Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

What does conduct and discipline mean?

All United Nations personnel, civilian or uniformed, must abide by the United Nations Code of Conduct and conform to the laws applicable in their assigned duty station. Moreover, they must behave in a respectful and dignified manner towards the local population. Like all United Nations Peacekeeping Missions, MINUSCA has a Conduct and Discipline Team whose role is to ensure that those norms of conduct prescribed by the United Nations are being respected. Violation of these aforementioned standards constitutes “misconduct”, which is sometime further qualified as “serious misconduct”. For all violations, individuals will be held accountable and sanctioned through established, administrative mechanisms. Sanctions include written or oral reprimand; recovery of monies owed to the Organization; placement on administrative leave, repatriation, etc. All of these processes are part of “Conduct and Discipline”.

What constitutes serious misconduct? How are they punished?

Serious misconduct occurs when an incident hinders the execution of the mission’s mandate and infringes upon the dignity and physical integrity of vulnerable persons. Acts of sexual abuse or exploitation are an example of serious misconduct. All serious misconduct will be investigated by OIOS and/or in collaboration with OIOIS. Established perpetrators of serious misconduct are liable to: dismissal with or without notice; internal disciplinary measures (within the UN and/or member state); ineligibility for future UN missions; repatriation and potential lawsuits in their member state.

What is the difference between sexual abuse and sexual exploitation?

Sexual abuse is any contact of a sexual nature forcibly imposed using coercive force or profiting from an unequal relationship. To threaten such an act also constitutes sexual abuse. All sexual relations with a minor are considered sexual abuse. Sexual exploitation occurs when one profits or attempts to profit from a situation of vulnerability, a position of power or a bond of trust for sexual purposes. To abuse one’s status, power, rank, financial situation, or to exchange food, gifts, money or services against sexual favours constitutes sexual exploitation.

Why and how does CDT focus on SEA?

Far from being a CAR-specific phenomenon, SEA is a global issue that pervades all spheres of society, nationally and internationally, including peacekeepers. Within the mission, our goal is to ensure that blue helmets behave in an exemplary manner, and we train and raise awareness on their expected standards of conduct. Our awareness-raising sessions include definitions of what constitutes SEA and other forms of misconduct (regardless of perpetrator identity). Should any standard of conduct not be respected, CDT also informs its audience of existing reporting mechanisms at their disposal.

How many cases of SEA/misconduct has MINUSCA recorded since the start of the mission?

To date, MINUSCA has recorded 112 allegations of SEA and 272 allegations of misconduct. Combined, SEA allegations have identified 112 alleged perpetrators and 103 alleged victims. The majority of SEA allegations refer to incidents that occurred a year or more ago. For data on SEA and misconduct across all UN missions, please consult the CDU website in New York, which is regularly updated.

What is a false allegation?

A false allegation is an allegation found, during the investigative process, to be untrue and made with malicious intent to either defame or draw profit. An individual can dishonestly proclaim him/herself or a third party as a victim. For these reasons, meticulous and potentially long drawn out investigations are needed to establish all the facts. In the course of an investigation, both the rights of the alleged victim and perpetrator’s must be respected, including the presumption of innocence. A false allegation is different from an unsubstantiated allegation, which does not necessarily imply malicious intent on the complainants’ behalf (see next question).

What is an unsubstantiated allegation?

An unsubstantiated allegation is an allegation where the available evidence was insufficient to allow for an investigation to be completed, or the investigation concluded that there was insufficient evidence to establish the occurrence of SEA. Evidence includes, but is not limited to, oral testimony of witnesses, including experts on technical matters, documents, electronic, audio, video records and photographs, and biological evidence, such as blood, hair and semen. Before opening an investigation into an allegation, prima facie evidence must be gathered during a preliminary fact finding mission. Prima facie evidence refers to sufficient credible evidence to identify possible victim(s) and act(s) of alleged misconduct or serious misconduct by member(s) of a specific national contingent. There is no single formula for determining what will constitute credible evidence in any given case. The determination as to whether credible evidence exists will be ultimately made by United Nations headquarters when the cases are reviewed collectively.

What is the penalty for someone who makes a false allegation?

False accusations are taken very seriously. Not only do they adversely affect the accused, who may choose to sue the original plaintiff, but they also taint the image of an entire peacekeeping mission, the United Nations, and the member state of the accused. If accusations are made in a public manner, and by members of the local population, these members can be brought before the host country’s judicial authorities on defamation charges. If the accusations are made by a member of the United Nations personnel, it constitutes a misconduct, warranting investigation and appropriate sanctions.

Who is in charge of investigations?

The Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) is the independent entity mandated to assist the Secretary-General in fulfilling oversight responsibilities over his staff and resources through internal audit, monotoring, inspection, evaluation and investigation services. Investigations against any member of personnel in alleged infringement of UN rules and regulations are carried out according to an established set of administrative and disciplinary procedures. These procedures start with the categorisation of allegations, based on their level of gravity. The more serious allegations are called “Category 1” allegations, and those less serious, “Category 2” allegations. OIOS usually handles all investigations into Category 1 allegations involving civilians or police personnel. For military contingent members or military staff officers, OIOS can only investigate if the state of origin has not appointed a National Investigation Officer (NIO) within the appropriate timeframe, or if the state of origin has agreed to a joint investigation. OIOS may also refer some Category 1 allegations back to the mission, preferring as a matter of practice to focus on SEA allegations involving minors. Regarding Category 2 allegations, investigations are led by the mission’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) or Internal Investigations Unit (IIU). When necessary, these investigations can be led jointly with OIOS.

