Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Code Blue plan to end impunity for peacekeeper sexual abuse

Code Blue has released a comprehensive plan to end impunity for UN peacekeeper sexual abuse by establishing special independent courts to deal with this issue. The plan aims to tackle the three largest issues surrounding peacekeeper sexual abuse: the historical and long-existing documentation of sexual abuse by peacekeeping personnel, the current system that allows perpetrators to escape prosecution, and the failure of the UN to address the underlying sturctural issues that allow for sexual abuse to occur.

A Practical Plan to End Impunity for Peacekeeper Sexual Abuse

Code Blue

October 13, 2016


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October 13, 2016: Three facts imperil the United Nations, its global peacekeeping operations and  the vulnerable civilians who have no choice but to rely on them.

First: the documented cases of sexual abuse by peacekeeping personnel stretch back for decades and  continue to this day.

Second: the system now in place permits almost all criminal perpetrators within peacekeeping missions—whether they are employed as UN staff, officials, consultants, soldiers or police—to escape prosecution.  Report after report from its own commissioned analysts have declared the Organization’s response to peacekeeper sexual exploitation and  abuse a “gross institutional failure” that  breeds a “culture of silence” and  is sustained by a “culture of impunity.”

Third: while it accepts this grave diagnosis—Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pronounced it a ‘malignancy’ and  a ‘cancer on the system’—the United Nations continues to minister to the symptoms rather than  undergo life-saving surgery. Mr. Ban’s blunt  metaphor suggests one inevitable prognosis: without proper treatment, the Organization’s culture of impunity for peacekeeper sexual abuse will metastasize to the UN’s major organs.

There is a cure.

We have consulted worldwide with authorities on international law and  human rights law; academics; past and  current UN officials and  staff, peacekeepers and  police officers; diplomats and civil servants; human rights practitioners; victims’ rights professionals and  sexual violence experts. We have analyzed the problem and  surveyed the existing options. Those deliberations led to the 2015 launch of the Code Blue Campaign and, ultimately, to the solution we’re proposing today: the UN’s Member States must create special courts for each peacekeeping mission to ensure impartial justice for everyone involved in or affected by cases of sexual offenses by UN peacekeeping personnel.

These international legal entities, funded directly by Member States, would necessarily be established and  run entirely separate from, independent of, and  unconnected to the UN Organization. These special courts would focus exclusively on allegations of sexual offenses lodged against personnel operating under the UN banner. Further, they would assume full responsibility for every step on the path to justice, from accepting reports made by victims and witnesses through to sentencing those found guilty.

Staffed by impartial, centrally appointed international and  national police, lawyers and  judicial professionals, this new, independent system of special courts would investigate, charge, prosecute, try, sentence, and  incarcerate. They would carry  out all their functions in the peacekeeping countries where the crimes occurred, implementing the rule of law in full view of victims, witnesses, and  communities. For would-be perpetrators, having the courts in country would serve as an active deterrent. For victims, the courts’ presence would restore faith that  the risks of reporting are outweighed by the benefits of seeing justice served. For the many UN personnel who aid and  abet the culture of impunity by remaining silent, the possibility of reporting to authorities outside the UN system would liberate them from their roles as complicit bystanders.

The special courts would receive all reports, referring cases where appropriate to troop- contributing countries with jurisdiction, and  handling the remainder. Member States would give the courts full legal authority to investigate and  try UN non-military personnel accused of sexual offenses, as well as soldiers sent by troop-contributing countries that  can  not or do not respond when allegations are referred.  In the spirit of UN system-wide coherence, alleged perpetrators would be held to a common standard—an agreed international definition of what  constitutes crimes of sexual abuse—and would submit to one system of due process.

Overnight, this solution would correct the two major defects in the current system of “justice.” It would end the intolerably unfair conflict of interest that  occurs every time the UN’s own staff  step in as unauthorized intermediaries in criminal matters. And it would begin to repair the damage done when the UN preaches good governance without practicing it. Citizens of peacekeeping host countries, activists, journalists and  the global public have followed this crisis with mounting anger and  cynicism. Respect will be restored when the UN eliminates the double standard, and  removes its staff  members from a range of conflicting roles, as legal advisors to both the accused and  the accusers, as unqualified investigators in criminal cases involving their colleagues, as prosecutors with no legal authority or credentials to assess, substantiate or dismiss evidence, and as magistrates rendering private, extrajudicial decisions affecting the lives of victims and criminals.

The UN declares one universal standard: zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and  abuse, The Organization has  even conceded that  the necessary protection provided by the “Convention on Privileges and  Immunities” simply does not apply to sexual abuse. But in reality, each of the many people associated with UN peacekeeping missions can  be subject to different processes, different standards, different consequences. As a result, impunity reigns.

Under pressure and the sustained glare of the global media, the UN Secretariat has slowly and reluctantly begun to pull back the curtain on how allegations of sexual exploitation and  abuse are handled. Each new revelation begs further questions, and reveals even greater gaps in how allegations are reported, recorded, investigated, prosecuted and punished.

The Code Blue Campaign is built on a strong commitment to multilateralism. We believe that  this increasingly complex world cannot survive and  thrive without the United Nations. That’s why we press hard for a strengthened, accountable, and transparent UN, with a policy of ‘zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse’ that truly lives up to its name.


Click HERE for the original press release.

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