Two decades after the Srebrenica massacre legal accountability for serious human rights violations perpetrated by peacekeepers is still difficult to deliver. While there is an accountability gap where individuals seek redress from the United Nations, a number of court decisions seem to prompt a shift towards the domestic level so that member States might be held accountable for violations of (international) law which occur during peacekeeping missions: While national courts have upheld the immunity of the UN, developments in the domestic and regional jurisprudence on the rules on attribution and State liability point to the responsibility of the troop-contributing States. In view of the political difficulties in bringing about reforms within the UN system a focus on the decentralized law-making mechanisms at the domestic level might appeal at first sight. However, this paper argues that member States need to act and close the accountability gap above all at the level of the UN.
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Supreme Court of the Netherlands (Hoge Raad) 6 September 2013, State of the Netherlands v. Mustafić et al., ECLI:NL:HR:2013:BZ9228 (advisory opinion of Advocate General Vlas: ECLI:NL:PHR:2013:BZ9228); State of the Netherlands et al. v. Nuhanović, ECLI:NL:HR:2013:BZ9225 (advisory opinion of Advocate General Vlas: ECLI:NL:PHR:2013:BZ9225), all in Dutch. The full English translations of both judgments, including the advisory opinions of the Advocate General, can be found at the website of the Supreme Court at http://www.rechtspraak.nl/Organisatie/Hoge-Raad/Supreme-court/ (through: Summaries of some important rulings of the Supreme Court). The English translation of the Supreme Court’s judgment in the case of Mustafić et al. was also reprinted in 60 NILR (2013), pp. 447–485, with an introduction and commentary by C. Ryngaert (C. Ryngaert, ‘Netherlands Judicial Decisions on Public International Law “Supreme Court (Hoge Raad), State of the Netherlands v. Mustafić et al., State of the Netherlands v. Nuhanović, Judgments of 6 September”’, 60 NILR (2013), pp. 441–446).
District Court of The Hague (Rechtbank Den Haag) 16 July 2014, Mothers of Srebrenica et al. v. State of the Netherlands, ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2014:8562 (in Dutch) and ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2014:8748 (English translation), available at http://deeplink.rechtspraak.nl/uitspraak?id=ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2014:8748. The translation of the District Court’s judgment has been reprinted in 61 NILR (2014), pp. 373–454 with an introduction and commentary by C. Ryngaert (C. Ryngaert, ‘Srebrenica Continued. Dutch District Court Holds the Netherlands Liable for Cooperating with Bosnian Serbs’, 61 NILR (2014), pp. 365–372).
The dispute concerns a cholera outbreak in Haiti which was probably caused by UN peacekeeping forces from Nepal; see, for instance: http://opiniojuris.org/2012/10/26/the-haiti-cholera-case-against-the-un/.
Lundahl (2013), p. 81.
UN GA ‘Resolution on third-party liability: temporal and financial limitations’, 17 July 1998, UN Doc. A/RES/52/247.
§55 Agreement Between the United Nations and the Government of Haiti Concerning the Status of the United Nations Operation in Haiti, 2271 UNTS 236 (251 et seq.).
Section 29 stipulates: ‘The United Nations shall make provisions for appropriate modes of settlement of: (a) Disputes arising out of contracts or other disputes of a private law character to which the United Nations is a party; (b) Disputes involving any official of the United Nations who by reason of his official position enjoys immunity, if immunity has not been waived by the Secretary-General.’
UN Under Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, Letter of 21 February 2013, available at http://opiniojuris.org/wp-content/uploads/LettertoMr.BrianConcannon.pdf; see also UN, Statement Attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Haiti, New York, 21 February 2013, http://www.un.org/sg/statements/index.asp?nid=6615.
Klabbers (2015), p. 74.
See on Kadi for instance: Kokott and Sobotta (2014), pp. 211 et seq.
Blum (2013), p. 405.
Cf. Delama Georges, et al v. United Nations, et al, US District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 1:13-cv-7146; http://www.ijdh.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Dkt62_Opinion_and_Order_01_09_15.pdf.
The argument developed in the following part is based on: Krieger (2014), pp. 250 et seq.
Delama Georges, et al v. United Nations, et al, supra n. 18.
Supreme Court of the Netherlands (Hoge Raad) 13 April 2012, Mothers of Srebrenica et al. v. State of the Netherlands, ECLI:NL:HR:BW1999, paras. 4.3.10-4.3.14; (advisory opinion of Advocate General Vlas: ECLI:NL:PHR:BW1999) (both in Dutch), NJ 2014/262, annotation N.J. Schrijver (in Dutch). The English translation of the judgment of the Supreme Court can be found at the website of the Supreme Court at http://www.rechtspraak.nl/Organisatie/Hoge-Raad/Supreme-court/ (through: Summaries of some important rulings of the Supreme Court). For a commentary on the Supreme Court’s judgment see T. de Boer in 60 NILR (2013), pp. 121–130.