Have some investigations been completed? Have blue helmets/contingents already been sanctioned?

Some investigations have reached completion. Perpetrators of substantiated allegations are always sanctioned by the United Nations, and sometimes by their home state as well. For instance, the recent OIOS report on allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation in Dekoa, identified, as perpetrators, 16 members of the Gabonese military contingent and 25 members of the Burundian military continent. All of these individuals have been barred from deployment in any current or future United Nations peacekeeping operation. Criminal sanctions, such as dismissal from the army or imprisonment may follow depending on the outcome of national investigations, which are still ongoing.

How does the UN, and more specifically MINUSCA, assist victims?

Victims of SEA and other forms of misconduct are at the heart of the UN, and MINUSCA’s, concerns. Victims are systematically referred, through United Nations agencies, for psychological and medical assistance by implementing partners. MINUSCA is regularly exchanging with agencies to track victim assistance and better document the specific type of services provided to each individual. A Victim Assistance Trust Fund has also been set up in New York to help address gaps in the provision of Victim Assistance, short of providing financial reparations and compensation for individuals. Finally, a protocol for SEA Victim Assistance has been developed at the Global level, in collaboration with UN Agencies. Its aim is to further consolidate a coordinated and transversal approach to victim assistance and support, regardless of whether abuses have occurred at the hands of United Nations personnel, personnel working with the United Nations, or members of forces that are not under UN command. The protocol is rooted in a victim-centred approach, specific to the CAR context, so as to ensure the timely and adequate provision of assistance and support.

What preventive and prohibitive measures has the Mission taken to avoid new cases?

All individuals arriving in the Central African Republic to work for MINUSCA, be they civilian, military or police, take part in an induction training. Conducted in partnership with IMTC, this training explains all UN rules and sanctions clearly to newcomers. Internal campaigns also take place regularly to ensure that this information remains at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Meanwhile, measures are also being taken at the mission’s highest level, such as the SEA Joint Prevention Teams conducting regular patrols and risk assessment visits. In March 2016, the UNSC adopted a resolution to reinforce sanctions against perpetrators of SEA. These include the decision to “repatriate a particular military unit or formed police unit of a contingent when there is credible evidence of widespread or systemic sexual exploitation or abuse by those units”. This resolution emphasises troop-contributing countries’ responsibility towards their nationals. As such, the UN Secretary-General can replace an entire unit, be it military or police, if the contributing country has not taken adequate measures to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable for their acts and sanctioned accordingly. Finally, an online training program on SEA is being piloted by UN Headquarters on 13 September 2016. The program will be mandatory for all uniformed and civilian personnel, and consists of two courses: one for all personnel, and one specific to managers and commanders. Developed with funding from the Japanese government, the program aims to complement the pre-deployment and/or in situ training that Member States are responsible for providing to their uniformed and civilian personnel.

What is the role played by troop-contributing countries in awareness-raising and investigations?

Prior to their deployment, troops from contributing countries are supposed to be subject to a selective and rigorous recruitment process highlighting moral and ethical standards. Contributing countries also play a fundamental role in raising awareness on UN conduct norms, specifically the UN’s zero tolerance policy when it comes to SEA. Upon their arrival in the mission, members of military contingents are, once more, trained and sensitised on the norms of UN conduct. When an allegation is brought to the mission’s attention, the alleged perpetrator’s country of origin is informed and requested to expedite an enquiry by national experts as soon as possible. Finally, should the individual be found to be at fault, his or her national authorities must apply the appropriate sanctions, contributing to the reinforcement of the UNSG’s zero-tolerance policy.

What role can the Central African government play in the fight against SEA and misconduct?

The CAR government is also addressing SEA through a larger program aimed at reducing gender based violence. This program includes SEA-specific activities, like the conduct of outreach campaigns, led by an informal network of Mayors, that stresses to populations the importance of reporting SEA. Other activities encompass SEA within the wider scope of GBV, like the Minister of Social Affairs’ attempts to link different coordination mechanisms around GBV in order to strengthen service provision. Some initiatives are jointly led with the UN, like the January 2015 creation of UMIRR (Joint Rapid Response and Prevention Unit for Sexual Violence against Women and Children). UNMIRR staff are currently being trained and are expected to be operational in February 2017. A major campaign is underway to advertise UNMIRR and their hotline. Other examples of jointly lead initiatives include ensuring that the children and youth are protected from abuse and exploitation by their parents, or demanding that victims have access to justice, regardless of the abuser’s identity, obtaining support instead of being stigmatized. This last point is critical, as stigmatization doubles the burden of the victim, adding social exclusion to the experience of the violence already suffered.

What are the main challenges facing CDT’s work in the next few months?

Several challenges remain in terms of ensuring that UN conduct and discipline standards are adequately enforced across all categories of personnel – and when disrespected, adequately remedied on all sides. These challenges begin “at home”, as TCCs/PCCs seek to ensure that troops receive adequate pre-deployment training, including on SEA, prior to their arrival in the mission. Troops deployed must also be provided with suitable equipment, living and welfare conditions. NIOs must be adequately qualified, with appropriate investigation skills and experience in the specialised interviewing skills of vulnerable persons and potential victims of sexual violence. In this regard, additional training will be provided by CDT, along with Child Protection and Women’s Protection, on UN procedures and international standards of investigations of victims of SEA, including minors. Finally, there exists a need to streamline the existing architecture, in conjunction with UN Country Teams, UN agencies and the Humanitarian community in CAR, to adequately address SEA, ensuring coherent outreach activities and messaging in spite of prevailing insecurity in certain regions, and the swift and systematic referral of victims to an established Assistance Mechanism.