What's In Blue

Posted Wed 11 Feb 2015

Adoption of a Resolution on the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham and Al-Nusra Front

Tomorrow (12 February), the Security Council is set to adopt a resolution targeting some of the sources of funding of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and Al-Nusra Front (ANF). After being discussed among permanent members, the draft resolution was circulated by Russia late last week to the wider Council membership. Following a round of negotiations, a draft with some changes incorporated was put in blue yesterday and seems ready to be adopted tomorrow.

The draft resolution—which focuses on the way in which illegal oil exporting, traffic of cultural heritage, ransom payments and external donations improve the operational capacity of ISIS and ANF—mostly reaffirms the existing counter-terrorism framework, with the addition of some new legal obligations. It also reaffirms previous provisions of the arms embargo imposed on Al-Qaida affiliates by resolution 2061 last June. Russia’s initiative seems to have been prompted in part by a 13 November report of the Analytical Support and Monitoring Team of the 1267/1989 Sanctions Committee which identified some areas where additional enhanced sanctions could curb ISIS and ANF revenue generation (S/2014/815). (This is the first Council outcome on the recommendations of the Monitoring Team to curb the financing on ISIS and ANF since the report was published three months ago.)

Overall it appears that the Russian initiative was welcomed by all members. Counter-terrorism is an issue where there is considerable unity among the P5 and it seems that the permanent members had agreed on the scope and parameters of the resolution before it was shared with the larger membership. There was only one round of negotiations and some of the comments made by elected members were incorporated into a revised draft which was put into blue yesterday without a silence procedure.

The draft recognises the importance of the role that financial sanctions play in disrupting ISIS, ANF and other Al-Qaida affiliates and reaffirms the existing obligation of member states to freeze without delay funds and other financial assets or economic resources of persons who commit, or attempt to commit, terrorist acts. While expressing concern that vehicles, including aircraft, cars and trucks, departing from or going to ISIS or ANF-held areas of Syria and Iraq could be used to transfer economic resources for sale on international markets or barter for arms, the draft merely encourages neighbouring member states to take appropriate steps in accordance with international law to prevent and disrupt activity that would result in violations of the already existing measures under resolution 2161 (asset freeze and targeted arms embargo). In this sense, the draft resolution does not mandate neighbouring countries as requested in the recommendations the Monitoring Team to promptly seize oil tanker trucks traveling to or from ISIS or ANF controlled territory. The only obligation, therefore, is to report to the 1267/1989 Committee within 30 days of the interdiction in their territory.

Regarding cultural heritage in Iraq and Syria, the draft condemns its destruction particularly by ISIS and ANF, whether such destruction is incidental or deliberate, including targeted destruction of religious sites and objects. It also notes with concern that these groups are generating income from engaging directly or indirectly in the looting and smuggling of cultural heritage items. As a result of Jordan’s inputs the draft resolution includes a reference to groups other than ISIS and ANF which are involved in the destruction of cultural heritage. In this sense, the draft imposes a new legal obligation on member states to take appropriate steps to prevent the trade in Syrian cultural property and other items of archaeological, historical, cultural, rare scientific and religious importance illegally removed from Syria since 15 March 2011. (The draft also recalls resolution 1483 of 22 May 2003 and the validity of a similar ban on antiquities illegally removed from Iraq since 6 August 1990).

The draft resolution does not incorporate new obligations regarding payment of ransoms but reaffirms that payment of ransoms to individuals, groups, undertakings or entities on the Al-Qaida Sanctions List, regardless of how or by whom the ransom is paid is considered a violation of international legal obligations. The draft calls upon all member states to encourage private sector partners to adopt or to follow relevant guidelines and good practices for preventing and responding to terrorist kidnappings without paying ransom. The draft also expresses grave concern at the role of external donations in developing and sustaining ISIS and ANF and urges member states to take steps to ensure that financial institutions within their territory prevent these groups from accessing the international financial system. The draft also reaffirms that the assets freeze applies to financial and economic resources of every kind, including but not limited to those used for the provision of internet hosting or related services.

A new element that was introduced in this draft is the Council’s condemnation of abductions of women and children. It seems that Jordan was particularly keen to include this issue in relation to violations against children and women committed by ISIS, ANF and other Al-Qaida affiliates. There is also language on the need for all state and non-state actors with evidence of rape, sexual abuse and forced marriage to bring this to the attention of the Council.

The resolution creates some new reporting requirements. It calls on member states to report within 120 days to the 1267/1989 Sanctions Committee on measures undertaken to comply with the resolution and asks the Monitoring Team to conduct an assessment of the impact of these new measures and to report to the Committee within 150 days. The latest report might allow for the assessment of the humanitarian impact of the measures, as well as their effectiveness, identifying unintended consequences and unexpected challenges, and to help facilitate further adjustments to the regime as required. (It seems New Zealand proposed the inclusion of some language to clarify the reporting requirements established by the resolution, to ensure consistency with the procedures of the Al-Qaida sanctions regime and previous Council’s language regarding arms transfer.)

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