ECtHR, Stichting Mothers of Srebrenica v. the Netherlands, App. no. 65542/12, Decision of 11 June 2013, para. 158.
Reinisch (2013), p. 576.
Jurisdictional Immunities of the State (Germany v. Italy: Greece intervening), Judgment, ICJ Reports 2012, paras. 92–97.
ECtHR, Waite and Kennedy v. Germany, App. no. 26083/94, Judgment of 18 February 1999, p. 15, para. 67.
Marochkin (2013), pp. 236 et seq.
France: Banque africaine de développement c. M.A. Degboe, Cour de Casssation (Chambre Social) 25 January 2005, No. 04-41012, JDI 2005, 1142.
Even further in: France: UNESCO v. Boulois, Cour d’appel de Paris (14e Ch. A) 19 June 1998, Rev. arb. 1999, pp. 343, 344 et seq.
Belgium: Siedler c. UEO, Cour du Travail (Bruxelles) 17 September 2003, Journal des Tribunaux (2004), p. 617.
Delama Georges, et al v. United Nations, et al, supra n. 18, p. 5; see also ECtHR, Stichting Mothers of Srebrenica v. the Netherlands, supra n. 22, paras. 161–165.
See, for instance, Amaratunga v. Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, 2010 CanLII 346 (NSSC); Saunders (2013), p. 95.
Amaratunga v. Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, 2013 SCC 66,  3 SCR 866.
Brower II (2013), p. 310.
See, however, Section 29 of the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations; Reinisch (2013), p. 576.
Switzerland: NML Capital Ltd. und EM Limited gegen Bank für Internationalen Zahlungsausgleich (BIZ) und Betreibungsamt Basel-Stadt, BGE 136 III 379, para. 4.5.3.
Belgium: Secrétariat Général du Groupe des Etats d’Afrique, des Caraibes, et du Pacifique c. Lutchmaya, Cour de Cassation 21 December 2009, C 03 0328 F, ILDC 1573 (BE 2009), available at: http://jure.juridat.just.fgov.be/pdfapp/download_blob?idpdf=F-20091221-5.
UK: High Court of Justice, Entico Corp Ltd v. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and Another,  1 CLC 524, 536, para. 19.
ECtHR, Stichting Mothers of Srebrenica v. the Netherlands, supra n. 22, para. 139.
ECtHR, Al-Jedda v. the United Kingdom (GC), App. no. 27021/08, Judgment of 7 July 2011, para. 102.
ECtHR, Stichting Mothers of Srebrenica v. the Netherlands, supra n. 22, para. 154.
ECtHR, Stichting Mothers of Srebrenica v. the Netherlands, supra n. 22, para. 164.
Reinisch (2013), p. 576.
Hof ’s-Gravenhage [Court of Appeals of The Hague] 30 March 2010, Ass’n of Mothers of Srebrenica v. the Netherlands and the United Nations, ECLI:NL:GHSGR:2010:BL8979 (Neth.), English translation available at http://www.haguejusticeportal.net/Docs/Dutch%20cases/Appeals_Judgment_Mothers_Srebrenica_EN.pdf, para. 5.7: ‘It is not inconceivable, either, that the UN is summoned in countries where the judiciary is not up to the requirements set by the ECHR.’
Reinisch (2013), p. 579.
US: District Court, Tabion v. Mufti, (E.D. Va. 1995) 877 F. Supp. 285, 293.
Highly critical about such a bias on the basis of empirical analysis from US and Italian courts: Weill (2014), p. 185.
For this argument see Krieger (2014), p. 250.
ECtHR, Stichting Mothers of Srebrenica v. the Netherlands, supra n. 22, para. 165.
Youssef Nada v. State Secretariat for Economic Affairs and Federal Department of Economic Affairs (2007), Administrative appeal judgment, No 1A 45/2007; ILDC 461 (CH 2007); BGE 133 II 450, para. 8.3 and para. 9.
ECtHR (GC), Behrami and Saramati v. France, Germany and Norway, App. nos. 71412/01 and 78166/01, Decision of 2 May 2007.
ECtHR (GC), Jaloud v. the Netherlands, App. no. 47708/08, Judgment of 20 November 2014, paras. 140–152.
ECtHR (GC), Jaloud v. the Netherlands, supra n. 53, para. 154; see also Sari (2015), pp. 4–10.
ECtHR (GC), Jaloud v. the Netherlands, supra n. 53, para. 143.
ECtHR (GC), Jaloud v. the Netherlands, supra n. 53, paras. 147 et seq.
ECtHR (GC), Jaloud v. the Netherlands, supra n. 53, para. 151.
Bothe (2011), No. 30.
Art. 6 ARIO: ‘1. The conduct of an organ or agent of an international organization in the performance of functions of that organ or agent shall be considered an act of that organization under international law, whatever position the organ or agent holds in respect of the organization. 2. The rules of the organization apply in the determination of the functions of its organs and agents.’
