Global Policy Forum

General Articles on Sanctions



On the Long Road Towards Security Council Accountability: Accessing and Renewing the Ombudsperson (June 2011)

This paper by Nicol Herbert sees the new sanctions Ombudsperson as a unique step towards legal oversight of the Security Council.  For the first time, there is some degree of due process for individuals blacklisted by the 1267 Al Qaeda-Taliban sanctions committee.  Based on a year of practice and comments by the Ombudsperson herself, the paper recommends a number of changes to make the office more responsive to legal standards of due process and more effective at delivering justice.  An impending renewal of the mandate for the office makes the paper especially timely. (Global Policy Forum)



US Seeks End of Iraqi Trade Sanctions at Biden-Led UN Meeting (December 7, 2010)

On December 15, US Vice-President Biden will chair the Security Council meeting to discuss the current sanctions on Iraq. The sanctions have been in place since 1991 and were meant to prevent Iraq from acquiring materials for chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. The US is seeking an end to these sanctions so that Iraq can improve agriculture and industry that have been stunted by its inability to obtain materials for peaceful development. The US is portraying the effort as recognition of Iraq's progress and new government. China is opposed to lifting sanction on Iraq until the Iraqi government gives the IAEA more access to scrutinize sites in Iraq. (Bloomberg)

UK Blocks Move to Hit Somali Pirates with UN Sanctions (August 10, 2010)

The United Kingdom has delayed the addition of two names to the UN list of individuals targeted with sanctions for involvement in piracy near Somalia. London is apparently investigating the legal implications of Security Council Resolution 1844, which imposes sanctions on individuals who are connected to threats to the "peace, security or stability of Somalia." The asset freeze means that British corporations might be open to prosecution if they made ransom payments that ended up in the hands of listed individuals. Insurers, law firms, and private military corporations would likely be affected the most by these legal considerations. (Reuters)

Even the Dead Can't Get off the UN Terror Blacklist (July 13, 2010)

The UN's extensive "terror blacklist" continues to identify individuals for targeted sanctions, even if they are apparently dead. The list has been at the center of controversy before. Some observers allege that it violates human rights, and others have shown that innocent individuals have been wrongly included. The controversy has intensified amid pressure from Afghan President Hamid Karzai to expedite the removal of deceased individuals. Nonetheless, challenges remain: it is difficult to ensure that the individuals are, indeed, dead, and if they are, that their assets will not be used to fund terrorism. (Washington Post)

Podcast Interview with Yvonne Terlingen on the Creation of the UN Ombudsperson (June 8, 2010)

On June 8, 2010, GPF invited Yvonne Terlingen to discuss the United Nation's targeted sanctions regime and the recent creation of the UN Ombudsperson by the Security Council. The Ombudsperson will serve as a contact point for individuals placed on the UN sanctions list and will carry out independent and impartial investigations into delisting requests. Yvonne Terlingen has served as head of Amnesty International's United Nations Office in New York and has recently written an article on the role of the United States in steering the Security Council's policy on counterterrorism, to be published in the summer edition of Ethics and International Affairs.

Abdelrazik Suit Takes Aim at Ottawa over UN Blacklist (June 8, 2010)

Abousfian Abdelrazik has filed a lawsuit against the Canadian Government after he was wrongfully included on the UN's "blacklist" of alleged terrorists. Abdelrazik was stranded, jailed and tortured in Sudan as the target of a UN travel ban and asset freeze. He remains the target of sanctions despite having been cleared by both Canadian intelligence services and the national police force. He argues that Canada's compliance with the UN targeted sanctions regime violates his rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This case illustrates the dubious efficacy and legitimacy of the UN's targeted sanctions. (CTV News)

UN Security Council Seeks an Eminent Individual for an Impossible Job (April 16, 2010)

In December 2009, the Security Council passed Resolution 1904; creating an Ombudsperson's Office to be staffed by an eminent person. The main task of the Ombudsperson is to carry out independent and impartial investigations into delisting requests by persons placed on the Security Council sanctions list. In this article, Joanne Mariner praises the effort by the Security Council to improve the fairness of the listing and delisting processes. However, according to the author the reform still falls short of what is necessary. (FindLaw)
EU and US sanctions against Zimbabwe are weakening democracy in Zimbabwe. The sanctions were imposed back in to 2002 following the human rights violations around the national elections. However, Zimbabwe now has a power-sharing and popularly supported government and the economy is growing and stabilizing. The sanctions prevent Zimbabwe from moving forward and reaching its full potential. One of Zimbabwe's leaders, Morgan Tsvangirai, will travel to the EU this month to petition for the removal of the sanctions. (Guardian)

