Hastings Law Journal


Jaume Saura


The deployment and operation of United Nations peacekeeping missions has been rightly considered one of the most successful initiatives in the history of the organization. In 1988, UN peacekeeping forces were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their contribution to reducing tensions and ending hostilities.

Although the "blue helmets" were not originally envisaged in the Charter of the United Nations, they have brought peace and stability to numerous cases of domestic and international armed conflict.

Notwithstanding the overall success of peacekeeping operations, recent violations of the laws of war by UN peacekeeping forces raise the question of the duty of UN forces to abide by the rules of international humanitarian law. This Article examines the extent of the duty of UN peacekeeping forces to observe international humanitarian norms in light of the Secretary- General's 1999 "Bulletin," Observance by UN Forces of International Humanitarian Law. The Article considers provisions of international humanitarian law that the Bulletin does not fully address, and it discusses the degree of responsibility the UN and member States must bear if a breach is committed. It argues that whenever international humanitarian law is applicable, and whenever international organizations have the capacity to implement it, UN peacekeepers must observe this body of law. This means that the United Nations as a legal entity will bear responsibility for its peacekeepers' infringements of international humanitarian law; individual UN peacekeepers ought to be subject to prosecution for any war crimes they commit; and the contributing State whose troops committed such breaches should also be held responsible.

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