If you don’t live in some alternate fantasy world where the United Nations has been pure as the driven snow, you’ve likely heard more than a few horror stories about UN Peacekeeping forces being involved in some decidedly bad behavior over the years. The details of most of these allegations are unsuitable for publication here, but under most normal circumstances the worst of them would fall under the category of war crimes. Of course, that’s a rather misleading use of the term because the places where such forces are deployed are frequently not even war zones. Some of them are providing relief to AIDS victims, starving people in famine stricken areas and even earthquake relief zones. But for the most part, such cases are are rarely investigated, and even if they are, the perpetrators are rarely brought to justice.
Perhaps the veil of secrecy around this is finally being lifted. Rosa Freedman, a senior lecturer at Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham, has an editorial at CNN where the subject is being shoved in the faces of those who normally choose to look the other way.
Earlier this month in New York, the advocacy group AID-Free World launched a campaign to end impunity for personnel who commit sexual abuse during U.N. peacekeeping missions. The rape and abuse of women and children has affected and untold number of victims over the years, said Graca Machel, author of the study “The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children,” speaking at the launch of the campaign, called Code Blue.
U.N. peacekeepers, including troops, civilians and U.N. staff who commit these crimes can do so behind a cloak of immunity, knowing that they will not be held to account for their heinous actions…
This is appalling and no doubt has contributed to a culture of individuals committing sexual violence knowing that they will get away with it. And it is to this appalling situation that the Code Blue campaign is drawing attention.
The detail is simple: Laws that protect perpetrators must no longer be tolerated.
The laws vary from nation to nation, but the author highlights what seems to be a recurring problem. In many nations there is diplomatic immunity baked into the cake so that the foreign forces “helping” out in the crisis can not even be charged in the host country, say nothing of being brought to trial and punished. And since the crimes take place on foreign shores, the people back home aren’t as worked up over it so they are rarely prosecuted. In the cases where they are, the charges and the punishments tend to be far more lenient than if the same acts were committed against a citizen of their own nation.
The stories, such as what happened to young boys in the Central African Republic at the hands of French troops, are simply sickening and need not be repeated here. And this is only one of many examples. It’s bad enough when profiteers go into severely affected, war torn or disaster plagued areas to make money, or even commit violence against adults. But there’s a special place in hell reserved for those who sexually abuse children as a requirement for even providing them with food and water. Unfortunately, in too many cases, it will only be when these perpetrators meet their maker that they see justice. If this is the United Nations and it relies on the support of all the countries of the world, it seems as if we could be doing a bit more in terms of handing out some justice here in this world as well.