As part of its Online Learning Series on Humanitarian Law and Policy, on 27 March PHAP organized a session on the legal challenges related to UN peacekeepers operating in armed conflict. The session dealt with questions regarding the applicability of international humanitarian law (IHL) for peacekeepers, which rules of IHL are relevant for them, and how this applies to the recent attack in DRC, where 15 peacekeepers were killed and more than 50 wounded.
The event started off with a presentation from Marten Zwanenburg who outlined two approaches to the qualification of UN peacekeepers under IHL, as they could be considered as civilians, and thus lose protection for the time they participate directly in hostilities; or directly as a party of an armed conflict, and thus lose protection for the duration of the conflict. He later delved into the recent incident in North Kivu, pointing out that in order to consider the attack a war crime, MONUSCO should not be then considered a party to an armed conflict.
His presentation was followed by Keiichiro Okimoto, Legal Officer at the United Nations Secretariat, who further expanded on the legal and operational complications of considering UN peacekeepers a party of an armed conflict. He highlighted in particular that the courts will be the ones to determine whether the attack in DRC was as a war crime or not, stressing that the UN does not interfere in such criminal proceedings.
If you missed the event, you can watch or listen to the recording of the session and the Q&A at phap.org/27mar2018
Online Learning Series on Humanitarian Law and Policy
Understanding the key rules, principles, and norms of IHL and other legal frameworks – as well as the challenges related to their implementation, application, and enforcement – is critical to approaching humanitarian action responsibly and strategically. PHAP’s Online Learning Series on Humanitarian Law and Policy focus on timely issues providing an opportunity for continuous learning to legal practitioners as well as humanitarian practitioners in the PHAP membership seeking a more advanced understanding of laws and policies related to or affecting humanitarian assistance and protection in armed conflict.