04 Sep Rebels Holding Peacekeepers Demand UN lift Sanctions
Last week, 45 Fijian peacekeepers deployed as part of a 1,200-member U.N. force monitoring a buffer zone between Syria and Israel were captured and are being held by Nusra Front rebels. (Hat tip to Theodore Christakis here at the ESIL conference in Vienna for raising the issue yesterday in the ESIL / SHARES Peace and Security Interest Group Seminar.)
Rebels have made three demands for their release, according to a WSJ article published yesterday:
1. They want to be dropped from the list of al Qaeda-linked groups under U.N. sanctions;
2. They are demanding monetary compensation for the deaths of the insurgents who were killed in recent fighting along the Syrian-Israeli border; and
3. They want humanitarian aid for a rebel-controlled area near the Syrian capital Damascus that is surrounded by government troops.
The Security Council responded with a press release yesterday, read by Amb. Samantha Power, in which it “condemned in the strongest terms the detention of 45 Fijian peacekeepers by a Security Council-designated terrorist organization. They reiterated their call for the peacekeepers’ immediate and unconditional release. There can never be any justification for attacks on or the detention of UN peacekeepers.”
The demand for delisting is particularly striking. On the one hand, it suggests that targeted sanctions are relevant to this group, whether for practical or symbolic reasons. On the other hand, there continues to be debate about the Security Council’s legal basis for placing demands on or regulating non-state actors.
In the Kosovo Advisory Opinion, the ICJ indicated the Security Council could create obligations for non-state actors, but the conferral of rights, obligations, and status on subjects of law without their participation in the international law making process continues to be controversial as the ILA’s 2014 report on Non-State Actors explores. Both the Council’s imposition of sanctions and its demand for the peacekeepers’ immediate and unconditional release in the press statement, (and here it is relevant that press statements are considered decisions of the Council) raise interesting and important issues in international law.