Like the use of armed force, Security Council sanctions are governed by Chapter VII of the Charter on “action with respect to threats to the peace, breaches of the peace, and acts of aggression”. The use of sanctions, explicitly provided for in Article 41, is envisaged in the Charter as an alternative (or preliminary) to the use of force. The Security Council calls upon Member States to apply the necessary measures to give effect to its decisions. Article 41 thus mentions the “complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations”, which Member States should help implement
Since the first sanctions applied to South Rhodesia in 1966 and South Africa in 1970, the Security Council has made increasing use of the sanctions instrument (12 sanctions regimes at present, 6 regimes lifted) in a wider variety of situations (such as armed conflict, stalemate in a political process, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism).
As sanctions have been used more often, so they have changed in nature: they are now always targeted and usually standardised, such as embargoes on weapons and sensitive goods, travel bans and asset freezes. This has made them more effective: whether intended to deprive parties of their means of action (weapons embargo during a conflict, ban on transactions related to proliferation, assets freeze to combat terrorism) or, more generally, to bring pressure to bear on one party to incite them to cooperate, sanctions have had significant results (South Africa, Angola, Libya, Sierra Leone, Liberia, etc.). In the fight against terrorism, travel bans and asset freezes help to disrupt the activities of terrorist groups and their support networks.
Sanctions committees, key to the effective implementation of sanctions
To ensure the effective implementation of sanctions by UN Member States, the Security Council may decide to establish a sanctions committee, a subsidiary organ of the Council comprising all Security Council Member States. Meetings are generally held of experts from the various permanent representations.
A sanctions committee has three main functions:
adopt new sanctions and update existing ones: according to its mandate, a sanctions committee may designate persons, entities and assets to be subject to sanctions or supplement and update sanctions lists established by the UNSC;
monitor the proper implementation of the sanctions decided by the UNSC: a sanctions committee compiles and verifies the information that UN Member States must supply concerning initiatives taken to apply sanctions;
clarify the procedures for applying sanctions: a sanctions committee may answer questions from States about the practical application of sanctions. It may, for example, confirm the existence of a breach of sanctions identified by a State. When necessary, the committee may request States for information to enable it to respond to a given situation.
The current number of sanctions committees is twelve. Some are supported by groups of experts appointed by the UN Secretariat who are tasked with overseeing the implementation of sanctions and assessing progress made in countries targeted by sanctions. Such groups might also propose measures to improve the efficiency of sanctions schemes. As sanctions regimes have developed, it has become necessary to establish procedures to safeguard the rights of the individuals and entities subject to sanctions. At France’s suggestion, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1730 (2006) creating for all sanctions regimes established by the Security Council a “focal point” to receive de-listing requests. Resolution 1822 (2008) requires for the sanctions regime against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban timely notification of the individuals and entities sanctioned, a detailed statement of case, and regular updating of the list of individuals and entities sanctioned. These procedural guarantees have been gradually extended to other individual sanctions regimes.
For European Union Member States, the sanctions decisions of the 1267 Committee and other sanctions committees are transposed at European level into a common position and EU regulations subject to the control of the Community courts, which monitor the respect of the rights of the persons and entities sanctioned (particularly the adversarial principle).
Update : July 2010
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