Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

UN Immunity Often Prevents Justice

While peacekeeping has changed much since the creation of the United Nations, the laws governing peacekeeping have not changed much. This results in a huge gap between the UN’s stated goals and reality when peacekeepers are not punished for the wrongs they commit around the word. Though a high-level panel will soon convene to discuss peace operations, their topics of discussion leave much to be desired. For such an important organization, impunity cannot be allowed free reign.

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When UN peacekeepers commit atrocities, someone has to act

Rosa Freedman, The Conversation
November 17, 2014

Sexual exploitation, child abuse, corruption and torture. These are just some of the many crimes committed by United Nations peacekeepers.

Such abuses have the potential to undermine and even delegitimise the work of the UN, yet they regularly go undetected or unpunished. A culture of impunity pervades, largely because of deficiencies in the laws governing peacekeeping operations.

UN peacekeeping troops have legal immunity from prosecution in the host state. The country that sent the troops to the host state in the first place is supposed to prosecute its soldiers for any crimes they commit there. But in practice, many don’t have the laws needed to conduct trials for acts committed abroad. Others systematically fail to uphold their obligation to prosecute. UN peacekeepers are essentially free to get away with terrible crimes because they know this jurisdictional gap provides them with impunity.

Peacekeeping activities were not anticipated by the UN’s creators. Now they are a fundamental part of the organisation’s work. When a country descends into chaos, army troops, police officers or civilian personnel from UN member states are drafted in to contain conflict, protect civilians, undertake peace-building activities and support national governments in post-conflict state-building.

There are up to 300,000 peacekeeping personnel operating in countries around the world. And while these troops work to handle crisis situations with great effect for much of the time, there have been high-profile cases in which they have been accused of human rights abuses.


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