Accountability for Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by UN Peacekeepers

Professor Joanna Harrington participates in conference panel in Ottawa organized by the Office of the Judge Advocate General of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Law Communications - 07 November 2016

The commission of sexual offences by UN peacekeepers, whether military, police or civilian, sadly remains a recurrent matter of concern, despite the UN's long embrace of a "zero tolerance" policy. As part of last week's annual conference of the Canadian Council on International Law, the Office of the Judge Advocate General of the Canadian Armed Forces organized a panel discussion on sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers, extending an invitation to the Faculty of Law's Professor Joanna Harrington to contribute a non-governmental perspective to the panel.

Chaired by Colonel Rob Holman, Deputy Judge Advocate General Military Justice, the conference panel also included Major Patricia Beh, Legal Officer in the JAG's Directorate of Law/Military Justice Strategic division, and Anne Burgess, Director of the Peace Operations Stabilization and Conflict Policy division at Global Affairs Canada. The panel considered various mechanisms for securing accountability and more robust victim assistance, as well as the legal challenges posed by issues of jurisdiction, extraterritoriality, and immunity.

The conference also featured presentations by Canada's Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Honourable Stéphane Dion, as well as a keynote address by the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, on the work conducted by the Court as well the challenges. Retired Supreme Court of Canada Justice Thomas Cromwell also delivered a keynote address, speaking on the judicial use of international law in Canadian cases.

Professor Harrington's participation at the conference was funded as part of her activities with the Canadian Partnership for International Justice, a SSHRC Partnership Grant project, with thanks extended to 2L student Jisoo Vis for research assistance.

Also participating in the conference were 2L students Shaun Campbell, Nikita Gush, and Areezah Jiwa, who arranged their visit to Ottawa with a view to gaining insights from both the conference panels and from one-on-one meetings with public sector lawyers working on matters as diverse as international environmental law, military operations, and investor-state disputes under Chapter 11 of NAFTA. Given the positive feedback received from students in attendance, the Canadian Partnership for International Justice hopes to provide funding support for more students to attend the annual conference next year.