AUT law academic Cassandra Mudgway has offered a way forward for victims of sexual exploitation and abuse committed by United Nations peacekeepers.
A hybrid court model is one way in which the United Nations could tackle the issue, says the academic. A hybrid court utilises mixed international and national staff, and expertise in law and order to fill accountability gaps for crimes of international concern.
Although the United Nations introduced a zero tolerance policy of sexual exploitation and abuse committed by peacekeepers against those in need in 2003, reports of rape, sexual violence, paedophilia, and exchanging food for sex, also known as ‘survival sex’, persist.
Allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers in the Central African Republic which increased 100% from 2015 to 2016, involving more than 200 victims, is just one example.
“This is not an isolated problem. It is not a recent problem” says Mudgway, whose PhD research focused on this issue.
“The UN does not have the capacity to undertake criminal investigation or prosecution. Troops have immunity from the host country’s criminal law system, so it is up to the troop’s home country to investigate and prosecute.
“The most the United Nations can do is send the perpetrator home, but with no enforcement process in place often allegations are not investigated. This results in an accountability gap, and no justice for victims. A hybrid court model could turn this around,” says Mudgway.
Hybrid courts have been used in East Timor, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia with varying degrees of success but would have the greatest potential to increase cooperation between the UN, troop contributing countries and host countries. The proposal is for the creation of a series of courts with centralised UN administration and mixed international and domestic (host state) personnel. The proposal also involves providing remedies and rehabilitation for victims. Mudgway says that her model holds peacekeepers accountable, centres victim interests and recognises the different contexts of each host country.
Mudgway states that a hybrid model is the best way forward as victims will see justice being done as the trial is held where the crime took place. The host state would also have some ownership over the process, with the UN acting as leaders in the process.
“Having sexual exploitation and abuse prosecuted at the international level will recognise the seriousness of the actions and the gravity of harm towards victims” said Cassandra.
She also said that remedies for victims should be forward-looking and aimed at dismantling an environment that creates and supports gendered violence.
Mudgway is currently producing a book based on her PhD research arguing for a series of hybrid courts for peacekeepers.