International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Tag Archives: Peacekeeping

South Sudan’s peacekeeping chief fired over gross negligence

The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, has fired the peacekeeping chief in South Sudan after aid workers claimed that UN troops refused to respond when soldiers attacked an aid compound in July. This failure to act resulted in the death of a journalist and the rape of aid workers, and the deaths of at least 73 others in the three days of violence. Among the dead there were over 20 internally displaced people who had sought UN protection and two Peacekeepers. The Peacekeeping Chief was Kenyan Lt General Johnson Mogoa Kimani Ondieki, and Secretary General Ban has called for his immediate replacement. Because of inadequate leadership, the four battalions (China, Nepal, Ethiopia, and India) acted on conflicting orders, and all four ineffectively responded to the violence. Because of this gross negligence, “civilians were subjected to and witnessed gross human rights violations, including murder, intimidation, sexual violence and acts amounting to torture perpetrated by armed government soldiers.” Both the political factions in South Sudan are accused of Atrocity Crimes, and it is not clear which one committed this act.

There are currently 16,000 peacekeepers in South Sudan.

Allegations of UN Peacekeeping Forces Killing Seven Civilians in Darfur

Tensions continue to rise in Sudan as a force of peacekeepers in Darfur is accused of killing seven civilians in three separate incidents just last week. This recent peacekeeping development only threatens the strained relationship between the government and international forces. In response to these allegations, the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has claimed that the attacks were self-defense. The two attacks on April 23 and 24 left four Sudanese dead and six peacekeepers wounded. The UNAMID has been in Darfur since 2007. Their mandate is to stem the violence against civilians, and recently their mission has stirred up controversy with attempts to investigate an alleged mass rape by Sudanese soldiers in the town of Tabit. UNAMID has said that 61 peacekeepers have been killed in Darfur since deployment in 2007.


Previous blog posts have commented on the controversy that surrounds peacekeeping. The most famous example is the Dutch peacekeeping mission in Srebrenica that has been called partially responsible for the deaths that occurred during the 1995 massacre. Problems and controversies with peacekeeping are serious threats to justice—if the people trying to find and restore justice are committing crimes and not being held accountable, then is progress really happening? A lack of accountability for crimes committed by peacekeepers is a serious problem that threatens peace in the threatened area and brings up questions of impunity. In the case of Sudan, as Bashir continues to hold onto power, these strained relationships are only going to act as a spark plug to the conflict.

UN Peacekeeping and Accusations of Sexual Abuse

An internal study conducted by the United Nations was recently leaked to the public, bringing to light ignorance towards sexual exploitation across peacekeeping missions. The study looked at missions in the Congo, Haiti, Liberia and South Sudan. These countries account for 85% of all sexual abuse cases, 30% of which involve minors, but the study has found that the actual number of incidents of sexual abuse could be far higher than previously reported.

This report shifts the international conversation about impunity away from the actions of criminals and towards the actions of those we expect to protect the vulnerable. How can we expect the international judiciary system to keep criminal leaders and their followers accountable for their actions when it cannot even keep its own forces accountable? Peacekeepers are some of the most easily accessible figures in the international justice system considering their position within the United Nations, and yet “UN personnel in all the missions [the researchers] visited could point to numerous suspected or quite visible cases of [Sexual Exploitation and Abuse] that are not being counted or investigated,” according to the report.

From allegations of peacekeepers forcing Liberian and Haitian girls to perform sexual favors for food in 2006 to peacekeepers in the Ivory Coast, southern Sudan and Haiti raping children as young as 13, the report highlights a disregard for Ban Ki Moon’s “zero-tolerance policy ‘towards all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse.'” (The Guardian)

How can the international community expect transparency in all states when the United Nations itself is not transparent?

How will the international community respond to Boko Haram?

In this recent article, the international community’s complacence about becoming involved with Boko Haram is pointed out. Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group, has been committing atrocities across Nigeria. Founded in 2002, they began military operations in 2009 to create an Islamic State, and they have since sworn allegiance to ISIS. The complacency, regarding Africa, might be partly explained by the recent developments in Paris. However, this is not the first instance of African atrocities taking a backseat to other international issues. Why does this happen and how can the international community work to overcome it’s bias of interest? Is that possible? The ICTJ article claims that action needs to be taken now in order to stop Boko Haram, which I agree with, however what exact type of action is unclear. Is the only way to stop Boko Haram by use of military? After all, even if research is collected pertaining to the atrocities it is unlikely that high ranking responsible officials would be able to be tried until after the conflict has ended. Even if it were possible to extradite the responsible individuals while the conflict was going on, would their removal stop violence completely? By it’s nature, it appears that the ICC works as a response. So, in a previous post Professor Tiemessen mentioned that UN Peacekeepers have been given a greater ability to use force when protecting civilians. Would a situation like this benefit from an external international force intervening? Should there be an internationally recognized group authorized to use force in order to stop atrocities?