Art. 7 ARIO: ‘The conduct of an organ of a State or an organ or agent of an international organization that is placed at the disposal of another international organization shall be considered under international law an act of the latter organization if the organization exercises effective control over that conduct.’
See also Supreme Court of the Netherlands, State of the Netherlands v. Nuhanović, supra n. 1, para. 3.10.2; critically Sari (2012), pp. 78 et seq.
Ekins et al (2015), p. 22.
Schmalenbach (2013), p. 199.
ECtHR, Banković and ors v. Belgium and ors, Admissibility, App. no. 52207/99. Schrijver (2013), p. 595.
Cf. Sari (2015), p. 14.
Schrijver (2013), p. 595.
Sari (2012), p. 84.
See, however, Sari (2015), p. 11.
Bothe (2011), No. 18.
See Palchetti (2015).
Nolte and Krieger (2003), p. 121.
Cf. District Court of The Hague, Stichting Mothers of Srebrenica et al. v. the Netherlands, supra n. 2, paras. 4.5.7–4.5.8.
Cf. District Court of The Hague, Stichting Mothers of Srebrenica et al. v. the Netherlands, supra n. 2, paras. 4.8.3–4.8.5/4.9.1. At the time of writing the judgment is still subject to appeal.
Weill (2014), pp. 69–115.
Benvenisti (1993), p. 169.
El-Shifa Pharmaceutical Industries v. United States, 607 F.3d at 838–39/840–844.
See, however, Al-Aulaqi v. Obama, 727 F. Supp. 2d 1, 44–53.
US District Court for the District of Columbia, Al-Aulaqi v. Panetta, Civil Action No. 12-1192 (RMC), 34; https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/field_document/tk_2_opinion.pdf.
Rule 150, ICRC Customary International Law Database, https://www.icrc.org/customary-ihl/eng/docs/home.
Stöckle (2013), pp. 127 et seq.
Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Advisory Opinion of 9 July 2004, ICJ Reports 2004, para. 152.
Jurisdictional Immunities of the State (Germany v. Italy: Greece intervening), supra n. 24, para. 108; Stöckle (2013), p. 128.
German Constitutional Court Order of Non-Acceptance of 13 August 2013, No. 2 BvR 2660/06, 2 BvR 487/07, paras. 45 et seq.; see also BVerfGE 112, 1 (32 et seq.); BVerfGK 3, 277 (283); BVerfGK 7, 303 (308).
UN GA Resolution of 16 December 2005, UN Doc. A/Res/60/147.
Stöckle (2013), p. 128.
Dörr (2013), No. 1.
Stöckle (2013), pp. 123 et seq.
Dörr (2013), No. 7.
Foreign Claims Act, 10 USC §2734 (2006); Stöckle (2013), p. 130.
In particular: German Federal Court of Justice, Judgment of 2 November 2006, No. III ZR 190/05, BGHZ 169, 348.
Stöckle (2013), p. 131.
German Parliament (2011), p. 3.
Groves v. Commonwealth  150 CLR 113, para. 3; see also Mulcahy v. MoD ; Multiple Claimants v. Ministry of Defence ; Smith and Others v. the Ministry of Defence  UKSC 41.
Smith and others v. the Ministry of Defence  UKSC 41, paras. 90/95.
Ekins et al. (2015), p. 25.
German Constitutional Court Order of Non-Acceptance of 13 August 2013, No. 2 BvR 2660/06, 2 BvR 487/07, para. 52.
Ibid., para. 55.
Walerstein (2009), p. 349.
Blum (2013), p. 393.
The case of Varvarin was supported by the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin. Plaintiffs in the Haiti Cholera dispute receive support from the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.
Case C-402/05 P and C-415/05, P. Kadi and Al Barakaat International Foundation v. Council and Commission  ECR I-6351.
On the suggestion to establish an ombudsperson see Schrijver (2013), pp. 596 et seq.
See for instance the Varvarin case where victims tried to pursue their claim before the German courts, although Germany did not directly participate in the air-strike operation, or attempted to hold Germany responsible for not preventing the alleged use of US military bases for drone strikes in Yemen; VG Köln, 27 May 2015, Docket No. Az. 3 K 5625/14, https://www.justiz.nrw.de/nrwe/ovgs/vg_koeln/j2015/3_K_5625_14_Urteil_20150527.html.
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H. Krieger: Professor of Public Law and International Law, Freie Universität Berlin.
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Krieger, H. Addressing the Accountability Gap in Peacekeeping: Law-Making by Domestic Courts As a Way to Avoid UN Reform?. Neth Int Law Rev 62, 259–277 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40802-015-0032-z
- UN peacekeeping
- Accountability gap
- Immunity of international organisations
- State responsibility
- State tort liability for military operations