March 2006 Monthly Forecast

Posted 24 February 2006
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Sanctions Committees

Under the Provisional Rules of Procedure of the Security Council, in rule 28, the Council can “appoint a commission or committee or a rapporteur for a specified question.”

Over the last sixty years, the Council has utilised this power to establish a very wide range of subsidiary bodies, including: committees, working groups, commissions, missions and international tribunals.

The most common form of subsidiary body is the sanctions committee. A later report will provide a comprehensive guide to all the subsidiary bodies. But because of the importance of the tasks and the wide uncertainty about the roles and functions of the different sanctions committees, we have developed a chart (pages 22-23) to provide readers with an easy reference guide.

There are currently eight sanctions committees focusing on specific conflict and post-conflict situations, as well as well an additional two: the 1267 (the so-called Al-Qaida/Taliban) and 1636 (Syria) Sanctions Committees. All sanctions committees have the following structure.

  • Their composition always includes representatives of all 15 members of the Council.
  • The Council appoints as chair one of the permanent representatives selected from among the membership on the Council. 
  • Each sanctions committee is supported by the Sanctions Branch of the Department of Political Affairs in the UN Secretariat.
  • Committees are also often supported by monitoring teams, groups of experts and/or panels of experts appointed by the Secretary-General.

In recent years, “comprehensive” economic sanctions have disappeared. The sanctions measures most commonly imposed by the Council now are targeted sanctions such as: arms embargos, asset freezes, travel bans, and trade restrictions on certain strategic commodities such as diamonds and timber from areas of conflict. 

All sanctions measures are imposed under the Chapter VII powers of the Council, which make it mandatory for all states to implement the measures. In practice this means the adoption in domestic law of either legislation or subordinate regulatory measures imposing criminal sanctions on persons or enterprises that do not comply with the Council sanctions. It also usually means additional administrative action on the part of border officials, customs administrations, financial and banking regulators, and aviation security and immigration officers.

The Council traditionally empowers the committees to monitor the sanctions measures and compliance by states and individuals. They are sometimes delegated the power to make the sanctions regime effective in practice by taking the critical decision to designate, or name, the specific individuals or entities to which the targeted sanctions, such as asset freezes and travel bans, should apply. In addition, the Council at times also delegates to the committees the power to determine exemptions from the sanctions regime of particular individuals or commodities for humanitarian reasons.

In recent years, there have been several international initiatives that have addressed the issue of sanctions. The Interlaken and Bonn-Berlin processes helped the Council to develop draft models for targeted sanctions, and the Stockholm process helped it to develop modalities for effective implementation of targeted sanctions.

In an effort to improve its capacity to monitor implementation of targeted sanctions, the Council now employs the services of groups or panels of experts, appointed by the Secretary-General from a pool of experts proposed by member states. The experts tend to be specialists in customs, border control, arms, finance, civil aviation and, as appropriate, counterterrorism and commodities like diamonds and timber. They operate by visiting the country to which the sanctions apply and neighbouring countries; by examining related customs and shipping documents as well as government records related to business ownership, bank accounts, travel manifests and financial sector communications; and by interviewing government officials and other relevant persons.

Each group or panel of experts generally operates as an investigative arm of the sanctions committee and provides reports and advice to the committee in carrying out its monitoring functions. The mandate of each group of experts is specifically provided in the resolution establishing it. Each group of experts is appointed for a limited period, not necessarily overlapping with the duration of the sanctions measures. The resolution also sets out the reporting requirements of the group of experts, including the channel for reporting, which is usually to the Council through the committee.  Upon receipt of each group of experts’ report, the relevant committee considers its findings and recommendations, and then transmits the report to the Council.  In most cases, the report then becomes public, although the Council has the authority to hold the report for further discussions or, in theory, a member or members may object to the publication of the report.

In certain situations, the Council adopts sanctions measures, but with a delay in the effective date. For example, in resolution 1343 of 7 March 2001, the Council made certain demands on the Government of Liberia. It also imposed a ban on the export of diamonds from Liberia as well as a travel ban on senior members of the Liberian government.  At the same time, the Council decided that the measures would take effect two months later unless the Government of Liberia had complied with the demands outlined in the resolution. This usually happens when the Council wishes to allow more time for diplomatic and political efforts to bring about a change in the behaviour of the potential target before the sanctions take effect and may involve a delay in establishing a sanction committee. 

Once established, each committee determines the procedures under which it will conduct its business.  While there are no uniform rules of procedures for all the committees, there are ongoing efforts to streamline them.  The following sanctions committees have posted their guidelines electronically:

The guidelines for the DRC, Rwanda, Somalia and Sudan Committees are not posted on their websites.

All sanctions committees take decisions by consensus. Unlike in the Council itself, all 15 members have vetoes. Frequently they employ a decision-making practice called the “no objection procedure”, under which the chair circulates proposed decisions, e.g. a humanitarian exemption application, with the proposal that unless objections are received within a defined number of days the application will be approved.  This decision-making process is also used when designating individuals and entities to the list for the application of the targeted sanctions.  Except in cases where a group of experts may identify sanctions violators, names are submitted to a sanction committee for possible placement on the designated list by member states. 

We will be updating the Chart of Sanctions Committees periodically on our website and will supplement it with more detailed information regarding each of the sanctions regimes.
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