Dutch Liability in Srebenica

BosniaIn July of last year, a Dutch court in The Hague determined that Dutch troops acting as UN peacekeeping forces in Bosnia-Hercegovina were at fault for the deaths of more than 300 Muslim men and boys. These deaths compose part of one of the most famous genocides in international history, an episode of ethnic cleansing perpetrated by Bosnian Serbs. The judge presiding over the case said that the soldiers should have known that deporting the Bosnian Muslims from the UN-sponsored Dutch compound would have meant their death. This ruling raises an important question: how will those responsible for the Dutch action (or lack thereof) be prosecuted for their roles in the act of genocide? The court has yet to announce how the families of the 300 men and boys killed by the decisions of the Dutch forces will be compensated, but there hasn’t been any word about the possibility of punitive actions against those responsible in the eyes of the court.

Israeli state accused of attacking Palestinian footballers

This isn’t like most articles concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict per say, but I’m particularly interested in the occasions that sport, particularly football, is affected by real world conflicts (in fact, my thesis is on this general topic).  This article details the violent attacks experienced by two Palestinian youth soccer players that were shot repeatedly in the foot and mauled by dogs at a checkpoint, effectively ending their careers.  According to the article’s author, Dave Zirin, this isn’t the first of such attacks on Palestinian players.

While attacks on footballers is sometimes trivialized as fan violence, it is rarely taken to this extent and almost never by state officials.  What’s more, the Palestinian national football team, for a people without an official state, is invaluable to the peoples’ sense of identity (it would actually be really interesting to investigate how they were given the ability to form a team by FIFA in the absence of an official state).  After the recent violence n their team, the Palestinian Football Association’s chairman, Jibril al-Rajoub, demanded “the expulsion of Israel from FIFA and the International Olympic Committee,” adding that several nations, including Jordan, Qatar, and Iran, supported this ban.

FIFA, in its own way, has tried to play a part in peacekeeping, seeking to mediate a committee of both sides’ authorities to make passage across the security checkpoints easier, but the governing body has found both sides at a standoff. Al-Rajoub said, “this is the way the Israelis are behaving and I see no sign that they have recharged their mental batteries.”  FIFA, while being an international governing body, is in these cases often cautious to make direct recommendations to states concerning policy, preferring to stay within the realm of sports.  I guess my question would be whether mediating direct violence such as this is even with FIFA’s jurisdiction and at what point organizations such as the UN should get involved.

In general, getting the Israelis and Palestinians to come to the negotiating table has not been successful, with John Kerry telling the American Jewish Committee that “we’re running out of time. We’re running out of possibilities.”  The violence enacted upon Palestinian footballers is surely only one symptom of this conflict.  What good can the governing body of a sport do in a peacekeeping situation that is decades old?  What obligation do they have?

South Sudan and International Support

Over the last few weeks, the international community has turned its attention to the ongoing crisis in South Sudan, one that began almost exactly three years after the country held its first-ever elections after seceding from Sudan. The United States, United Nations, and African Union have all contributed to efforts to encourage peace, and observers have already begun discussing how South Sudan will rebuild after the conflict is over.

The conflict began in mid-Decemberwith fighting in a military barracks in Juba, the capital, which President Salva Kiir labeled an attempted coup by his former Vice-President, Riek Machar. Kiir had fired Machar in July. Fighting quickly spread throughout the country, and the availability of arms allowed many civilians to become involved. Violence between the Dinka and the Nuer, the country’s two largest ethnic groups, led to abandoned neighborhoods in  The International Crisis Group estimates that there have been close to 10,000 casualties in South Sudan, and hundreds of thousands of people are displaced.

A New York Times Room for Debate column along with articles on The Atlantic’s website and the blog African Arguments have considered the role of the international community—particularly the U.S. and other Western powers—in a post-conflict South Sudan. Hank Cohen, the former Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, noted that South Sudan started with very little in the way of infrastructure—only 35 miles of paved roads, little access to electricity or running water, and few schools. In supporting a UN trusteeship for South Sudan, Cohen argued that, unlike African countries that gained their independence in the 50s and 60s, South Sudan had little support for its governance—practical help with the challenge of governing a new nation. G. Pascal Zachary, for The Atlantic, also supported trusteeship for South Sudan, and the article’s headline, “Post-Colonialism,” anticipated the numerous criticisms of neocolonialism.

