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Report Sanctions

On our second day at the UN Headquarter in New York, we had the opportunity to meet Mr. Ulrik Ahnfeldt-Mollerup from Denmark. His presentation was very interesting and we subsequently had a vivid discussion about sanctions.

Mr. Ahnfeldt-Mollerup has studied law and currently serves as Political Affairs Officer in the Analytic Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team (the `Monitoring Team`). This team is composed of independent experts with expertise in counter-terrorism, financing of terrorism, arms embargoes, travel bans and related legal issues. They provide information about the implementation and the effectiveness of sanctions regimes. The Monitoring Team supports the Security Council Committee, established in 1999 pursuant to Security Council resolution 1267 in order to control the implementation of sanctions against Taliban-controled Afghanistan. The Security Council Committee, also known as the Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee, is composed of all 15 Security Council member states. Due to changing circumstances, the sanctions regime has constantly been modified by subsequent resolutions. Now, these sanctions cover all individuals and entities associated with Al-Qaida, Usama bin Laden and/or the Taliban irrespective of the country they are operating in.

First, Mr. Ahnfeldt-Mollerup gave a short overview on the changes the Security Council had gone through since the end of the cold war. Since that time, there has been a huge increase in sanctions because the Security Council (the only organ being able to impose binding sanctions) has finally overcome the blockade of the cold war. Before the 1990s, the Security Council had agreed on sanctions only twice. Meanwhile, sanctions have become a frequently used instrument of coercion.

This led us directly to the purpose of sanctions: according to Mr. Ahnfeldt-Mollerup, they were supposed to change an actor’s cost-benefit-ratio. Ideally they incite an actor to refrain from certain acts. They might be imposed either on a whole country (comprehensive sanctions), for example by trade bans, or against persons (targeted sanctions), as for example by travel bans. As in the past comprehensive sanctions have not proved to be very effective and as they often only affected the civilian population, there has been a transition from comprehensive to targeted sanctions in the last ten years. The diamond trade ban for example (which forbids the trade with diamonds from conflict areas) is particularly effective and has helped to end conflicts in Angola and Sierra Leone.

After this general introduction to the topic of sanctions, Mr. Ahnfeldt-Mollerup focused on his area of expertise: sanctions against Al-Qaida. In addition to overseeing states’ implementation of sanctions measures, the Committee sets up the Consolidated List. This list, which is accessible on the Internet, enumerates individuals and entities that are connected to or associated with Al-Qaida. The consequences for individuals and companies on the list are very serious, since they are no longer allowed to travel or to withdraw money from their bank accounts.

Naturally, this raised the question of Human Rights. Consensus of all Committee members is needed to add persons to the list - as well as for a de-listing. He mentioned the difficulties connected to withdrawing a name from the list which involved proving the innocence of the person in question. Despite the fact that Security Council Resolution 1617 (2005) gives a clearer definition about activities indicating that someone is associated with Al-Qaida, some of us were very critical towards this procedure as it seems to lack standards of due process. Mr. Ahnfeldt-Mollerup understood our reservations but emphasized that these sanctions were of political, not judicial nature. According to him, with more than 500 individuals on the Consolidated List and more than 100 million US$ of frozen money, this list was a very useful instrument in the fight against terrorism.

At the end of his presentation, Mr. Ahnfeldt-Mollerup summed up that, especially in the fight against Al-Qaida, all countries tried to translate sanctions into action as effective as possible and that if problems occured, this often was due to the lack of capacity and not to the lack of will.

Charlotte Sparla

Note: In order to improve the de-listing procedures the Security Council recently has requested the Secretary-General to establish a Focal Point for De-Listing (Resolution 1730 [2006], the Annex contains the new de-listing procedures), which became fully operational in March 2007. Petitioners with de-listing requests may now either contact the Focal Point directly or through their State of residence or citizenship. The Focal Point serves as a "clearing house" and facilitator, however, the decision for a de-listing still remains with the Sanctions Committee.