Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism calls for improved due process in Al Qaida sanctions regime


On 2 November 2012, the Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Mr Ben Emmerson, presented his second report (A/67/396) to the General Assembly’s Third Committee.[1]


On 2 November 2012, the Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Mr Ben Emmerson, presented his second report (A/67/396) to the General Assembly’s Third Committee.[1]

The Special Rapporteur's statement focused on the need for the Security Council to align its Al Qaida sanctions regime with international human rights law norms, most notably minimum standards of due process. In particular, he recommended amending the mandate of the Office of the Ombudsperson,[2] which investigates removal requests regarding individuals and entities from the sanctions list. Though the Ombudsman role was created in 2009 to enhance due process protections, it continues to have many weaknesses. These include that States are under no obligation to disclose information to the Ombudsperson, and that the Ombudsperson has had significant difficulty in obtaining sensitive information. In addition, adverse judicial rulings, in particular by the European Court of Human Rights, have undercut the perceived legitimacy of the sanctions regime and its ability to enforce its decisions.

In the Special Rapporteur's view, the Council should, under Chapter VII powers, establish an independent adjudicator with jurisdiction to review and overturn a designation by the Committee.  Such a regime would be different from the former one as it would require the Security Council to abide by the recommendations of the Ombudsperson.

Eight countries contributed to the dialogue, which centered on the effectiveness of the sanctions regime since its inception in 1999.

Mexico and Pakistan inquired whether some of the recommendations could be applied to other sanction cases and regimes. The Special Rapportuer noted that he had focused on the Al-Qaida regime as it had been  the target of sustained legal challenges. 

The European Union (EU), Liechtenstein, the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK) all praised the improvements in the sanctions regime since 1998. However, they questioned the Special Rapporteur’s assessment that current due process procedures fall short of international human rights law. In their view,  the Ombudsperson process is robust, and operates with respect to the fundamental aspects of due process.

Iran raised the issue of targeted killings, and asked if the Special Rapporteur would take the topic up in future studies.  The Special Rapportuer said his next report to the Human Rights Council would review the minimum international standards related to the accountability of public officials who had collaborated with a torture-rendering State.  He also mentioned that he had begun a study on the use of drones, which he would present to the General Assembly in 2013.


[1] The report is available here.

[2] The Office of the Ombudsperson was established by Security Council resolution 1904 (2009) and amended by resolution 1989 (2011). It was created to aid the Al Qaida Sanctions Committee by investigating de-listing requests, and making recommendations on them. The regime requires States to impose measures such as asset freezes, international travel bans and arms embargoes on individuals and entities designated by its own sanctions committee to be associated with Al Qaida.



  • Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council
  • UN General Assembly
  • Third Committee of the UN General Assembly