Research Handbook on UN Sanctions and International Law
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Research Handbook on UN Sanctions and International Law

Edited by Larissa van den Herik

The 1990s have been labeled the ‘Sanctions Decade’, since they witnessed an unprecedented intensification of the use of collective non-military enforcement measures, and in particular sanctions, by the post-Cold War reactivated Security Council. This Research Handbook studies the current practice of UN sanctions in international law, their interrelationship with other regimes and substantive areas of law, as well as issues arising from their implementation and application at the domestic level.
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Chapter 4: UN sanctions and counter-terrorism strategies: moving towards thematic sanctions against individuals?

Lisa Ginsborg


The UN counter-terrorism regimes present some of the most innovative features in the transformation of UN sanctions regimes from more traditional diplomatic tools, to law enforcement tools, and in the move towards individualization and formalization. The historical trends in individualization of the original Al Qaeda sanctions regime, and the resulting procedural formalization emerging from indirect legal challenges brought by individuals in response to their human rights’ violations are mapped in detail in the present chapter. In the move towards expanding the targets of the counter-terrorism sanctions to a growing number of more or less inter-related terrorist groups, the recently renamed ‘ISIL (Da'esh) and Al Qaeda Sanctions’ appear to be moving slowly down the path to thematic sanctions against individuals. Substantive formalization also forms an element in this process, with the development of international legal obligations under the direction of the Security Council ‘legislative resolutions’ linking more or less directly into the implementation of the sanctions by states. While the broader normative counter-terrorist action taken by the Security Council in the aftermath of 9/11 up to the most recent action on ‘foreign terrorist fighters’ has been evolving hand in hand with the counter-terrorism sanctions regime, significant differences remain in their functioning, individualization and degree of formalization. The current chapter aims to investigate these trends. Finally, the chapter provides a broad overview of the implications of individualization on the implementation and effectiveness of the sanctions regime, which is found to be somewhat deficient in terms of its full formalization towards effective implementation mechanisms. It appears that, similarly to the human rights implications, the impact of the move to individualization on the effectiveness of the sanctions was not fully considered in the early years of the sanctions and many different actors continue to grapple today with the challenges posed by the global individuals’ blacklist. Keywords counter-terrorism, Al Qaeda, Office of the Ombudsperson, ISIL/Da’esh, legislative resolutions, implementation

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