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Homeland Security

Press Conference by Ombudsperson for Security Council Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee, 14 July 2011

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

The Security Council’s adoption in June of resolutions 1988 (2011) and 1989 (2011), which split the Al-Qaida and Taliban sanctions regimes, had been a significant step forward in the capacity of the Office of the Ombudsperson for the Security Council’s “Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee” to deliver fairness, transparency and due process, correspondents heard today at a Headquarters press conference.

Through resolution 1989 (2011), the Council extended the mandate of that Office — first established by resolution 1904 (2009) to aid in the consideration of requests by individuals and organizations seeking removal from the Consolidated List of the then Al Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee — for a further 18 months to continue to receive requests concerning the Al-Qaida Sanctions List. (See Press Release SC/10285)

Also by that text, the Council further defined the process for the presentation of the Ombudsperson’s recommendations to the Committee, and put time limits on the considerations for de-listing.

At today’s press conference, Kimberly Prost reported that after a year serving as Ombudsperson, she had advanced 13 de-listing petitions. In six of those cases, she had submitted comprehensive reports to the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1267 (1999). Although the Sanctions Committee had not yet taken up three of those six cases, de-listings had resulted from two others. A decision on a third case was still pending. The remaining seven cases were at various points in the dialogue or information-gathering phase.

From a practical perspective, the split of the Al-Qaida and Taliban sanctions regimes did not affect the fundamentals of her work, since her Office’s focus had always been on Al-Qaida-related individuals and entities, she said. Yet resolution 1989 (2011) included strong language on providing confidential information and allowed her to disclose States’ identities. It also required the Committee to provide reasons for de-listing, as well as information on a State’s opposition to a de-listing request.

More generally, she said the resolution indicated the Council’s acceptance of the importance of an independent third-party review on the sufficiency of evidence for listings. Even more significantly, the Ombudsperson’s recommendation for de-listing now operated as a “trigger” mechanism: 60 days after the Committee completed consideration of the Ombudsperson’s de-listing recommendation, the sanctions would no longer apply to a petitioner — effectively de-listing them — unless all 15 Committee members opposed the de-listing or a State requested a full meeting of the Security Council on the matter.

Asked later in the briefing why the Taliban Sanctions Committee had no Ombudsperson, she said it was for States and the Council to decide which sanctions regimes required an Ombudsperson. While she could only speculate why the Council had determined that process was needed only for the Al-Qaida sanctions regime, she had not received a single Taliban-related application before the regimes were split. Furthermore, there was an ongoing political process in the case of the Taliban that might provide a more suitable avenue for de-listing efforts. Finally, the Al-Qaida sanctions regime applied to individuals around the world, and an Ombudsperson’s office provided an important recourse where no State process was available.

Among the biggest challenges of her first year as Ombudsperson had been publicizing the Office and its work, and reaching her intended audience, including those seeking de-listing. State cooperation, which was essential for furthering the process, had been very good. Indeed, while she had to do a fair amount of follow-up, no State had failed to answer her questions in the cases that had been completed.

That had allowed her, among other things, to gather the information that States were relying on in arguing for an individual or entity to be sanctioned and provide it to petitioners seeking de-listing.

She said that confidentiality remained one of the most pressing issues for her Office, although she had been able to gather information from various summaries and as a result of declassification. However, she stressed that cases would inevitability arise where issues related to confidentiality became a barricade to her work. While her Office had made arrangements with Switzerland and Belgium on information gathering, she was still negotiating with other critical States.

Underlining the crucial importance of dialogue with petitioners, she pointed out that, in many cases, action by her Office provided the first time for petitioners to put forward their side of the story. Thus, it was clear that the second component of due process — the opportunity to be heard — was being met.

Stressing that her reports were not being ignored, she said they apparently were being reviewed “line by line” and she received “quite a grilling” from the Sanctions Committee. But while there was a great deal of informal engagement, more was needed in the formal committee setting, she said. Because her role in the final aspect of due process — deliberation and decision-making — was limited, she could not fully analyse how well that part of the process was working. Further, because only two cases had been decided, it remained to be seen how fully the Sanctions Committee would explain the reasons for any of its decisions, although she considered that to be an essential part of the Ombudsperson process.

Responding to a question about recent criticisms that the strengthening of the Office of the Ombudsperson was still unlikely to satisfy European courts, Ms. Prost pointed out that many of the criticisms raised when she first took office had proven not to apply in practice. While she could not comment on whether the powers of her Office would prove sufficient in the view of different courts, she aimed to use her powers as aggressively as she could to ensure that as much due process existed as was possible.

Asked about the status of the case of Abousfian Abdelrazik, she said that, as was publicly known, he had made an application for de-listing. His case was currently in the dialogue phase and she had open communication with his counsel and with him.

She also confirmed that she had been notified of the de-listing of Safet Ekrem Durguti, adding, however, that she had not yet received a report on the reasons for that decision. She described the cooperation of Bosnia and Herzegovina as “very good” in that case.

Responding to questions about the appearance of Osama bin Laden’s name on the sanctions list even after his death, she said the Committee was looking actively at the issue of dead people, which was legally complicated in terms of their assets. She pointed out, however, that in the case of the deceased, if a family or appropriate representative brought a de-listing application to her, she would certainly look at it.

Pressed on the issue of State cooperation regarding confidential information, particularly in terms of the United States, she acknowledged that that was a “big issue”, but characterized the relationship between her Office and the United States Government as “very good”. Indeed, they were engaged in a very serious discussion about confidentiality issues. Despite complications from legal impediments, they were trying to find a mechanism for information sharing.

To questions about the impact of lawsuits from sanctioned individuals, she stressed that the sanctions regimes were not the same as legal proceedings. As such, she was concerned with the very unique part of due process in the context of targeted sanctions. However, individuals certainly had the right to pursue both legal recourse and de-listing.

She went to say that an evolutionary process was under way regarding the de‑listing procedures, suggesting that as more cases were considered, the more comfortable the Security Council would be. In addition, the work of the Ombudsperson was not just about the individuals or entities listed, but also the more general use of targeted sanctions and the legitimacy of the sanctions regimes.

Responding to queries about the workload of and support to the Ombudsperson’s Office, she said that while where were no dedicated staff members, the Department of Political Affairs assisted in the Office’s work and she expected that the lack of personnel would be addressed in the new budget. Moreover, she was quite pleased that she had 13 cases complete or under way.

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