Press Conference on Security Council Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee

12 February 2009

Press Conference on Security Council Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee

12 February 2009
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


The Security Council was working very hard to engage all United Nations Member States in the effort to fully implement its sanctions regime targeting persons and groups associated with Al-Qaida and the Taliban, the coordinator of the team monitoring those measures told correspondents today.

Speaking at a Headquarters press conference, Richard Barrett, Coordinator of the Al-Qaida and Taliban Monitoring Team, which assists the Council’s Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee (officially known as the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1267 (1999)), said the regime had begun before 2001 in response to the 1998 attacks on two embassies in East Africa and was meant, at the time, to force the Taliban to give up Osama Bin Laden for justice.

After “9/11”, however, the regime, which includes an arms embargo, travel restrictions and asset freeze ‑- had taken on a more significant role and had become global in scope.  It no longer targeted national leaders for sanctions, but individuals and groups who were spread all over the world and were secretive by nature.  There was huge support for the regime among Member States, as the Council intended to have an impact on the threat to international peace and security posed by terrorism.

As the regime was now some 10 years old, problems had arisen, Mr. Barrett said.  In order to implement the sanctions, one could not rely on criminal statutes, as the measures were preventive in nature.  There had been a successful challenge by Yassis al Qadi in the European Court of Justice after he was named on the Council’s sanctions list in 2001.  There had also been challenges in Pakistan, Turkey, Switzerland and the United States.

There were, however, clear and fair procedures for listing and de-listing of individuals and entities, honed even finer by Council resolution 1822 (2008) in response to those challenges.  People and groups affected were notified of their listing with reasons why.  Once listed, they had an option to request de-listing.  The entire list ‑- now containing some 500 names ‑- would be reviewed by June 2010 and every three years hence, he said.

Many correspondents’ questions focused on due process and on matters regarding the rights of those listed.  In response, Mr. Barrett stressed that the Council’s actions clearly intended to be preventative, but that courts might think they were punitive, although the European Court had stipulated that denial of the right to property might not necessarily be wrong.  The Council’s intentions were to stop terrorist acts before they were committed.

The Council, especially in resolution 1822 (2008) had tried to introduce as much due process as possible, he said.  After all, the Committee did not “pick names out of a telephone book”.  The Committee had to be convinced that an association with Al-Qaida or the Taliban had been properly established.  The 15 Committee members (all members of the Council) looked at the presented facts carefully and acted by consensus, with 15 Governments backing a listing.

Describing listing procedures in more detail, he said resolution 1822 (2008) had carefully defined the concept of “associated with”.  States proposing a listing had to fill out a cover sheet ‑- available on the Committee’s website ‑- and make their case clearly.  If a State tried to submit a name with political intentions, the Council would pick it out quickly.  There was no point in the Council having a regime that did not work, as that would undermine the body’s authority.

As Council members were diplomats in the first place, they could not be expected to check all details.  They send the information to their capitals, or the Monitoring Team liaises with security services.

He said a few people had been de-listed, and those names were available on the website.  The reasons for de-listing were twofold:  there might be a case of mistaken identity, which had happened primarily in the early stages of the regime; or the person listed no longer met the criteria for listing ‑- he might be dead or have changed his behaviour.  There was no right of redress, as the Council owned the regime and had no provisions for redress.  National courts, however, might provide opportunities for redress against a State.  A person or entity wanting to be de-listed could go through the State or contact the Committee’s “Focal Point” at United Nations Headquarters.

Asked whether he had received any signals from United States President Obama’s Administration that it would be more committed to due process, he said the United States had been very important from the beginning, as it saw a clear threat from Al-Qaida.  He did not expect a much different approach.  In order to request a listing from somebody in the United States, the Government had to go through several procedures, including a review by the Department of Justice.  There might even be more engagement with the process, as the new Administration had stated that the United Nations was important, that it could not deal with the threat alone, and that the problem could not be solved by military means.

Asked about the case of Jamaat ud Dawa, declared a terrorist group by the United Nations, which had stated it had written a letter to the Secretary-General with the request it be de-listed, Mr. Barrett said he had seen no such letter.  The group had been listed because it was an alias for Laskar-e-Taiba, the group accused of being behind the recent Mumbai bombings.  The problem was that the group also did good works, such as running schools and clinics.  Listing them might, therefore, have consequences for unintended victims, and one had to be careful about that.

A similar problem had arisen with United Nations relief efforts in Pakistan after the devastating earthquake there, he said.  Allegations had been raised that some relief had been funnelled through listed entities.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs had stated that it would work with whomever in order to get relief on the ground.  He stressed that the implementation of sanctions was the responsibility of the State.  The Committee had written to the Secretary-General, asking him to ensure the United Nations would not be dealing with listed organizations.  Groups that also did charity work were difficult to deal with.  Donors, after all, gave money for charitable purposes.  One had to “excise the cancerous bits from the charity”, he said.

Answering another question, he said that, if Governments such as that in Afghanistan added more names to the list, the reconciliation process could be held hostage.  It was, therefore, important to have a dynamic list with correct information.  After all, the list was published to thousands of people worldwide, both public and private.  “The conundrum of preventive versus punitive will always be there,” he said.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.