Secretary-General Appoints Independent Review Panel on UN Response to Allegations of Sexual Abuse by Foreign Military Forces in Central African Republic

22 June 2015
SG/SM/16864-SG/A/1578

Secretary-General Appoints Independent Review Panel on UN Response to Allegations of Sexual Abuse by Foreign Military Forces in Central African Republic

The following announcement was made today by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki‑moon:

The Secretary-General remains deeply concerned by the allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse of children by foreign military forces not under the command of the United Nations in the Central African Republic, and the United Nations system’s response to these allegations.

The Secretary-General had previously announced his intention to set up a panel to conduct an External Independent Review into this matter.

He has, today, appointed the panel, which will be chaired by Marie Deschamps of Canada, a former Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.  The other two members will be Hassan Jallow of the Gambia, the Prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), and Yasmin Sooka of South Africa, the Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights in South Africa.

The panel will review the United Nations response to the allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse of children by foreign military forces not under United Nations command and assess the adequacy of the procedures in place.  This will include any allegations of abuse of authority or retaliation by senior officials.  The panel may also look at any shortcomings in existing procedures covering serious crimes by United Nations and related personnel, host State forces and non-State actors that it may become aware of during its review.

The panel will conduct its work independently and will receive unrestricted access to all United Nations records and full access to staff members and other United Nations personnel.  The United Nations will make its best efforts to facilitate the access of the panel to non-United Nations personnel.  In addition to those that the panel may reach out to, any person who wishes to provide information relevant to the External Independent Review is encouraged to contact the panel directly through an external e-mail address that will be announced shortly.

The panel will begin its work in July and aim to submit its report within 10 weeks.  The panel is also mandated to make recommendations on how the United Nations should respond to similar allegations in the future and on any shortcomings in existing procedures.  The Secretary-General will make this report public, subject to due process and confidentiality considerations.

Biographies of the Panel Members

Marie Deschamps (Canada) was called to the Quebec Bar in 1975 and subsequently practiced as a litigator in family, civil, commercial, and criminal law at several law firms.  She was appointed judge to the Quebec Superior Court in 1990, to the Court of Appeal in 1992, and to the Supreme Court in 2002.  She retired from the judiciary in August 2012 and re-joined the Quebec Bar in 2013.  She also sat on the 1986 Advisory Committee on Reform of the Bankruptcy Act and on the Competition Tribunal Advisory Council.  She serves as member of a number of committees and boards of directors.  She has been an adjunct professor at the law schools of Université de Sherbrooke since 2006 and McGill University since 2012.  She served as the External Review Authority of the External Review into Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Harassment in the Canadian Armed Forces.  She earned a licentiate in laws from the Université de Montréal in 1974 and a Master of Laws from McGill University in 1983.  The Université de Montréal and the Université de Sherbrooke awarded her an honorary doctorate in 2008 and 2014, respectively.  She was inducted as a member of the American College of Trial Lawyers in 2005.  The Law School of McGill University bestowed the F.R. Scott award for distinguished service upon her in 2013, the same year that she was appointed Companion of the Order of Canada.  She received the distinction of lawyer emeritus from the Quebec Bar in 2014.

Hassan Bubacar Jallow (Gambia) is currently the Prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), established by the United Nations Security Council with responsibility for investigating and prosecuting the principal perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.  He is concurrently the Prosecutor of the United Nations Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals established in 2012 by the Security Council to take over the functions of the ICTR and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) after their closure.  Justice Jallow has served his country, the Gambia, as Solicitor General, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, and as Justice of the Supreme Court of the Gambia.  He was elected by the United Nations General Assembly as an ad litem Judge of the ICTY, and has served as a Judge of the Appeals Chamber of the United Nations Special Court for Sierra Leone as well as a member of the Commonwealth Arbitral Tribunal.  He has also served the Commonwealth, the Organization of African Unity and the African Union on human rights and governance issues.  Justice Jallow is the author of several books and articles.  He was awarded the honour of Commander of the National Order of the Republic of the Gambia.

Yasmin Louise Sooka (South Africa) is the Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights in South Africa.  In 2010 and 2011 she was as a member of an Expert Advisory Panel on Sri Lanka to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.  She was appointed by President Mandela to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1995, where she served until the report was delivered in March 2003.  In 2002 she was appointed by Mary Robinson, then High Commissioner for Human Rights, as an International Commissioner to the Truth Commission in Sierra Leone in 2002.  She is widely regarded as an expert on transitional justice as well as gender and reparations.  She has also worked extensively on disappearances and victims’ claims.  She has served on a number of expert missions and regularly acts as consultant to several Governments and civil society organizations.

Terms of Reference for an External Independent Review of the United Nations Response to Allegations of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and Other Serious Crimes by Members of Foreign Military Forces Not Under United Nations Command in the Central African Republic

Background

1.The Secretary-General is deeply concerned by the serious allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse and other serious crimes in the Central African Republic (“CAR”) by members of foreign military forces not under the command of the United Nations (the “Allegations”) and the United Nations system’s own response to the Allegations.  Without prejudice to the primary responsibility of Governments concerned to ensure criminal accountability of their military personnel who are under their exclusive criminal jurisdiction, the Secretary-General has decided to appoint an external independent panel to review how the United Nations, including its separately administered funds and programmes and other subsidiary organs, responded to such Allegations and to make recommendations concerning how the United Nations should respond to allegations in the future that may raise similar issues, including allegations involving United Nations and related personnel, host State forces or non-State actors in the CAR (the “External Review”).

