posted on Wed 16 Dec 2015 5:37 PM
Ministerial Meeting on the Al Qaida Sanctions Regime

Tomorrow (17 December), the Security Council will hold a ministerial-level briefing on the 1267/1989 Al Qaida sanctions regime which will be chaired by US Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew, and attended by at least eight finance ministers. The Secretary-General will brief on the 1267/1989 Al Qaida sanctions regime and Je-Yoon Shin, President of the inter-governmental body, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), will brief on its work in promoting the effective implementation of masures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats.

During the meeting, the Council is expected to adopt a resolution on the sanctions regime, which besides strengthening it, will add the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as Da’esh, to the sanctions list making it the “ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions List”. While ISIL has been on the sanctions list since 30 May 2013 under “Al-Qaida in Iraq”, the renaming of the sanctions regime to include a reference to ISIL signals that the Council is seriously focused on addressing the threat to international peace and security from this group.

The draft resolution was co-drafted by Russia, which had previously circulated a draft text on ISIL and financing, and the US, the penholder on the issue. Though the draft resolution mainly reiterates existing obligations, there are some new elements compared to resolution 2161, the last resolution the Council adopted on this sanctions regime on 17 June 2014.

Overall the draft resolution stresses the importance of the implementation of the sanctions measures (assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo), and the role of member states in holding those involved in terrorist acts accountable through assisting in investigations and proceedings as well as in cutting off sources of funding for these groups, particularly from the oil trade. It expresses concern over the lack of implementation of previous resolutions and the insufficient level of reporting by member states to the Committee.

It also clarifies that the obligation in paragraph 1(d) of resolution 1373 (2001) on the financing of terrorism, which decides that states shall prohibit anyone within their territories from making funds available for the benefit of terrorist organisations or individual terrorists for any purpose, including recruitment, travel, or training, applies even in the absence of a link to a specific terrorist act. The draft resolution additionally calls upon states to ensure that they have established a serious criminal offence in their domestic legal systems for violating this prohibition.

Another important aspect of the draft resolution is the extension of the mandate of the Office of the Ombudsperson for 24 months from the date of its expiration in December 2017. The mandate of the Monitoring Team is also extended for another 24 months from December 2017. In order to tackle the issue of ISIL financing and recruitment, the resolution requests the Secretary-General to appoint up to two new members to the current team of eight. It seems that the renewal was done ahead of the expiration as this would allow for longer-term planning for the Office of the Ombudsperson and the Monitoring Team by the Secretariat.

During negotiations, one area where there were differences was the independence of the Office of the Ombudsperson. A problem repeatedly highlighted by the Office of the Ombudsperson, including in its latest report, (S/2015/533 of 13 July 2015), is the lack of institutional protection for the independence of the Office. It does not have an established office within the UN structure and is currently administered by the Security Council Affairs Division (SCAD), within the Department of Political Affairs. The Ombudsperson’s report states that not only is it inappropriate that the Office be administered by a body related to the work of the Council such as SCAD, it has also created tensions between the Ombudsperson and SCAD on the work given to her staff, who are administered by SCAD. It seems that during the negotiations, while several Council members took the view that a structural change is needed, at least one permanent member disagreed. As a compromise, the text calls on the Secretary-General to continue to strengthen the capacity of the Office by providing it with resources, and “to make the necessary arrangements” to ensure its ability to operate independently, and report to the Committee on actions taken in six months.

The Ombudsperson has also argued that the responsibility for conveying requests for humanitarian exemptions from sanctions within the Al Qaida sanctions regime should be assigned to her office, and that more transparency is needed in the listing process. However, there was not enough appetite to push for this in a draft resolution that was largely focused on ISIL and its financing.

Finally, the draft resolution contains several new reporting requirements. First, it requests states to submit to the Committee an update report on implementation of the sanctions regime, including on relevant enforcement action, within 120 days. Second, it directs the Monitoring Team to include in its reports to the Committee reporting on relevant thematic and regional topics and trends, as requested by the Council or the Committee. Third, it requests the Monitoring Team – in close collaboration with the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) – to provide the Committee within 30 days with recommendations on measures to strengthen the implementation of resolutions 2199 (on ISIL and Al-Nusra’s illicit funding) and 2178 (on foreign terrorist fighters), and then to report orally on this topic on a quarterly basis. Fourth, as mentioned above, the Secretary-General is to report to the Committee within six months on arrangements for ensuring the independence of the Office of the Ombudsperson.

Lastly, the draft requests the Secretary-General to provide the Council with a strategic report on the range of UN efforts in support of member states in countering the ISIL threat within 45 days, and to provide updates on this strategy every four months. During the negotiations, several Council members expressed their concern that with this reporting requirement, the Secretary-General is essentially being asked to report on the same issues as the Monitoring Team. Other members thought it was important for the Secretary-General to report on a serious threat such as ISIL. In the end, a compromise was found by requesting that the report place more emphasis on strategic thinking and less on implementation measures.