OIOS helps military lawyers learn to investigate "in the field"

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

OIOS | Newport, United States of America

The Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) recently conducted a realistic investigation exercise as part of a course on the legal aspects of peacekeeping organized by the Defense Institute of International Legal Studies in Newport, Rhode Island (U.S.). 

The course, which included representatives from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and the Department of Field Support (DFS), was a comprehensive analysis of the legal aspects of peacekeeping missions.

The OIOS exercise gave legal officers from troop-contributing countries (TCCs) a hands-on understanding of military fact-finding in peacekeeping operations. They considered UN authority and standards, human rights protections, international agreements, and their country’s own legislation.

The day long exercise offered practical experience with investigations in peacekeeping as teams processed incident the scene of a possible sexual assault, took statements from sometimes difficult witnesses, and organized evidence for possible court martial under their home jurisdiction.

Even as a steady drizzle of rain soaked potential evidence, participants responded to the incident scenes in earnest. 

“It’s a lot more complicated than you’d expect,” remarked one soggy legal officer whose enthusiasm was not dampened.  “We normally get a report that wraps up all the loose ends for us to prosecute.  I can now see the challenges of getting information in a peacekeeping environment. This is really informative and useful.”

The initiative is part of a larger, collaborative effort of OIOS, DFS, and DPKO to strengthen investigation capacity of troop-contributing countries and to enhance cooperation on investigative matters.

“Investigating in the field is a dynamic process,” advised the OIOS investigator.  “Practice not only prepares investigators from TCCs for the changing realities of investigating in missions but also improves the understanding of all those who may be involved with that process. So, even the lawyers can benefit from getting a little muddy . . .”