UN Drops Muslim Brotherhood Figure from 'Terrorist Finance' List (March 17, 2010)

Youssef Nada, a prominent financial and diplomatic representative of an Egypt-based fundamentalist movement, has been quietly dropped from the UN sanctions list. Nada was added to the list after alleged financial ties with Al Qaeda through his companies in Switzerland, Lichtenstein and the Bahamas. Nada and his companies, however, remain on the US terrorist-finance sanctions list. This article suggests that the UN's decision to drop Nada from its sanctions list may have been prompted by a proposed mechanism under Swiss law. This mechanism would enable the Swiss government to refuse enforcement of UN sanctions against individuals in circumstances where little is proven against them. (Newsweek)

China Rejects Iran UN Sanctions (January 6, 2010)

The Chinese UN ambassador, Zhang Yesui, has rejected a proposal for UN sanctions against Iran.  This could result in the US and its allies imposing sanctions on Iran without UN backing.  (BBC News)


UN Ombudsman to Weigh No-Fly List Claims (December 17, 2009)

On 17 December 2009, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1904 in which it authorizes the establishment of an ombudsperson. This ombudsperson will receive requests from individuals and entities seeking to be removed from the Security Council sanctions list. This so- called "blacklist" targets sanctions against alleged supporters of the Taliban and al Qaeda and has been heavily criticized for its lack of due process for listed persons. The creation of the ombudsman is a first step in a positive direction. It provides an avenue for individuals and entities seeking a de-listing to present their cases to an independent and impartial officer. (CBC News)

Dead Men on UN Terror List Hinder Global Fight Against Al-Qaeda (December 3, 2009)

At least 42 dead people and 69 defunct companies are among the 500 names on the UN's list of alleged al-Qaeda and Taliban supporters. This seriously mars the legitimacy of the list and makes it more difficult for member states to apply sanctions on suspected individuals and organizations. The list has proven difficult to update, as all 15 Security Council members must agree to add or remove any person or company from the register. (Bloomberg)
United Nations Panels of Experts are small, civilian, fact-finding teams appointed by the UN Security Council to monitor the effectiveness of targeted sanctions. However, the valuable information the experts produce does not necessarily translate into member state or Security Council action. This study, by the Stimson Center, argues that Panel efforts deserve greater attention from and use by the United Nations to improve implementation of targeted sanctions, which in turn could help peace-building. (Stimson Center)


The Security Council's Targeted Sanctions Regimes: In Need of Better Protection of the Individual (December 2007)

This Leiden Journal of International Law article notes that the Security Council's targeted sanctions contain serious procedural flaws. The Council can arbitrarily place individuals on a sanctions list, without giving them access to evidence against them or the right to appeal. The article recommends that the UN establish an independent and impartial sanctions organ, with the power to review petitions for delisting.



UN Approves Appeals over Terrorism Blacklist (December 21, 2006)

The UN Security Council adopted an appeal procedure for the delisting of individuals accused of terrorist activities from UN sanctions. Individuals will now be able to present their case for removal from the lists without depending solely on their government. Yet, they will still not have a right to participate in the review process by the Security Council. Human Rights advocates welcomed the resolution as a step forward, but argued that the US-drawn procedures remain far from attaining human rights standards, as they leave the final decision in the hands of the same ones who submitted the names in the first place (Wall Street Journal)

The Black Hole of a UN Blacklist (October 2, 2006)

In 1999, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1267 establishing sanctions against presumed terrorists whose names appear on a list. This Wall Street Journal article criticizes the UN listing system, which enables the Council to sanction individuals while denying them any right to defend themselves, thereby violating human rights conventions. While the Security Council can list an individual as a terrorist with alarming ease, only governments can apply to remove someone from the sanctions list.

Interpol Welcomes UN Decision for Enhanced Co-operation (August 10, 2006)

Attempting to improve the efficiency of its sanctions regime, the UN Security Council has unanimously agreed to share all details of individuals under UN sanctions with Interpol for inclusion in its databases. The call for increased cooperation with Interpol follows the joint issuing to Interpol's 184 member countries in December 2005 of Special Notices for individuals targeted by UN sanctions against al Qaeda and the Taliban. (Angola Press)

UN al Qaeda Sanctions Said to Violate Rights (June 23, 2006)

Denmark's foreign minister has warned the UN Security Council that its sanctions lists on al Qaeda and Taliban suspects threaten to undermine the rule of law. Lack of due process and effective oversight in the compiling of sanction lists are compounded by the difficulty of removing names or correcting mistaken identities on the sanctions list. The Security Council adopted a statement that committed it "to ensuring that fair and clear procedures exist for placing individuals and entities on sanctions list and for removing them." (Reuters)

