Sanctions to prevent terrorism difficult but necessary – UN official

12 February 2009
Richard Barrett

Preventative sanctions against people associated with terrorist groups present tough legal issues, but have been recognized by various courts as needed, the coordinator of the team that monitors the United Nations Security Council regime against Al-Qaida and the Taliban said today.

“It’s a great problem with all jurisdictions, to deal with this issue to prevent crime before it has happened,” Richard Barrett, coordinator of the monitoring team of the so-called 1267 Committee on Al-Qaida and the Taliban, told a news conference in New York. “Where do you draw the line?” he asked.

In response to challenges, the Council has tried to introduce as much due process into the way it puts individuals and entities on the “list,” subjecting them to the asset freeze, travel ban and arms embargo of the regime, even though it is not trying to punish them but to prevent terrorist acts, he explained.

“We’re not looking at somebody that has already committed a terrorist act and dealing with the consequences of their crime. We are trying to stop them from committing that crime in the first place,” he said.

“There’s not much point otherwise to the regime. I mean, national courts can deal with criminal acts,” he added.

Challenges to the regime in the European Court of Justice and in Pakistan, Turkey, Switzerland and the United States have not successfully proscribed the measures, but many were concerned that the regime should have clear and fair procedures for getting people on – and off– the list.

In response, the Council put mechanisms in place to ensure that people are notified and given some sort of idea of the reasons for their listings. In addition, resolution 1822 of June of last year requires a review of all the names by June 2010 and after that every three years.

“So the Council has reacted to these issues, by agreeing to that review, by agreeing to post-narrative summaries for listing on its web site and so on,” Mr. Barrett said. “But the question now is how the European Courts will provide for what they see is necessary, which is an effective judicial review.”

Mr. Barrett recalled that the sanctions regime was developed in response to the 1998 terrorist attacks in East Africa against United States embassies and other sites, in an effort to try to force the Taliban regime in Afghanistan to try to give up Osama bin Laden for justice.

After the attacks of 11 September 2001, the sanctions became more global in scope, targeting people all over the world who had really no affiliation with one particular State, which was quite a novel departure for the Security Council, he said.

The Council tried to make the regime effective by getting all Member States involved in presenting names for designation on the list of targeted individuals and entities, and in implementing the sanctions against them, even though they now number around 500, requiring a great outlay of resources for all concerned.

“But nevertheless, I think there is huge support for this regime and I can think of no Member State that has any question that it’s necessary for the Security Council to do something which is operationally effective rather than purely symbolic,” he said.


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