The UN has been trying to reduce instances of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers for many years. Under a new Secretary-General and an assertive Security Council, the UN has finally taken measures which are necessary to address the issue. These measures include:
Security Council Resolution 2272, which gives the Secretary-General the power to send back entire contingents of troops if they are found to be engaging in "widespread and systemic" sexual exploitation and abuse.
Our view is that these reforms are welcome and necessary. However when it comes to instances of sexual violence a different response, based on human rights and criminal accountability is required.
Our campaign will establish the idea that sexual violence by UN Peacekeepers is a crime that merits a criminal justice response, and will push to make sure that states who are unable to prosecute perpetrators cannot contribute troops or police.
Criminal prosecutions for sexual crimes will strike a blow against the culture if impunity that permeates peacekeeping, and so allow the Secretary-General’s reforms to have a chance of making a difference when it comes to broader issues of sexual exploitation and abuse.
Mission Justice calls for acts of sexual violence by UN troops or police to be separately monitored and responded to, with a response based upon:
Clarity over responsibility for investigation. At every stage of the investigative process it must be clear who has responsibility for moving the investigation to the next phase, and the process of criminal accountability must take precedence over the administrative investigation. Responsibility cannot be shared or shirked, but must be held by a named individual at all times until the baton is passed on.
Prosecution as the end goal. An investigation into an allegation of sexual violence should only ever end in prosecution, or in a finding that there is not enough evidence to justify prosecution. The latter should trigger a review of how the case was handled and if evidence gathering mechanisms need to be strengthened.
No peacekeeper should be above the law. Peacekeepers who cannot be held to account criminally should not be deployed. We should protect potential victims, and protect peacekeeping, by not allowing troops or police to deploy unless their contributing country has demonstrated a willingness and ability to prosecute personnel who commit sexual crimes.
Our two-page policy paper, available here, details the five steps needed to turn these principles into practice.
Members of the UN Security Council have a responsibility to take action to address this problem. As the “penholder” on peacekeeping and having played a key role in Security Council resolution 2272, we look particularly to the UK for leadership on this issue.