Sunday, April 10, 2016

"Rock bottom" for peacekeepers

The Foreign Policy blog has this important post by Margaux Benn about the problem of indiscipline among UN peacekeepers, especially in the Central African Republic. Excerpt:
. . . During a visit to Bangui last week, U.N. peacekeeping chief Hervé Ladsous floated the idea of creating special martial courts to try alleged perpetrators in the countries where the abuses occurred (though he didn’t say who would sit on them). He also raised the possibility of requiring DNA samples for all troops set to deploy to U.N. peacekeeping missions in order to “facilitate paternity tests.” 
“This would show victims that their case is, indeed, taken care of and guarantee that decisions are made transparently, which might not otherwise be the case,” Ladsous said. 
But reforms like these would require the consent of troop-contributing countries, which have historically been reluctant to concede authority over their solders to the United Nations. According to multiple U.N. sources, they are not likely to change their stance on this issue.
Ms. Benn's post is also noteworthy because it points out that the problem  of misconduct by UN personnel is by no means limited to troop contingent personnel: civilian personnel are also involved:
[T]he focus on military personnel obscures the fact that civilian staff who answer directly to the U.N. have also been implicated in the sexual abuse scandal — and in shockingly high numbers. According to data from the U.N.’s Conduct and Discipline Unit, civilian staff have accounted for as many as half of sexual misconduct cases in some U.N. missions, despite the fact that they are greatly outnumbered by uniformed peacekeepers. In CAR, three civilian staff members have been accused of sexual abuse and exploitation to date. (Unlike peacekeepers, the nationality of civilian U.N. staff accused of sexual misconduct is not made public.) 
These staff members should be easier to prosecute in the countries where the missions are taking place, at least in principle. Although they benefit from immunity just like peacekeepers, U.N. missions can request a waiver from the secretary-general for serious criminal cases, such as rape. If the request is granted, the accused staff member would fall under the jurisdiction of the host government. MINUSCA spokesman Vladimir Monteiro would not say whether any such requests for waivers have been made, but to date no U.N. personnel have been referred to local authorities.

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