Victims of Peace: Current Abuse Allegations Against U.N. Peacekeepers and the Role of Law in Preventing Them in the Future

ILSA Journal of International & Comparative Law, Vol. 12, 2005

35 Pages Posted: 12 Nov 2008 Last revised: 17 Nov 2008

Date Written: November 11, 2008


This article addresses the increasingly prevalent and horrific allegations of sexual abuse made against U.N. peacekeepers. The primary allegations addressed are those from the Congo, as the most plentiful and readily available evidence of these abuses comes from the region. The goal of this paper is not merely to critique the U.N. and its handling of the current peacekeeper abuse allegations, as such a critique would only serve half of the problem. Rather, this paper will use the past and current understandings of the U.N. Charter, peacekeeping, international law, and military justice to suggest several options for handling both the current allegations facing U.N. peacekeepers, especially those in the Congo, and for a fundamental change in the peacekeeping mission, apparatus, and law in the future. Part II of this paper examines the origins of the concept of peacekeeping. It goes beyond the current concepts of U.N. peacekeeping to explore the plain language of Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, and the way in which it was originally interpreted - namely to substantiate a standing U.N. military force and centralized command with no mention of peacekeeping activities per se. Part III discusses the current allegations against U.N. peacekeepers in the Congo and elsewhere. Also included in this Part is the U.N. reaction to the allegations and the condom distribution system in effect for U.N. peacekeepers. Finally, this Part will discuss the spread of HIV through U.N. peacekeepers and the lax HIV testing requirements in place for peacekeepers both before and during their active duty. Part IV discusses the current laws in effect regarding peacekeepers. This discussion will illustrate that U.N. peacekeepers are essentially shrouded in protection from their home countries. Part IV looks at the current International Criminal Court (ICC) statute and discusses why the extension of the ICC crimes and procedures to peacekeepers would not be an effective way to ensure either prosecution of peacekeepers for individual abuses or eligibility for prosecution at all. To set the framework for the discussion in Part VI, this Part also includes a basic outline of the sanction power possessed by the United Nations Security Council. Part V describes the current status of the United States Code of Military Justice (USCMJ) and what prosecutions of peacekeepers would be allowed under it. A comparison of the procedural aspects of a prosecution under the USCMJ and the ICC statute provisions will be made as well. The culmination of this paper is Part VI, in which the author presents several possible options for addressing the current U.N. peacekeeper abuse allegations and for changing peacekeeping in the future. The conclusion of this paper, Part VII, restates the problems and suggestions discussed and offered throughout the paper. It also expresses the author's belief that peacekeeping as a concept offers many benefits, but that these benefits are outweighed by any types of abuses.

Suggested Citation

Harrington, Alexandra R., Victims of Peace: Current Abuse Allegations Against U.N. Peacekeepers and the Role of Law in Preventing Them in the Future (November 11, 2008). ILSA Journal of International & Comparative Law, Vol. 12, 2005, Available at SSRN:

Alexandra R. Harrington (Contact Author)

Albany Law School ( email )

80 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
United States

CISDL ( email )

Montreal, Quebec

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