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UN Week – 10/11/10

October 31, 2010

 by    John and Douglas Carey, Editors,

Contents of this issue: killings by Afghan Special Guards; prosecution of UN peacekeepers.

Killings by Afghan Special Guards.

“5. On 17 July 2009, the Working Group [on the use of mercenaries], together with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and or arbitrary executions sent a communication to the government of Afghanistan concerning reports of a shooting incident that occurred on 29 June 2009 between armed Afghan Special Guards (also referred to by the local population as ‘Afghan Special Forces’) and Afghan National Police (ANP) inside the Attorney General’s office in Kandahar, Afghanistan. It is alleged that the Afghan Special Guards went to the Attorney’s General [sic] office to force-fully and unconditionally demand the release of a suspect, who had been arrested by the ANP in connection with a criminal offence for theft of a motor vehicle. An argument reportedly erupted inside the Attorney Gener-al’s office and that the Afghan Special Guards opened fire and killed the Chief of Police, the Chief of Crime and four other ANP officers. There are unconfirmed reports of civilian casualties.” A/HRC/15/25/Add.1 of 2 September at 3.

“65. While the precise identity and chain of command of the Afghan Special Guards is unclear, according to information received, it is an Afghan private entity operating as a security company. Information received indicates that if may be working with, or led by, American Special Forces in Afghanistan, or armed international intelligence services.” Id. at 11.

“72. The Working Group thanks the Government of the United States for its response to its communications and invites the authorities to provide a comprehensive reply to its follow-up letter dated 12 July 2010 regarding the link, if any, between the Afghan Special Guards involved in the shooting of the six Afghan National Police officers and any U.S. force, agency or organization.” Id. at 12-13.

Prosecution of UN peacekeepers.

          On October 8th, the General Assembly’s 6th (Legal) Committee discussed the criminal accountability of UN officials and experts on mission. A background document, A/65/185, concluded with these comments:

“106. Training on sexual exploitation and abuse and the code of conduct has been emphasized for all categories of personnel as part of the Department of Field Support preventive strategy. The vast majority of peacekeeping personnel in missions has attended such training. Refresher and ongoing training, training of trainers and technical assistance on measures to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse are also provided.

“107. Conduct and discipline teams have developed awareness-raising campaigns to inform the host population about United Nations codes of conduct and the United Nations zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse. Outreach activities and assessment visits within their respective mission areas have allowed conduct and discipline teams to identify emergent needs.”

Representatives of several countries referred to the possibility of a future convention, or treaty, to assure accountability of UN peacekeeping personnel. One purpose of such a convention was specified by Canada, to require countries to establish jurisdiction to try their own nationals for offenses committed abroad in UN service. Iran said discussion of a convention was premature. Russia said it would contribute to the drafting of a convention. Indonesia preferred the updating of the 1990 model status-of-forces agreement. The US said the efficiency or effectiveness of a convention was questionable. The Democratic Republic of the Congo urged adoption of a convention as soon as possible to deal with “sexual tourists.” India felt that no convention would be needed once the jurisdictional gaps were bridged. GA/L/3388.

As I have been arguing for months in these pages, what is needed is UN jurisdiction to punish those who commit offenses while wearing its uniform. Sending perpetrators back to their own countries is counter-productive, since complaining witnesses cannot get there to testify. The only question in my mind is what mechanism is needed in order to create UN criminal jurisdiction over its personnel.

We know that International Criminal Court jurisdiction was created by the Rome Treaty. But we also know that the international criminal tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia were created by the Security Council, on the theory of thereby protecting international peace and security. The same theory could easily be applied to criminal offenses committed by UN peacekeeping personnel, whose whole purpose is, by definition, to keep the peace.

That’s all for this October 11th issue of United Nations Week: News and Views. We’ll be back with the next issue. Meantime, do send your own views on these or other UN-related issues, to

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