Introduced in 1999, formed police units (FPUS) constitute a relatively recent invention in the history of UN peacekeeping. Yet, currently more than 10,000 individuals are deployed in such units. Their members are un civilian police officers but – like military personnel – they may be given executive mandates. Consequently, (the optimal regulation of) their legal position (i.e. whether equivalent to that of military members of national contingents or of UN experts on mission) and (of) their criminal accountability (i.e. exclusive contributing State jurisdiction and/or permissibility of host State criminal jurisdiction) have been a subject of prolonged disagreement. The legal-political struggle between the UN Secretariat (Office of Legal Affairs) and the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations concerning these issues has triggered important clarifications of the existing rules and led to revisions of legal instruments, including the most recent amendments to the UN Model Memorandum of Understanding.
Through a study of this process, the present article aims to clarify the legal status and criminal accountability of FPU officers, as well as to predict the stability of the current legal status quo. In addition, the analysis of these issues provides valuable insights into the relevant practice of and priorities within the UN and among troop and police contributing countries. It thus even helps assess chances that military members of national contingents may in the future be subjected to the criminal jurisdiction of host States. Last but not least, the study highlights the importance of accurate and up-to-date information.