Small Wars Journal

They Served an Abusive Regime. The U.N. Made Them Peacekeepers Anyway.

They Served an Abusive Regime. The U.N. Made Them Peacekeepers Anyway. By Kevin Sieff, Washington Post

The three officers had received blue badges and slipped blue covers over their helmets. They were now U.N. peacekeepers, sent from Burundi to help protect victims of a brutal war in the Central African Republic.

But each of them had a past the United Nations was unaware of. When the deployments became public, Burundian activists were aghast.

One of the officers had run a military jail where beatings and torture occurred, according to civil-society groups and former prisoners. Another had committed human rights violations when anti-government demonstrations erupted in Burundi last year, U.N. officials would eventually learn. The third had served as the spokesman for the Burundian army, publicly defending an institution accused of abuses.

They set out for the Central African Republic in different U.N. deployments over the past year. In each case, U.N. officials soon determined that the allegations against the soldiers and their units were credible enough to send them home.

The three cases point to a deeper problem: even as the United Nations’ peacekeeping responsibilities grow, it has proven incapable of excluding potential human rights violators from its ranks. The United Nations is managing 16 peacekeeping missions around the globe, with over 100,000 uniformed personnel and an annual $8 billion budget, more than 25 percent of it paid by the United States.

As the world body scrambles to fulfill its commitments, it is recruiting some peacekeepers from militaries that have records of abuse or serve repressive governments. Yet the United Nations does not have an effective system to weed out those with violence-stained backgrounds. That puts the institution at risk of deploying peacekeepers who will tarnish its credibility and even harm the people they were meant to protect…

Read on.