The Role of Monitoring, Reporting, and Fact-finding in Civilian Protection

The past several decades have seen a dramatic proliferation of monitoring, reporting, and fact-finding (MRF) missions mandated by governments and international organizations. In the recent session of the United Nations Human Rights Council alone, the Council discussed the most recent report of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, an oral report from the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea, as well as reports from special rapporteurs on Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Myanmar, and the Palestinian territories. Additionally, MRF missions have been increasingly mandated at the regional level. In recent years, the African Union mandated a commission of inquiry to gather information about violence in South Sudan, the Arab League established a monitoring mission that operated for several months in Syria, and the European Union created a fact-finding mission focused on the 2008 conflict between Russia and Georgia.

However, practitioners — including commissioners, legal experts, and investigators — have expressed concern that the state of professional practice in this domain has inadequately kept pace with growing expectations of what these missions can and should accomplish in terms of civilian protection and accountability. Indeed, concerns persist that governmental actors have used such missions as political cover in lieu of taking other significant steps to address international and non-international conflicts. Additionally, in certain circumstances, poor methodological practices — such as a failure to keep confidential the names of individuals who cooperate with the mission — could actually exacerbate the dangers that exist for civilians living in conflict zones by exposing individuals to reprisal attacks.

This podcast will explore the role that MRF missions play in civilian protection.

Click here to read the newly released HPCR Advanced Practitioner's Handbook on Commissions of Inquiry.

April, 2015