Obtaining justice through courts virtually impossible for child victims of peacekeeper sexual abuse: REDRESS and CRIN report

Child sexual abuse by peacekeepers usually goes unpunished and few victims secure reparations, according to new research by human rights organisations REDRESS and the Child Rights International Network. 

The joint report, Litigating Peacekeeper Child Sexual Abuse, examines the success of litigation in pursuing justice for victims by looking at cases in which victims and their representatives have turned to the courts to seek accountability and redress. 

Sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers has been well documented over recent years, but accountability for these crimes remains elusive. 

Almost 2,000 allegations, including 300 complaints involving children, were reported between 2004 and 2016However, the precise number of cases is unknown. Many of the most disturbing cases have involved children, with peacekeepers from Sri Lanka, Uruguay, France, Pakistan and other countries implicated in crimes in Haiti, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and elsewhere. 

Troop-contributing countries have shown themselves largely unable or unwilling to prevent abuse, prosecute the perpetrators or provide redress to the victims. The UN’s role has also been criticised, prompting extensive internal reforms. 

In each of the case studies examined in the report, suspected perpetrators were not convicted or were subjected to lesser sanctions than their crimes merited. In not one of the case studies did the victims receive the full reparations to which they were entitled. Not surprisingly, the lawyers and NGOs interviewed for the research reported that their clients did not feel they had obtained justice. 

The case studies identify some key obstacles that prevent the perpetrators of peacekeeper child sexual abuse from being held to account, and that prevent victims from obtaining redress. These include: the quality of investigations; immunities and the exclusive jurisdiction of troop-contributing countries; a lack of transparency in prosecution processes, particularly in military court martial processes; the absence of a victim-centred approach; and failure to take the best interests of the child victims into account. The report recommends a series of reforms to policies, practices and legislation in troop-contributing countries and the UN to remove these obstacles to accountability and redress. It also identifies proposals for strategic human rights litigation to address existing failings. 

The report was researched using desk-based analysis and interviews by a multi-lingual team from REDRESS and the global law firm White & CaseThe report builds on previous research conducted by Redress for its 2017 Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in Peacekeeping Operations report (available in French here) This report studied the steps that had been taken by specialist bodies, organs and agencies of the UN, and other international organisations engaged in peacekeeping, to address victims’ rights and needs following allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse in countries including the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Haiti. 

For more information about our Litigating Peacekeeper Child Sexual Abuse report, visit the redress.org or home.crin.org websites. 

“Child sexual abuse by peacekeepers amounts to torture and is a crime of the highest order. It is an extreme form of abuse of power against the most vulnerable individuals carried out by those brought in to protect them,” said Rupert Skilbeck, Director of Redress. “Denying justice and redress to these victims, who have suffered significant harm, not only violates victims’ rights, but also contradicts the international framework of the rule of law under which peace operations operate.”

Leo Ratledge, Legal and Policy Director at CRIN, said:

“This research shows the struggle to hold peacekeepers accountable for abusing children, but also points the way forward. It is possible to hold perpetrators to account, and it is only when this happens that the abuse will end.”

To request and interview, please contact Eva Sanchis, Redress’ Head of Communications, on [email protected], +44 (0) 20 7793 1777 or + 44 (0) 7857 110076 (out of hours) or Leo Ratledge, CRIN’s Legal and Policy Director at [email protected]. 

About Redress: Redress is an international human rights organisation that represents victims of torture to obtain justice and reparations. We bring legal cases on behalf of individual survivors, and advocate for better laws to provide effective reparations. Our cases respond to torture as an individual crime in domestic and international law, as a civil wrong with individual responsibility, and as a human rights violation with state responsibility. 

About CRIN: Child Rights International Network (CRIN) is a global human rights think tank with a focus on children’s rights Established in 1995, we press for rights – not charity – and campaign for a genuine shift in how governments and societies view and treat children.