Protection, Justice, and Accountability: Cooperation between the International Criminal Court and UN Peacekeeping Operations

Most countries that host UN peacekeeping operations face an impunity gap. Their national courts often lack the capacity to prosecute international crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and grave violations of human rights. As a result, special or hybrid courts and international courts, like the International Criminal Court (ICC), often have to step in. In such contexts, some UN peacekeeping operations have been mandated by the UN Security Council to support justice, fight impunity, and pursue accountability, mainly in support of national justice mechanisms.

This issue brief focuses on cooperation between UN peacekeeping missions and the ICC. After discussing the impunity gap when it comes to international criminal justice, it outlines frameworks that provide a foundation for cooperation between the ICC and the Security Council. It then explores the benefits of cooperation and the political barriers and conflict dynamics that have prevented UN peacekeeping operations from fully assisting the ICC.

The paper concludes by considering how the protection of civilians (POC)—particularly the establishment of a protective environment—could provide opportunities for cooperation between peacekeeping operations and the ICC in pursuit of a more coherent approach to international justice. Given that international justice reinforces protection mandates, POC could serve as a guiding principle for peace operations’ future support to international criminal justice. By reflecting and building on best practices and lessons learned from previous challenges, peacekeeping operations can more effectively pursue international justice and ensure the sustainability of their protection efforts.