Composition of the Panel

2.The External Review shall be conducted by a panel composed of three members, one of them appointed as Chair.  Should the panel require external consultants to assist it with its work, the United Nations shall promptly engage such consultants in accordance with United Nations regulations and rules.  The consultants shall be under the substantive authority of the panel.

Scope of the External Review

3.The panel shall gather, review and assess the facts and circumstances regarding the manner in which the United Nations responded to the Allegations, including any action taken or that should have been taken, bearing in mind the interests of the alleged victims and due process rights of those against whom allegations are made.  The External Review shall include:

  1. A description of the procedures in place at the time in the CAR and in the United Nations generally to respond to the Allegations, including but not limited to, procedures relating to prevention, investigation, victim protection, and informing appropriate authorities of States or regional organizations for judicial or other responses;
  2. An assessment of the adequacy of such procedures in the CAR and in the United Nations generally under the various mandates, including those of peacekeeping missions, special political missions, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other relevant human rights entities; 
  3. An assessment of the actions taken, including whether such actions were in accordance with applicable procedures;
  4. An assessment as to whether, at any stage, there was any incident of abuse of authority by senior officials, in connection with the Allegations, including in connection with the communication of the Allegations to one or more third parties, taking into account the procedures applicable to protection from retaliation and abuses of authority;
  5. Recommendations as to what steps can be taken to ensure that the Organization deals effectively and efficiently with future allegations that may raise similar issues.  These recommendations shall take into account, as appropriate, considerations of capacity, resources, and other constraints. 

4.    The Allegations arise in the context of the conduct of members of foreign military forces not under the command of the United Nations.  Allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse and other serious crimes by United Nations and related personnel, including military personnel under the unified command and operational control of the United Nations, are addressed through separate procedures.[i]  If the panel, in the course of the External Review, becomes aware of shortcomings in the content or the implementation of existing procedures to address allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse and other serious crimes against United Nations and related personnel, including military personnel under the unified command and operational control of the United Nations, it shall make any recommendations it deems appropriate.  Similarly, if the panel, in the course of the External Review, becomes aware of shortcomings in the content or the implementation of existing procedures to address allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse and other serious crimes against host State forces or non-State actors in the CAR, it shall make any recommendations it deems appropriate.

Cooperation of the United Nations, including its separately administered funds and programmes and other subsidiary organs

4.For the purpose of the External Review, the panel shall have unrestricted access to any United Nations records and information, written or otherwise, including any documents and other information collected or created by the Office of Internal Oversight Service (OIOS) in connection with the Allegations and any of its related investigations, to the extent consistent with OIOS’ mandate.

6.    For the purpose of the External Review, the panel shall have access to all United Nations staff members and other personnel, regardless of their seniority, who the panel considers to have pertinent information.  In accordance with United Nations Staff Regulations and Rules, and administrative issuances, staff members shall cooperate with the panel and shall be accorded protection from retaliation resulting from such cooperation.  The United Nations shall use its best efforts to facilitate the access of the panel to non-UN personnel.

Report of the Panel

7.    The panel shall use its best efforts to submit a report to the Secretary-General within ten weeks after the commencement of its work.  If the panel foresees a delay beyond ten weeks, a notice of at least three weeks before the target date will be given to the Secretary-General setting forth the grounds for the extension.

8.    The report shall include a chronology of the facts, an assessment of such facts, a description of existing procedures as well as an assessment of such procedures.  The report shall also include recommendations as to action to be taken to address any violations of United Nations regulations, rules or administrative issuances as well as recommendations to improve the manner in which allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse and other serious crimes are addressed in the future.

9.    The report and related documents shall be the property of the United Nations.  The Secretary-General will make the report public, subject to due process and confidentiality considerations.  In addition, the Secretary-General may use the report, parts thereof or any information collected by the panel in any manner the Secretary-General considers to be in the interests of the United Nations.

Conduct of the External Review

10.   The panel shall carry out its work impartially, objectively and without influence by any internal or external authority, regardless of their status.

11.   The panel shall ensure that its External Review is conducted with strict regard for confidentiality, fairness and due process of all concerned, and, in respect of United Nations personnel, in accordance with applicable United Nations Staff Regulations and Rules and administrative issuances.  All information collected during the course of the External Review shall be handled with confidentiality by the panel.  Exceptions to confidentiality are made for exigent circumstances including safety and security, the proper administration of justice and to preserve the Secretary-General’s discretion as set forth in paragraph 9.  Moreover, any individual named in the report of the panel shall, wherever practicable, have been interviewed by the panel and been provided with an opportunity to provide information.  Any individual against whom an adverse observation has been made shall have an opportunity to submit written comments, wherever practicable, to the panel, which shall be annexed to the panel’s report.

 

[i] These procedures are subject to ongoing review, including the Secretary-General’s recent report “Special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and abuse” dated 13 February 2015 which sets out proposals that build on the findings and recommendations of a report issued by a panel of experts.  These procedures include but are not limited to: (i) the Staff Regulations and Rules, and administrative issuances, such as ST/SGB/2003/13 on “Special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse”; (ii) the Regulations Governing the Status, Basic Rights and Duties of Officials other than Secretariat Officials, and Experts on Mission; and (iii) the Model Memorandum of Understanding between the United Nations and Troop Contributing Countries , as adopted by the General Assembly in its resolution 61/267B, together with the “DPKO/DFS Standard Operating Procedures on Implementation of the amendments relating to conduct and discipline in the Model Memorandum of Understanding between the United Nations and Troop Contributing Countries”.  

For information media. Not an official record.