14 July 2009
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

press conference on activities of al-qaida and taliban sanctions committee


The fight against terrorism, important as it was, must be conducted in conformity with the rule of law and the principles of due process, the Chairman of the Security Council’s Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee said at Headquarters today.


At a press conference on the activities of the Committee ‑‑ formally known as the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1267 (1999) ‑‑ Chairman Thomas Mayr-Harting, Permanent Representative of Austria, noted “major shortcomings” in the accuracy of the List of individuals and entities subject to sanctions including the freezing of assets, travel bans and arms embargoes.  The Committee had to ensure that the List was a dynamic instrument, reflecting new developments.


He said there was insufficient information ‑‑ including an absence of full names or dates of birth ‑‑ about one third of the 513 names on the current List of 402 individuals and 111 entities.  That prevented the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) from providing “special notices”, without which law enforcement entities and border guards could not implement the resolution.  There were only two ways out of that dilemma:  either improve the information, or drop the names from the List as nothing could be done about them.  Another concern was that, given that 38 of the listed individuals were presumed dead, Committee members must either confirm their deaths or arrive at a consensus that would allow their de-listing.


Council resolution 1822 (2008) had improved due process, as it required a review of all listings, he said, adding that the Committee was now reviewing relevant information on each name listed before the Council’s adoption of the resolution, asking the relevant States for additional information.  That process could be finished by 30 June 2010, leading to a “cleansing” of the Consolidated List.  Another improvement to resolution 1822 (2008) required the posting, on the Committee’s website, of “narrative summaries” explaining the reasons for each listing.  Reviewing the information would clearly improve transparency and fairness, and the tabling of a follow-up text to resolution 1822 (2008) was expected by the end of 2009.


Accompanying Mr. Mayr-Harting was Richard Barrett, Coordinator of the Committee’s Sanctions Monitoring Team, who described its supporting role in assessing threats and implementing the resolution, in coordination with Member States.  Threat assessment focused on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area, North Africa (particularly Algeria and Mauritania and areas of those countries bordering Mali), Yemen and Saudi Arabia, among other regions.  Al-Qaida was also active elsewhere, making the threat it posed “quite lively”.


Asked about “Abdelrazik”, a Canadian citizen who had been listed despite Canada’s request for his de-listing since he had been inappropriately accused, Mr. Mayr-Harting said the suspect had been listed in 2006, not by Canada, but on the basis of information provided by another “designating State”.  The relevant “narrative summary” had been posted on the Committee’s website on 22 June, but the Committee was yet to hold an in-depth discussion of the case.


He said that a broader issue involved the right to be heard, an aspect that should be examined.  The sanctions regime was not punitive but preventive and, therefore, did not function as a court.  Some 30 cases involving listed individuals were now before international, regional and national courts and the question of protecting their human rights was an important one.  Although resolution 1822 (2008) had brought about substantive improvements in procedures, adjustments were ongoing.


Mr. Barrett added that Abdelrazik, a Canadian-Sudanese citizen, had recently returned to Canada, explaining that, as a Canadian citizen, he was allowed back in the country.  His “narrative summary” had been published independently of Canadian actions.


Asked about Taliban activities in the border areas between Afghanistan and Iran, he said that, despite reports of Al-Qaida activities in that area, there had been no confirmed links that could result in the listing of individuals.  However, efforts were being made to list some individuals involved in the drug trade for financing the Taliban.  The drug trade was carried out in the area bordering Iran.


In response to a question about Somalia and Al-Shabaab militants, Mr. Mayr-Harting recalled that Somalia had recently been discussed in the Security Council, where he had drawn attention to Al-Qaida links.  The Somalia Sanctions Committee was examining the matter.  Although Al-Shabaab had expressed admiration for Al-Qaida, that in itself was not enough to establish a link.  Mr. Barrett added that the Council had not yet requested the listing of Al-Shabaab.


Asked about North African countries, he said Al-Qaida had close relationships with groups in that subregion, particularly in Algeria, and was actively recruiting in Morocco, Tunisia, Mali, and particularly in Mauritania.  However, Algeria remained the main focus.


Responding to a question about Al-Qaida’s influence in the Philippines, Mr. Barrett said the Abu Sayyaf group had been listed as one of the most active in that archipelago’s Mindanao island.  It was “near the top” in terms of killings by Al-Qaida associates, and people fleeing authorities elsewhere, went to Mindanao to re-establish themselves.  Two or three militants operating in that area were key entries on the Committee’s List.


Regarding threats from the Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba, he said it was listed and was trying to raise tensions between India and Pakistan at a time of increasing pressure on itself and associated groups in western Pakistan.  Several attacks had taken place in Lahore, which was hardly in the tribal areas, and even Pakistani soldiers in Kashmir had been attacked.  Pakistani groups also had operational links with the Taliban.


Asked about the East Turkestan Islamic Movement in China, Mr. Barrett said it was on the Consolidated List, and was a source of particular concern owing to its links with Al-Qaida in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area, where it was very well established.  Members of the movement appeared to move towards northern Afghanistan.


In response to another question, he said the United States had historically had an interest in the functioning of the Committee, and was responsible for many of its listings.  It, therefore, had a “big workload” in answering queries from the Committee.  The new Administration took the process seriously and, moreover, was sensitive to the need to balance the fight against terrorism with adherence to the rule of law.


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For information media • not an official record