Why China Blocks Sanctions On Iran, Sudan and Burma (June 12, 2006)

Efforts at the UN Security Council to impose economic and military sanctions upon Sudan, Iran and Burma have proved unsuccessful due to China's threat to veto any such resolution. China has strong economic interests in Sudan and Iran - it finds itself increasingly dependent on Sudanese and Iranian oil reserves and enjoys revenues of over one billion dollars a year from exporting weapons to the two countries. "Just as much as the United States and other Western powers protect their own political and military interests worldwide, so does China." (Inter Press Service)



Bombs, Carrots and Sticks: The Use of Incentives and Sanctions (March 2005)

Do sanctions work:  will corrupt governments really comply with the demands of the UN to achieve global integration? This article examines the past success and failure of sanctions and incentives, to better understand how they work. Cortright and Lopez show sanctions are successful when consistent, direct, and backed by multilateral support. They conclude sanctions are best employed alongside the use of positive incentives and vice versa - colloquially named the carrot and stick approach.


Africa Wary of Punitive Sanctions on Member States (March 17, 2005)

Addressing the UN Charter Committee on behalf of the 53-member African Group, Lydia Randrianarivony of Madagascar expressed concern over "the increasing trend in the application of UN sanctions- especially on African countries." Randrianarivony said in most cases sanctions affect the most vulnerable, particularly women and children, and stressed that the Council should only turn to sanctions as a last resort. The call for smart sanctions comes at a time when Council members cannot agree on measures to penalize Sudan over the atrocities in Darfur. (Inter Press Service)



Sanctions Have Gotten a Bum Rap (August 18, 2004)

David Baldwin argues against pundits who criticize sanctions as useless, stating that although sanctions don't always work, they are still "useful foreign policy tools." He contends that the relatively small financial cost of sanctions (versus military intervention) and their use in conjunction with other "tools" make them a viable option in pressuring governments. (Los Angeles Times)

Losing Battle to Rescue Child Soldiers (January 30, 2004)

Asia Times notes that although the Security Council adopted a resolution in 2003 to end the use of child soldiers, the number of children fighting in conflicts has increased. This article urges the Security Council to take tougher measures, including economic sanctions, against those who violate the resolution.



Senator Byrd: US Syria Bill Could Lead to an Invasion (November 12, 2003)

The US Congress tightened unilateral sanctions against Syria. Along with sanctions provisions, the legislation speaks of "hostile actions" by Syria against US forces in Iraq. Senator Robert Byrd worries that this legislation could help to make the case for pre-emptive attack against that country. (Agence France Presse)

Sanctions Don't Work (November 10, 2003)

Burmese dissident Aung San Suu Kyi backs sanctions against her country to squeeze the generals who seized power there. Yet Nicholas Kristof argues that 14 years of sanctions against Burma have led to high rates of child malnourishment and resulted in vast unemployment, leading some women into prostitution. (New York Times)



Sanctions Rules Must Protect Due Process (March 4, 2002)

As the UN is reforming the system of sanctions toward more targeted measures, Human Rights Watch calls on the Security Council to establish clear rules to protect individuals against human rights abuses.


UN Council Puts Off Lifting Sudan Sanctions (September 17, 2001)

Following the tragic terrorist attack against the US, the Security Council decided to postpone the lifting of sanctions against Sudan. (Reuters)

Private Firms Aid UN on Sanctions (April 21, 2001)

Privatization does not spare the UN. After the decision to use services of a private company to monitor sanctions in Angola, the Security Council discusses the same possibility for arms inspection in Iraq. (Washington Post)

Cheney Panel Seeks Review Of Sanctions (April 19, 2001)

The US is revising its sanction regime not only on Iraq, but also on Iran and Libya in order to meet energy needs in the country. (Washington Post)

Governments Stress Need to Minimize Impact of Sanctions on Third States (April 12, 2001)

As the Charter Committee finalizes its report to the General Assembly, delegations are urging the Security Council to minimize the negative effects of sanctions on third States. (M2 PRESSWIRE)

US Tries to Head Off UN Plan to Reform Sanctions (February 9, 2001)

While the UN is considering rethinking the way sanctions are defined and applied, the US is opposing recommendations for time limits and a majority vote for adoption of sanctions. (Guardian)

UN Security Council Mulling Sanctions Plans (February 2, 2001)

Proposals to improve the sanctions system include setting time limits and taking action to ease sanctions in the case of compliance with requirements. France would like this "carrot and stick" proposal to be accepted by a majority vote instead of consensus. How come the US is not enthusiastic? (Associated Press)

