Due Process and Respect for Human Rights in UN Counter-Terrorism Sanctions

Switzerland supports states and international organisations in their efforts to combat terrorism, working in particular with the UN and the Council of Europe. It works to ensure compliance with international human rights law and international humanitarian law in the fight against terrorism, and is in particular committed to the continuous improvement of the procedural rights of individuals targeted by UN counter-terrorism sanctions.

With Resolution 1267 and subsequent resolutions, the UN Security Council has required member states to implement various sanctions to combat terrorism, including an assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo against individuals and entities (e.g. companies) suspected of being associated with Al-Qaida and ISIL (Da’esh). Switzerland has been implementing these sanctions since 3 October 2000.

UN Resolution 1267 (1999)

Long-standing commitment to the rights of sanctioned individuals

Since 2005, Switzerland is engaged with a group of like-minded states to enhance due process in UN sanctions regimes. The Like-Minded Group on UN Targeted Sanctions is composed of the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Chile, Costa Rica, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Liechtenstein, The Netherlands, Norway,Sweden and Switzerland. The group regularly submits proposals to the UN Security Council.

Various national and regional courts and parliaments also criticised the lack of legal protection in UN sanctions. Since then, Switzerland and the Like-Minded Group regularly submit concrete proposals to the UN Security Council to strengthen human rights in UN sanctions regimes.

Ombudsperson for the rights of sanctioned individuals

For a long time, there hasn’t been any adequate procedure for removing listed individuals from the sanctions list.  In particular there was no mechanism for enabling affected individuals or entities to have their listing reviewed by an independent and impartial body.

On 17 October 2009 the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1904, establishing the Office of an Ombudsperson whom individuals and entities that are included in the UN Security Council's Al-Qaida sanctions list can contact. The Ombudsperson is entitled to receive requests from individuals and entities seeking to be removed from the sanctions list and makes appropriate recommendations to the Sanctions Committee.

Removal from the sanctions list, known as delisting, requires first of all a consensus decision by the Sanctions Committee. Since 17 June 2011 (Resolution 1989) the Ombudsperson has been able to recommend to the Committee that an individual or entity be removed from the Sanctions List.  The requirement for a consensus decision was thus inverted: the removal of an individual or entity as recommended by the Ombudsperson automatically enters into effect if the Sanctions Committee does not decide otherwise by consensus. In cases where consensus does not exist, any member of the Committee may demand that the request for delisting be referred to the Security Council.

Switzerland welcomes the improvements to the procedure, which takes better account of the rights of individuals at the international level and strengthens the legitimacy of the UN's sanctions system. Switzerland continues to advocate together with like-minded states for improvements of due process in sanctions regimes that do not have access to the Ombudsperson. Recent proposals submitted to the UN Security Council on 11 June 2021 with the Group of Like-Minded States aim at the creation of an independent review mechanism for these other sanctions regimes.

Last update 22.03.2023

FDFA Directorate of International Law (DIL)

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