South Sudan will likely need some form international support—the AU hosted peace talks, the UN and NGOs are providing aid—but the extent of what that can and should look like is unclear. The US was instrumental in helping South Sudan gain its independence, and so some have claimed that we have a unique responsibility—and opportunity—to help South Sudan recover. And the pieces calling for foreign governance are correct in identifying infrastructure as a significant limitation to statebuilding.

The crisis brings up the question of international responsibility to intervene. Foreign and UN troops are on the ground in the country, but how long should they stay? What is the correct balance of military, civilian, and technical support? At what point would their presence move beyond support and into either neocolonialism or, post-transition, supporting an unstable government?

Dutch Peacekeepers are Found Responsible for Deaths

Dutch Peacekeepers are Found Responsible for Deaths

Here is a link to an article about a recent trial regarding the Dutch’s responsibility in the 1995 Srebrenica Massacre that we spoke about in class today. In September of last year, the Dutch Supreme Court ruled that the Netherlands was in fact responsible for the deaths of three Bosnian Muslim men because Dutch peacekeepers had wrongfully ordered them to leave UN compound. What’s really interesting is one of the families that filed this lawsuit, was the young man we watched in one of the videos, the one who was allowed to remain on the base because he was a UN translator while his mother, brother and father were forced to leave.

this verdict gives the U.N a certain level of accountability for the thousands of death that took place during the massacre, saying that the Dutch peacekeepers had ‘effective control’ of the troops so as a result they must share responsibility for the crimes. Many victims feel that this verdict brings true justice, because it sets the precedent that the U.N actors are held accountable too, and cannot hide behind the U.N wall of immunity. I don’t know if i necessarily agree with this verdict, but it definitely does send the message that by allowing this travesty to happen, you are just as responsible as the ones who committed the crime

Lack of Accountability in Ivory Coast could lead to continued violence

Violent attacks persist in Ivory Coast along ethnic/political lines between former President Laurent Gbagbo’s supporters and those of current President Alassane Ouattara. A visiting senior UN human rights official noted the urgency of ending impunity for Ouattara’s supporters in maintaining peace in the region.

The two most relevant incidents were a result of political/ethnic tensions between the group that supported the ousted President Laurent Gbagbo and those who support the current president Alassane Ouattara. In April 2011, Ouattara supporters raided the town of Dueokoue as part of their campaign to gain territorial control of the country, leaving approximately a thousand victims, mostly members of the ethnic group that supported Gbagbo. “After taking over the town, pro-Ouattara forces committed horrific abuses, killing several hundred people.” (Human Rights Watch)

More on Duekoue massacre:

As a result of the post-election violence, refugee camps were set up, one of these being Nahibly. This camp, which housed mostly Gbagbo supporters, was burnt to the ground in July, 2012, allegedly in response to an attack by some of the dwellers on Ouattara supporters the day before in a town nearby. Five people were killed and most camp residents had to flee to the surrounding areas. Read more here.

“[The] gruesome attack reflects the country’s persistent political tensions between supporters of former ousted President Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to accept defeat at the polls in 2010, and the loyalists of democratically elected President Alassane Ouattara.” (Aljazeera)

These “persistent political tensions” may be due in great part to the lack of accountability Ouattara supporters’ crimes enjoyed. According to Human Rights Watch, “no one has been credibly investigated, much less arrested, for these crimes.” Because of the state’s inability to bring perpetrators on Ouattara’s side to justice, tensions are never alleviated, and cycles of violence continue endlessly. This is a really relevant example of our discussion on the relationship between peace and justice, in this case, how accountability is essential for the prevention of future violence.



U.N. Peacekeeping in the Eastern Congo

This article offers an interesting insight into the myriad difficulties faced by U.N. military intervention, specifically in the Eastern Congo. As highlighted in the article, MONUSCO has repeatedly failed to protect the civilian population as per its mandate-the most striking example involved rebels decapitating civilians and parading their heads in front of an apathetic peacekeeping force. The litany of failures by MONUSCO is appalling, as per the article:

In 2005, MONUC (the former name for MONUSCO) expelled 63 of its soldiers for paying refugee children for sex. A separate internal inquiry the same year found that Pakistani peacekeepers sold weapons to militias in exchange for gold. While those incidents may be exceptional, TIME has seen in repeated trips to eastern Congo how, at the first sign of trouble, blue-helmet peacekeepers habitually barricade themselves into their bases, leaving crowds of several thousand refugees who tend to gather outside to fend for themselves.

Given the fairly obvious failures of the U.N. peacekeeping force to protect civilians, does it instead make more sense to focus efforts on alternative means of support? A large majority of the authors read and discussed thus far are concerned with rebuilding societies after conflict and devastation have occurred, not during. Given the inability of the U.N. to protect civilians through peacekeeping forces, what other means can be employed, or is it simply a matter of reforming MUNESCO?