UN Peacekeepers Perpetuating Sexual Violence: A Disgrace to R2P
The International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty first coined the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) in 2001, following the failures to intervene in the atrocities of the Rwandan genocide and the Srebrenica massacre. Such galling failures laid bare the need for the international community to shift the conception of sovereignty from an absolute right of states to their responsibility to protect their nationals. Under R2P, peacekeeping operations have been deployed in order to assist in stabilizing conflicts in war-ravaged countries and help them transition to peace.
In the original report published by the ICISS on R2P, rape is stipulated as a cause of intervention if employed as a form of ethnic cleansing. Given the intervention of the International Courts in conflicts where sexual violence was considered a crime against humanity, such as Rwanda and former Yugoslavia, the applicability of sexual violence to the principles of R2P has been affirmed.
However, peacekeeping forces have committed acts of sexual violence in virtually every country they have operated in. Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire, former Senator, commander of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, has “said there is a “culture of silence” and near-impunity for UN peacekeepers in their missions abroad, contributing to the growing scandal over sexual abuse and exploitation by the blue-beret troops.” In 2000, the Security Council issued its first resolution on women, peace and security: resolution 1325. It centered three principles: women participation in decision-making processes, gender mainstreaming, and protection of women from conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence. Thus, within the UNSC and R2P framework, prevention and protection of women from sexual violence is intrinsic to its law. As the R2P agenda emphasizes protection from sexual violence, the lack of investment in preventing it by the UNSC is troubling, particularly where U.N. peacekeeping forces are concerned.
As sexual exploitation and abuse violates the core tenets of the international doctrine of Responsibility to Protect (R2P), which peacekeeping operations espouse, how can the United Nations in general, and U.N. peacekeepers in particular, maintain moral authority and command international support when egregious acts of sexual violence are perpetrated against populations they are sent to protect?
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