High Level Sanctions Review Launched at the UN

by Kristen Boon

A new High Level sanctions review has been initiated at the UN, sponsored by the UN Missions of Australia, Finland, Greece and Sweden, in combination with Brown University and the sanctions consulting firm CCI. The purpose of the review is to assess existing sanctions and develop forward looking recommendations to enhance effectiveness. A similar process took place in 2006, known as the Informal Working Group on General Issues of Sanctions, which resulted in some important policy documents for sanctions regimes.

This new review will focus on three issues:

  • UN integration and coordination on the implementation of UN sanctions (addressing opportunities to improve sanctions integration and coordination among the UN entities supporting the Council’s sanctions function, including sanctions committees, expert groups, the Ombudsperson and the Secretariat)
  • UN sanctions and related institutions and instruments. (addressing the intersections between UN sanctions and other international instruments and institutions dealing with international security, such as international arms control and disarmament mechanisms, international financial and economic regulatory systems, and international criminal justice institutions)
  • UN sanctions, regional organizations, and emerging challenges (Addressing opportunities to optimize UN sanctions as an effective tool in response to serious and systematic violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, enhance coordination with regional sanctions, and explore new applications to address evolving threats to international peace and security)

This promises to be an important endeavor. While some member states stressed that there was no need to “reinvent the wheel”, others noted the importance of coordinating with the ICC and not overburdening developing states.

From my perspective, this process will be relevant to international lawyers for three reasons:

  • There are increasingly complex questions about how sanctions committees interact with other mechanisms. Are sanctions, which target individuals, incompatible with peacekeeping exercises, which usually have a mandate of neutrality? How should sanctions, which focus on conflict prevention and peace building, interact with international judicial mechanisms, which focus on deterrence, and longer term judicial processes for individual criminal responsibility? Relatedly, how can the work of the ICC and sanctions committees be better coordinated?
  • What process of review should apply to targeted sanctions generally? Currently only the Al Qaida sanctions regime is overseen by an administrative review mechanism in the form of the UN Ombudspersons office. Individuals and entities targeted under other sanctions regimes only have access to a “focal point” which is viewed as being not much more than a mailbox, given its limited mandate. The ECJ’s Kadi decision of 2013 raised stakes on due process, finding that even the Ombudspersons office does not meet the standard of effective protection. The battle between sanctions regimes and courts has begun, with potentially significant stakes for the supremacy of Security Council resolutions under Art. 103 of the Charter, and the ability of states to implement sanctions in the face of court challenges.
  • Finally, the situations in which sanctions are applied are increasingly innovative. Hate speech, poaching of wildlife products, protection of civilians, exploitation of natural resources – these are but a few of the justifications for imposing sanctions in the last decade.   These indicate a broadening view of what constitutes a threat to the peace and a deepening interest in using sanctions as a broad based tool.

To watch the opening meeting and see the statements, the video is available here.

http://opiniojuris.org/2014/06/05/high-level-sanctions-review-launched-un/

One Response

  1. Very interesting. But do note that PK mandates are explicitly not neutral. DPKO uses the notion of impartiality whereby mandates may align with one party to a conflict (usually the sitting govt) but the mandate must be implemented impartially, e.g. w/o turning a blind eye to the conduct of any of the parties.

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