UN tackles problems with terror sanctions

AP News
Posted: Dec 17, 2009 1:01 AM

The Security Council is expected to approve new measures Thursday aimed at ensuring that U.N. sanctions target the right people, companies and organizations for links to al-Qaida and the Taliban _ including a new ombudsperson.

Since the council imposed sanctions against the Taliban a decade ago, questions have been raised about the fairness of the list and the rights of those subject to punitive measures to argue their case for being removed. There is also a problem of insufficient information about some on the list which prevents police, border authorities and financial institutions from implementing sanctions.

Austria, which currently heads the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against al-Qaida and the Taliban, said about 30 court cases have been filed by listed individuals in Europe, Pakistan, Turkey and the United States protesting their inclusion.

The U.S.-sponsored resolution hammered out after lengthy negotiations, would strengthen the current sanctions regime, make it more transparent, and try to address these shortcomings.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity because negotiations have been private, said the resolution is expected to be adopted unanimously on Thursday.

The Security Council imposed sanctions against the Taliban in November 1999 for refusing to send Osama bin Laden to the United States or a third country for trial on terrorism charges in connection with two 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa.

The sanctions _ a travel ban, arms embargo and assets freeze _ were later extended to al-Qaida. In July 2005, the council extended the sanctions again to cover affiliates and splinter groups of al-Qaida and the Taliban.

The draft resolution reiterates the council's "unequivocal condemnation" of bin Laden, the Taliban and al-Qaida "for ongoing and multiple criminal terrorist acts aimed at causing the deaths of innocent civilians and other victims, destruction of property and greatly undermining stability." It expresses concern at the increase in kidnappings and hostage-takings by individuals or groups associated with them "with the aim of raising funds or gaining political concessions."

Currently, governments propose individuals and entities for the sanctions list, and the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions decides behind closed doors who should be subject to the punitive measures.

Requests to be taken off the list go to an official in the U.N. Secretariat who checks with appropriate governments to see whether they recommend "delisting." The official then sends all information to the sanctions committee for a decision.

A key proposal in the draft resolution would establish an ombudsperson to examine requests from individuals, organizations and companies to be taken off the sanctions list. The ombudsperson would gather information, facilitate a substantive dialogue with the petitioner, and present a report to the council committee monitoring sanctions laying out the arguments for removing the individual or entity from the list. The sanctions committee would then make a decision.

The draft resolution states that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in consultation with the sanctions committee, should appoint "an eminent individual of high moral character, impartiality and integrity with high qualifications and experience in relevant fields, such as legal, human rights, counterterrorism and sanctions, to be ombudsperson."

The proposed resolution also calls on the 192 U.N. member states to provide as much information as possible when proposing a new entry for the list.

To ensure that the right terrorists are targeted, the draft would give members of the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions more time to verify that names proposed merit inclusion. Before agreeing to a new designation, the committee would be required to approve detailed "narrative summaries" outlining the reasons for the listing.

The sanctions committee is reviewing all 488 individuals and entities on the list, which should be completed by June 30, 2010. The draft resolution calls for regular reviews every three years, and special annual reviews to remove people who have died or cannot be adequately identified from the list.