Regarding Rights

Academic and activist perspectives on human rights

New Forms of Peacekeeping

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By Hilary Charlesworth

Centre for International Governance and Justice, RegNet, ANU

On 28 March, the UN Security Council took the historic step of authorising an ‘Intervention Brigade’ to counter rebel groups in North Kivu province in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), bordering Rwanda (SCR 2098). The brigade (of just over 3000 troops) is to operate within the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and has been established for 12 months. The brigade will have its headquarters in Goma. The same resolution extended MONUSCO’s mandate for another year.

The 23 March Movement (M23) (also known as the Congolese Revolutionary Army) attack on and occupation of Goma in November 2012 displayed the strength of the rebel group and the powerlessness of MONUSCO. On some accounts, UN troops held fire because of the risk of civilian casualties; on other accounts ‘most UN staff departed, local Congolese police and military also fled, and most UN peacekeepers retreated behind the walls of their camps, turning them into safe havens for foreign soldiers.  As soon as Goma became a hot spot, Goma’s citizens were left to police themselves as the dangers of rape, violence and pillage arrived in town.’[1] In recent months, there have been growing fears at the United Nations that another M23 assault on Goma is likely.

The terrible conflict in the eastern Congo has wreaked havoc on civilian life. There have been credible reports of mass rape, including by members of the Congolese armed forces. In a recent article, my colleague, John Braithwaite, proposed the deployment of special forces in the eastern DRC as a way of preventing massive violence, the mass rapes in particular. The Intervention Brigade can be seen in this sense as escalating up a regulatory pyramid. [2]

The Security Council resolution follows the adoption of the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework for the Congo and the region, signed by 11 African countries in Addis Ababa on 24 February 2013, which is designed to create a new peace process.

SCR 2098 breaks ground in a number of ways. It is the first combat force with a mandate to carry out targeted operations to ‘neutralize and disarm’ a range of armed groups. Specified groups include the M23, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

The language of SCR 2098 marks a departure from the traditionally elliptical style of Security Council resolutions in which the term ‘all necessary means’ is accepted as authorisation of the use of force. SCR 2098 mandates the intervention brigade to carry out offensive operations both unilaterally and jointly with the Congolese army ‘in a robust, highly mobile and versatile manner’ in order to combat armed groups (para 9). The resolution states that the Intervention Brigade must operate ‘in strict compliance with international law, including international humanitarian law and with the human rights due diligence policy on UN-support to non-UN forces ….’ (para 12 (b)).

Although it was adopted unanimously, the resolution’s language met with some criticism from Security Council members Argentina and Guatemala. They argued in the Council debate that the formation of the intervention brigade shifted UN peacekeeping into peace-enforcement and were concerned about the brigade being part of MONUSCO, rather than a self-standing unit. These concerns are reflected in SCR 2098’s references to the Intervention Brigade being authorised ‘on an exceptional basis and without creating a precedent or any prejudice to the agreed principles of peacekeeping.’ Reflecting problems in other parts of the world, the resolution also declares that the Intervention Brigade ‘will have a clear exit strategy’ (para 10).

The resolution contemplates a major role for MONUSCO in state reform in the DRC. Tasks include encouraging and accelerating security sector reform, promoting political dialogue in order to further reconciliation and democratisation, and supporting the establishment of ‘effective national civilian structure to control key mining activities and to manage in an equitable manner the extraction and trade of natural resources in eastern DRC’ (para 14).

Another significant aspect of the Security Council’s action in relation to the region is that it appointed former President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, as Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region on 18 March 2013. It is all too rare that women are appointed to such positions and it brings some substance  to the Security Council’s urging of the UN Secretary-General in SCR 1325 (2000) ‘to appoint more women as special representatives and envoys to pursue good offices on his behalf’.

[1] John Braithwaite, ‘Access to Justice, Criminological Theory and Responsibility to Protect’ Plenary Presentation, Asian Criminological Society Conference, Mumbai, 14 April 2013.

[2] John Braithwaite, ‘Cascades of violence and a global criminology of place’ (2012) 45 Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology 299.

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