Global Policy Forum

Targeted Sanctions: A Brief Overview of Options


Prepared by NGO Working Group on Iraq

November 3, 2000

"Targeted sanctions" are a tool for bringing governments or groups in line with international laws and norms. The devastating impact that comprehensive sanctions have had on the civilians of Iraq raises the need for a more effective sanctions regime which affects those in power while minimizing the effect on the general population.

Military Sanctions

One key to restructuring the comprehensive sanctions on Iraq is a viable system to monitor and restrict the importing of weapons and military-related technology. The Security Council should, as an urgent matter, authorize and provide the necessary resources to the Secretariat to carry out a expert technical study to determine the feasibility of establishing such a monitoring system that would be comprehensive, externally-based, and not dependent on the cooperation of the government of Iraq. So far as we are aware, the Security Council has until now taken no such initiative. Such a study should have the following components:

• Review the status of existing monitoring efforts, including the mechanism established under SCR 1051, drawing on the experience of former UNSCOM officials and OIP staff. Determine the requirements for effective monitoring of overland commercial traffic entering Iraq,

• Consider options for monitoring cargo flights, including possible use of intermediary airport locations for inspections.

• Evaluate the current Maritime Interdiction Force (MIF) as a model for the maritime component of such a monitoring and control system.

• Identify weapons systems and dual-use items and technologies that would be subject to interdiction, and a process for revising such a list to make it as targeted, comprehensive, and up-to-date as possible.

• Propose an on-site monitoring mechanism for tracking dual-use items and technologies that Iraq would be allowed to import pending the government's agreement to such monitoring.

Targeted Financial Sanctions

Targeted financial sanctions focus on the assets held abroad by individual leaders and supporters of the target regime, as well as their financial proxies. Such sanctions freeze or seize assets that are held or block transactions that occur outside of the target country. The assets are usually in the form of bank accounts, broker accounts (for holdings of stocks, bonds and other securities), but other kinds of assets can be frozen as well. In 1997, the Swiss Government began an effort to assess and improve the effectiveness of financial sanctions, now known as 'the Interlaken process.' The report of the second 1999 conference concluded that targeted financial sanctions are difficult to implement but technically feasible and it recommended new policies and practices to facilitate this process. In the case of Iraq, the main persons to be targeted are well-known.

Locating their assets might be complex, but it would not be impossible, and would involve the commitment and collaboration of the Security Council, the UN Secretariat, and Member States. Efforts to trace assets and to penetrate the bank secrecy of offshore havens would be required. The Security Council imposed targeted financial sanctions in Resolution 1173 (12 June 1998)which freezes the funds of Unita senior officials and adult members of their families.

Other Targeted Sanctions

Proposals for targeted sanctions include a wide range of different options, including blocking leaders' international air travel, telecom services and the like. General travel bans prohibit any travel by specific persons or groups. Enforcement of a general travel ban requires the cooperation of customs officials in many countries to monitor cross-border movements. Another option is a flight ban. It focuses on the most convenient form of travel, restricting freedom of movement for privileged individuals while stigmatizing the targeted state. Flight bans are relatively easy to enforce, particularly with the assistance of the aviation industry, which has been helpful in past cases.

The Security Council imposed an air flight ban in Resolution 1127 (28 August 1997)which banned air travel of senior Unita officials. Some observers believe that this ban was effective and that Council discussion of a similar ban in the case of Iraq had an effect on the Iraqi leadership even though such a ban was never put in place.


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