UN wants fair al-Qaeda sanctions
New York - The UN Security Council unanimously adopted on Thursday a resolution aimed at making its regime of sanctions against al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other extremist groups fairer and more transparent.
Resolution 1904 asks UN chief Ban Ki-moon to establish an ombudsman for an initial period of 18 months tasked with reviewing, "in an independent and impartial manner", requests to be taken off the sanctions list.
Co-sponsored by Austria, the United States and six other nations, it seeks to improve the sanctions regime targeting al-Qaeda, the Taliban and associated groups, which was established in 1999 under Security Council Resolution 1267.
The sanctions include an assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo.
Austria's UN Ambassador Thomas Mayr-Harting called Thursday's resolution "a significant step forward in improving the fairness and transparency of the 1267 sanctions regime, thus enhancing its effectiveness and legitimacy.
"For the first time ever, individuals and entities seeking a de-listing will have a chance to present their case to an independent and impartial ombudsperson," said Mayr-Harting, who chairs the UN's 1267 sanctions committee.
List includes dead people
Resolution 1904 also urges committee members "to make every effort to provide their reasons when objecting to a de-listing request", he noted.
The Security Council acted in response to dozens of court cases in several countries, regional courts and UN treaty-monitoring bodies, including the European Court of Justice and the Human Rights Committee.
In them, individuals and entities seek to be taken off a UN consolidated sanctions list of some 500 names. Critics note that the list includes dead people.
The Security Council also directed its sanctions committee to conduct a comprehensive review of all pending de-listing issues "so as to resolve them to the extent possible by the end of 2010," Mayr-Harting said.
"Much will depend on the practical implementation of this resolution, especially on the appointment of an eminent ombudsperson with highest qualifications in fields such as law, human rights, counter-terrorism and sanctions".
'Human rights deficit'
His US counterpart Susan Rice also hailed passage of the resolution, saying it "reaffirms the global consensus against al-Qaeda and the Taliban" and "improves the fairness and transparency" of the sanctions regime.
Amnesty International meanwhile described the resolution "as a welcome first step to address the human rights deficit that has marked the council's counter-terrorism work so far".
But it said the move "still falls far short of an independent and effective review mechanism mandated to examine de-listing requests and to provide relief, namely lifting of the measures imposed, to those unfairly listed."
Amnesty also urged the 1267 sanctions committee to provide "full transparency, including by publishing the ombudsperson's full analysis and principal arguments about the de-listing requests, whether accepted or rejected."