Powell Intends to Curb US Use of Diplomatic Sanctions (January 22, 2001)

Colin Powell may reverse the longtime US policy of imposing sanctions on countries with which it disagrees, by lifting embargoes on some of the 75 countries subject to US sanctions regimes. Is it any coincidence that this "revolution" would serve the interests of US business? (Los Angeles Times)


Annan Questions "Blunt Instrument" of Economic Sanctions (November 18, 2000)

The Secretary General casts doubt on the effectiveness and morality of economic sanctions in their current form, saying that it is "unrealistic to expect to bring about positive change through a policy of embargo and deliberate isolation of an entire people." (Earth Times)

UN Chief Says Sanctions Must Come With 'Carrots and Sticks' (November 16, 2000)

Looking for ways to make sanctions "more effective and more just", Kofi Annan again endorses the idea of targeting sanctions. But he says that even better targeting is not enough; states must also be given incentives for compliance. (Associated Press)

UN Resolution Criticises Unilateral Sanctions (October 27, 2000)

In a comment against the US, Libya sponsored a call for the repeal of ''unilaterally imposed extraterritorial coercive economic measures on trade and financial and economic cooperation, including at the regional level.'' The text had been negotiated with and supported by the European Union. (Reuters)

UN Sanctions Under Fire Once Again (October 5, 2000)

A succinct but thought provoking article on sanctions imposed on countries by the UN and by other states and the effect of sanctions on neigboring countries and internal civilian populations. (Inter Press Service)

UN Council to Review Its Policy on Sanctions (April 18, 2000)

In the midst of growing criticism about the effectiveness of sanctions and the civilian suffering that often ensues (most notably in Iraq), the Security Council agreed to take a critical look at sanctions and create a working group of independent experts to begin a policy review. (New York Times)

Study Rates Effectiveness of Sanctions (April 14, 2000)

A UN report detailing the use of sanctions over the past decade proposes more effective sanctions through greater enforcement, while sparing civilians, who instead of the intended regime are so often the ones made to suffer. (Associated Press / Boston Globe)

US Eases Sanctions on Iran (March 17, 2000)

The United States has lifted its ban on the sale of food items and carpets from Iran as a response to election successes by reformists in Iran. The US administration wishes to undermine the power base of conservatives who are more hostile to 'the American lifestyle' over time. (BBC World Service)

US Imposes Sanctions on Sudan (February 16, 2000)

Economic sanctions were imposed against Sudan's state-owned oil enterprise and a joint venture with three foreign oil companies. Government commission on religious freedom is seeking to prevent rights abusers from raising money on US stock markets.

EU Urged to Ignore Haider (February 14, 2000)

In a plea for an end to Vienna's diplomatic isolation, Austrian foreign minister has said that only the Austrian president, the chancellor and herself were constitutionally entitled to speak for the country abroad.

Sanctions Hit Austria (February 4, 2000)

After a new government including the far-right Freedom Party of Joerg Haider was sworn into office, number of political and economic sanction was placed on Austria by the US, Israel, Belgium and the European Union.

Human Security in Sudan (January 2000)

Report of a Canadian Assessment Mission prepared for the Minister of Foreign Affairs, released February 14, 2000. Following its release, the Canadian government announced it would not impose economic sanctions against Talisman, but instead would re-open its diplomatic representation in Sudan.


Supreme Court Review of the Burma-Law Decision (September 24, 1999)

The State of Massachusetts has asked the Supreme Court to review the decision by a federal court of appeals that overturned the Mass. "Burma law."

Oil Firm Could Face Sanctions (October 27, 1999)

The Canadian government threatens to place sanctions on a Canadian oil company operating in Sudan unless the company does more to help end human rights violations and the 16-year old civil war occurring in Sudan.

Misguided Weapons (August 16, 1999)

"Sanctions may be an easy option but they do not affect the leaders they aim to weaken." (The Guardian)

US to Ease Sanctions on Countries Linked to Terrorism (April 29, 1999)

New York Times article on a change in US foreign policy, being a step toward the awareness that "sanctions are not an effective way to make foreign policy and punish rogue states."

International Sanctions on Haiti Fueled Repression, UN Official Says (March 1, 1999)

In "Sanctions in Haiti: Human Rights and Democracy Under Assault", Elizabeth Gibbons criticises the sanctions that were laid against Haiti and points to their effects long after the 'desired objectives' are achieved. (Miami Herald)


The Boomerang Effect of US "Sanctions-Mania" (August 16, 1998)

About the "boomerang effect" of US trade sanctions on Latin America and in general.



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