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Report Peacekeeping

The briefing on Peacekeeping was held by Mr. Stadler Trengove, a lawyer from South Africa, who is currently working for the Office of Legal Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat. He started by telling us about his life and career up to his present responsibilities at the UN where he was currently working on the case of Charles Taylor. The former military dictator of Liberia, who had escaped to Nigeria, had been extradited by the Nigerian government on March 30, 2006, only a few days before the briefing took place. Taylor’s home country Liberia handed him over to Sierra Leone, where he is about to be tried for massive violations of Human Rights, such as genocide, rape, and forcing children to work as soldiers or sex slaves. Our speaker draw our attention to the International Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda which had also been designed by the UN, and could serve as role models for a Special Tribunal for Liberia.

Since Sierra Leone is a neighboring state of Liberia, some of Taylor’s guerrillas are in the country. Due to this fact, there would be a great danger of Mr. Taylor organizing unrest in Sierra Leone from his prison cell. Therefore, the UN was actively involved in establishing a Special Tribunal outside of Africa, as Mr. Trengove explained. This Tribunal would probably be installed in The Hague, Netherlands, where the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Court (ICC) are located.

After having informed us about this very recent topic, Mr. Trengove gave us an overview of the history of UN Peacekeeping missions since 1948, beginning with the first two missions: the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) in Israel, and the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), which observed the so-called “Line of Control” in Kashmir. He explained the important changes in perception of Peacekeeping operations after the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia 1995. Then, our speaker focused on the changes of Peacekeeping operations with the first “robust” mandate in Kosovo 1999. He told us about one of the major problems of the UN’s attempts to maintain international peace and security: While the UN’s original orientation had been to prevent interstate wars, the “image” of wars had changed fundamentally towards intrastate conflicts. He reported that in the year 2002, more than three quarters of all wars worldwide had been internal conflicts, either between different ethnic groups or between ethnic groups and their national governments, committing gross violations of Human Rights. The UN Charter is ambivalent in this regard. Article 2 Para. 7 describes one of the major principles of the United Nations: “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter; but this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter VII.” Chapter VII of the Charter, however, authorizes the Security Council to decide which measures, such as sanctions or a military intervention, shall be taken if it determines the existence of any threat to peace, breach of peace or act of aggression.

Knowing the provisions of the Charter, but also being aware of tragic intrastate developments, Mr. Trengove was convinced that a new understanding of Peacekeeping measures was needed and pointed out the case of Somalia in the early 1990s. Back then, the Security Council took a different approach to the term “peace” by interpreting it in a way that it was not merely the absence of war. In order to have peace in a country, certain provisions such as the respect of the Human Rights of its citizens had to be ensured. In its Resolution 794 (1992), the Security Council considered the suffering of the people of Somalia to be “a threat to international peace and security”. The resolution, which had been adopted by consensus, did not justify an intervention from neighboring countries affected by the conflict, e.g. because of the high number of refugees, but the Security Council authorized the US-led military operation “Restore Hope” because of the humanitarian catastrophe.

In this regard, Mr. Trengove drew our attention to the outcome of the World Summit 2005, where the appreciation of the values sovereignty and Human Rights was decided in favor of the latter. Although not binding, Member States supported a “responsibility to protect” which every state has towards its citizens and thus underlined the importance of this emerging norm. As long as a government is able to protect its citizens, the provision of non-intervention remains valid. If, however, a state is no longer able to provide this protection for its people or if the state itself is the originator or perpetrator of massive Human Rights violations, the Security Council may decide upon measures to end this situation.

Concluding, Mr. Trengove gave us a positive outlook on the future of international law: “There is hope that the ICC will be strong.” The following questions were concentrating on the International Criminal Court, leading to a controversial debate concerning its function and effectiveness. There were also substantial questions regarding the various regional examples made by Mr. Trengove.

Constanze Esch, Dania Röpke