of the United Nations system, the report found that its officials had “turned a blind eye to the criminal actions of individual troops,” and failed to protect or aid the child victims. 
Instead, the 111-page report said, United Nations officials obscured the allegations and focused on questioning the conduct of one senior staff member who had leaked the information to the French authorities.

“In the absence of concrete action to address wrongdoing by the very persons sent to protect vulnerable populations, the credibility of the U.N. and peacekeeping operations are in jeopardy,” the panel’s report said. 
The report raises broader questions about the organization’s willingness and ability to hold accountable its own staff and troops deployed to protect the most desperate people in war zones around the world.
Passing over the leisurely pace of the French investigation of the misconduct allegations directly at issue, one wonders whether the report will prove to be a galvanizing event and that the UN will at long last get serious about cracking down effectively on peacekeeper misconduct. The report observes:
It is not enough for the UN to report on acts of sexual exploitation and abuse perpetrated by peacekeepers. It must actively seek to ensure that the perpetrators of such crimes are identified and prosecuted. In CAR, HRJS had a particular responsibility not only to investigate violations and protect individuals at risk, but also to follow up on human rights violations and assist in bringing perpetrators to justice. Unfortunately, neither the SRSG of MINUSCA nor the head of HRJS considered the UN to have a duty to pursue the accountability process. As a result, they took no steps to inform the French government of the Allegations.
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Structures currently in place for the criminal prosecution of peacekeepers who commit crimes of sexual violence are ineffective and inadequate. Agreements between the UN and TCCs allow the latter to retain exclusive jurisdiction to prosecute crimes perpetrated by their troops. This means that the UN, the host country, and the victims have no recourse where the TCC chooses not to exercise its jurisdiction or engages in a flawed process. To address such circumstances, the UN should consider building on international models such as the one used by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which, in some cases, allows prosecution by the host country when the national government of the perpetrator does not take action. This serves as a means to put pressure on the TCC to actively pursue accountability processes.

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