PRESS CONFERENCE BY CHAIR OF SECURITY COUNCIL COMMITTEE ON AL-QAIDA SANCTIONS
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
30 August 2004
Asserting that counter-terrorism efforts were at a critical juncture, Heraldo Muñoz (Chile), Chairman of the Security Council Committee established to oversee implementation of sanctions imposed on Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaida and the Taliban, said that the sanctions regime risked becoming irrelevant if it was not strengthened.
Following the issuance on 25 August of the first report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team appointed pursuant to Security Council resolution 1526 (2004) (document S/2004/679), Mr. Muñoz said that more than $130 million in financial assets and economic resources of such individuals and organizations had been frozen and the so-called ‘list’ had been expanded. Nevertheless, the goal of defeating terrorism was far from being achieved.
He said that the team’s recommendations to the Committee would be analyzed with great care and, if the Committee so decided, it would send them on to the Security Council. It was crucial to “be ahead of the terrorists and not behind them”, especially since they had shown such flexibility in adapting to the sanctions.
At the same time, he encouraged correspondents to look at the report with a certain degree of satisfaction. More than 130 countries had reported, and 127 had already implemented the legal modifications necessary to freeze terrorists’ assets. More than 90 had instituted financial intelligence units to follow terrorists’ money. In addition, the Committee had the ability to tackle the cooperation issue and build the capacity of individual countries to fight terrorism.
He underlined that, although the implementation of the sanctions had not yet been fully satisfactory, the United Nations was the only international body up to that task. Countering terrorism could not be done solely through military or unilateral means. The best way was through multilateral and concerted action, and that meant the United Nations. Although implementation might sometimes move as slowly as an elephant, he said, referring to the political events this week in New York City, once countries acted, it was a great tool with which to proceed.
Asked if the report’s suggestion that the people contributing to the list often had inaccurate names and statistics implied to sloppy work or willful non-compliance by Member States, he said it reflected an eagerness for information even when it was not complete. He had not seen a willful intent to mislead, but perhaps one third of the names on the list were “technically inaccurate”. That, in turn, might make national authorities hesitant to work with the list. That problem, although it must be mended, was not politically motivated.
Accompanying Mr. Muñoz was the team’s Coordinator, Richard Barrett, who said that, in the early days a lot of people submitted names to generate momentum. Now, stricter criteria were producing more useful names. The issue
now was not only to clear up the list and make it more effective, but to encourage others to contribute those names that might represent a principal threat.
Asked what he though of the recommendations and whether he would submit them to the Security Council for quick action, Mr. Muñoz said he was very keen to transmit all of them to the Council, given the need to “press the accelerator a lot more”. A great stride had been made in January, but “we were too timid”. The Council should definitely make a pronouncement on the recommendations, he added.
Recalling an earlier concern that States might include everybody on the list, even members of national resistance movements, another correspondent asked if that had happened and whether there were specific regions where countries were not submitting names.
Mr. Muñoz emphasized that well over 30 countries had presented names. The presentation had been increasing in “political width”, as evidenced by Libya’s cooperation. His visits to various countries had encouraged the submission of some very useful names. He had not seen any political opposition to the list. There had been holds on some data, but that had been because of doubts about whether an individual fit in the context of Al-Qaida and the Taliban, and not because of political opposition. Other countries had not wanted to interrupt their own investigations into groups or individuals.
Haven’t we reached the point yet where you can “name and shame” countries for not cooperating? another correspondent asked.
Mr. Muñoz recalled the presentation of a suggestion, approved by the Council, that those countries that did not submit information by 31 March would be put on a public list. That list had been circulated. For many of those countries, however, that had not reflected an unwillingness to cooperate, but rather a lack of capacity to do so.
Pressed to name the top five countries who were not contributing, he said that finger pointing was not the idea behind the Committee, whose aim was to do the job of combating terrorism, including in those countries that had difficulty doing so themselves. In some cases, those countries were also targets. The situation was not ‘black and white’, a matter of good guys and bad guys.
Asked if there had been any progress to aid those countries in recent months, he said that the relevant information had been conveyed to the Committee. There had also been contacts with other agencies of the United Nations system, as well as with the international financial institutions. While the Committee was responding to those requests, it was a sanctions committee, so those requests for assistance were channelled through other bodies.
Replying to a question about other measures, he said that the report contained a lot of ideas. The general resolution had explored those, including, for example, the need to control the abuse of charities and fix maximum amounts
of cash that could be carried across borders without reporting. Consideration should deepen on several of the team’s ideas. For example, arms embargoes might also concentrate on the supply of materials that could be used for “dirty bombs” by terrorists. Such possibilities should be analyzed.
Asked to evaluate the credibility and value of the sanctions, and how much those had actually been achieved, he said the Council had achieved a great deal in implementation of the sanctions. The easy stage of freezing the bank accounts of organizations and individuals linked to Al-Qaida had been a relatively easy task. Now, those groups and individuals had become more flexible and were staying ahead of the sanctions. The need now was to be better at combating them, because they had gotten better at defending themselves.
He added, to a further question, that the battle was far from being won. Being serious about terrorism required, first and foremost, a multilateral approach. Everyone should be concerned. Also imperative was to improve the sanctions, for which every country counted.
Countering terrorism was not a merely military task, but a diplomatic one, he said. World leaders at the General Assembly should address the system’s weaknesses and help the Committee to improve it. The Committee could only complete its task to the extent that the 191 countries became truly serious about the global problem.
Mr. Barrett added that the report reflected the views of the team, which were being conveyed to the Committee, and not necessarily those of the Committee. He felt that the correspondent was trying to put Mr. Muñoz on the spot, which was a bit unjust.
Asked about his own conclusions, he said that they were in the report. Mainly, when the Security Council adopted the sanctions, it was hoping to suffocate terrorism to a much greater extent than had happened. It was very difficult to judge the effect -- to prove the negatives -- but clearly there was a lot of terrorism about.
To another question, he said that the sanctions in place at the moment had nearly run their course. They had been relevant to the circumstances at the time of their adoption, but those circumstances had changed. He was not saying that sanctions could not work, but those sanctions that were in place had lost some of their efficacy and effectiveness. The threat had evolved. Thus, the sanctions needed re-examination, refining, retuning, and refocusing on the current threat. His team needed to advise the Committee on how terrorism was being perpetrated at the moment, its methodology. Sanctions could then be evolved to fit that.
Financing would surely continue to engage the Council and, indeed, the whole business of weapons of mass destruction and their potential acquisition by terrorists was an important issue, he said. It was not surprising that the sanctions needed to be reviewed after such changes had occurred in the expression of Al-Qaida terrorism.
Updating correspondents on the latest information, Mr. Muñoz said the list now contained the names of 429 individuals who were linked either to Al-Qaida or the Taliban.
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