Padmini Rao, reporter for the United Nations General Assembly- Disarmament and International Security Committee writes about the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations and the need to make sure that the people who are supposed to protect civilians do not get away with heinous offences.
The United Nations(hereinafter UN) was created to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war which has brought, on many occasions, untold sorrow to the world and its people, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of human beings of nations large and small. In order to perform these tasks, the UN intervenes in a conflict or war through its peacekeeping missions authorized by the UN Security Council after the negotiation of a peace treaty, if the parties involved request it.
Peacekeeping forces are contributed by member states on a voluntary basis. The UN Charter stipulates that to assist in maintaining peace and security around the world, all member states of the UN should make available to the Security Council necessary armed forces and facilities. Since 1948, close to 130 nations have contributed military and civilian police personnel to peace operations. While detailed records of all personnel who have served in peacekeeping missions since 1948 are not available, it is estimated that up to one million soldiers, police officers and civilians have served under the UN flag in the last 56 years. As of January 2017, the total number of UN Peacekeepers including police, mission experts and contingent troops was 100231, with 7762 peacekeepers from India, 6895 from Bangladesh, 7136 from Pakistan and 6126 from Rwanda.
According to scholar Page Fortna, there is strong evidence that the presence of peacekeepers significantly reduces the risk of renewed warfare, more peacekeeping troops lead to fewer battlefield deaths; and more peacekeeping troops lead to fewer civilian deaths.There is also evidence that the promise to deploy peacekeepers can help international organisations bring combatants to the negotiation table and increase the likelihood of a cease-fire.
Peacekeepers have helped humanity multiple times during the Arab-Israeli war, the Cold War, the Angolan Civil War, the Mozambican Civil War, the Lebanon Crisis and the Syrian Civil War to name a few, and the world is grateful for their bravery, but that does not mean they can get away with atrocious crimes like child sexual abuse, human trafficking and forced prostitution.
Such crimes have the potential to undermine and even legitimize the work of the United Nations, yet they regularly go undetected or unpunished. A culture of impunity pervades, largely because of deficiencies in the laws governing peacekeeping operations. United Nations 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 latitude.
UN peacekeeping operations have evolved from early boots-on-the-ground operations to complex missions over the past two decades as global politics have shifted. But the rules governing their work have developed on an adHoc basis. As a result, there are different laws governing the actions of different categories of peacekeeping personnel. While there has been reformist movement, particularly on very specific issues such as sexual violence, there has been little change in practice for a variety of political and practical reasons.
Peacekeepers have to be held accountable for the crimes that they commit and the accused should be tried by the International Criminal Court, and justice should prevail and hopefully the quote “If blue-helmeted United Nations peacekeepers show up in your town or village and offer to protect you, run” by Andrew Thomson will not have any basis anymore.


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