magnify
Home International Organisations Archive for category "Security Council" (Page 12)

An Effective Remedy for Josef K: Canadian Judge ‘Defies’ Security Council Sanctions through Interpretation

Published on June 19, 2009        Author: 

Antonios Tzanakopoulos is a DPhil Candidate at St Anne’s College, Oxford. In 2005, he was research assistant to Professor Giorgio Gaja, the International Law Commission’s Special Rapporteur on the Responsibility of International Organizations. His Oxford thesis is on the responsibility of the United Nations for wrongful non-forcible measures by the Security Council. Many thanks are due to Dapo Akande, Gleider Hernández & Devika Hovell. The usual disclaimer applies.

I. Introduction

Municipal and regional courts are increasingly engaged by individuals and legal entities in questions relating to UN Security Council measures adopted under Article 41 of the Charter. Most prominent among these are the ‘targeted sanctions’ imposed by Security Council Resolutions (SCR) 1267 (1999) seq, which provide for asset freezes, travel bans and arms embargoes against persons listed by the Committee established pursuant to SCR 1267 (the 1267 Committee). Usually the relevant SCRs are attacked indirectly before the domestic court, the direct attack being on the domestic implementing measures. In the recent case of Abousfian Abdelrazik v The Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Attorney General of Canada (Federal Court of Canada; currently available here but also to be made available here shortly), the impugned conduct on the part of Canada which gave rise to a claim for the violation of Canadian constitutional rights began long before any listing by the 1267 Committee. The listing only served to complicate matters and to offer an excuse to Canada with respect to a pattern of conduct that pre-dated the listing. The facts provided the opportunity for the Canadian judge to express what has been on the mind of many with respect to the 1267 regime of ‘targeted sanctions’: if you happen to get listed, it is much like being Josef K in Franz Kafka’s The Trial. In this case though-and possibly for the first time-Josef K got an effective remedy.

The Canadian Federal Court held that Canada had violated the constitutional right of Mr Abdelrazik (a dual Sudanese and Canadian national) to enter Canada, even though he was subject to UN sanctions. The court interpreted the SCRs such that the travel ban and asset freeze imposed by the Security Council would not prevent Canada from assisting Mr Abdelrazik’s return to Canada. In so doing, the Canadian court effectively forced upon the Executive its own interpretation of Canada’s obligations under the UN Charter, and required that Canada comply with the court decision. The Court’s interpretation risks a breach by Canada of the SCR and the UN Charter,, should the Security Council interpret its own Resolution differently. The situation is not unlike the one forced upon the European Community and its Member-States following the ECJ’s decision in Kadi: either breach the obligation stemming from the Security Council decision (by removing Kadi’s asset freeze) or disobey the ECJ (by maintaining the freeze). In Abdelrazik, the Court was prepared to go a step further than the ECJ as it asserted that the sanctions regime imposed by SCRs 1267-1822 was unlawful under international human rights law. The case marks yet another step in a new era that sees domestic and regional courts asserting with confidence their (indirect) jurisdiction over UN sanctions regimes.

II. Factual Background

Abousfian Abdelrazik was jailed in Sudan in 1989 after the successful military coup of Omar Al-Bashir. In 1990 he managed to flee to Canada, where he was first granted refugee status and then Canadian citizenship. In March 2003, after some of his acquaintances had been charged or convicted for participating in terrorist attacks, Abdelrazik returned to Sudan, claiming he had been continuously harassed by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (the CSIS) in the wake of the September 11 attacks (at [9]-[12]). Abdelrazik was detained in Sudan at the request of Canada (id at [66]-[91]) in 2003 and 2005-2006. Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
 

Humanitarian intervention: neither right, nor responsibility, but necessity?

Published on May 5, 2009        Author: 

I’d like to offer a small “think piece” contribution to a bigger debate, in which I try and tease out a question that has troubled me: do we need a positive right of humanitarian intervention? What would happen if we conceded it was prima facie an unlawful use of force, but was legally (not just morally) justifiable or excusable in a particular case? My tentative conclusion is that the defence of necessity might prima facie be available to justify a use of force in an humanitarian intervention but would face some significant problems on close scrutiny.

We’re all by now familiar with a certain account of the development of the idea of humanitarian intervention. Let me offer a stylised version of this narrative, with its inevitable oversimplifications by way of introduction.

On one account humanitarian intervention begins as an idea supported by academics, is then invoked (not always consistently) by a small handful of States in concrete cases from the 1990s onwards, is opposed by the 170 member States of the Group of 77 and has now been at least partially supplanted by the “responsibility to protect” (R2P). Paragraph 139 of the World Summit Outcomes Document, however, would appear to reduce R2P to an agreement that the UN is the only legitimate forum for authorising intervention and that the Security Council should act in cases of humanitarian catastrophe. There is very little sign, though, of UN practice in support of this vision of R2P as a collective, institutional responsibility. On this stylised account, what began as an attempt to modify the positive rules on the use of force and non-intervention appears to have been folded back in to the status quo ante. (Albeit that a caveat might have to be entered regarding interventions endorsed or carried out by regional organisations.)

What has always puzzled me about the debate over forceful humanitarian intervention is that proponents and critics have invariably cast it being either a right or a duty. Are there any obstacles to conceptualising it as a justification or excuse for an otherwise illegal use of force? After all, the “right” of self-defence is easily considered such a “circumstance precluding wrongfulness” (i.e. a defence), and is categorised as such in the ILC Articles on State Responsibility.   Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
 

Piracy off Somalia: a sketch of the legal framework

Published on April 20, 2009        Author: 

Dr Douglas Guilfoyle is a Lecturer in Law at University College London.  His research has focussed on the law of the sea and international and transanational criminal law. He is the author of ‘Piracy Off Somalia: UN Security Council Resolution 1816 and IMO Regional Counter-Piracy Efforts’ (2008) 57 International and Comparative Law Quarterly 690-699. His book Shipping Interdiction and the Law of the Sea will be published by Cambridge University Press later this year.  

We’re all familiar now with the pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden and off Somalia’s east coast, especially following the hijacking of the Sirius Star 500 nm off the coast of Kenya in November 2008 and the more recent uses of lethal force by French and US navies to free hostages seized by pirates. Although, the international law of piracy is quite straightforward, its implementation – especially in a situation as complex as the Gulf of Aden – is rather more difficult. Some of the problems are legal and some practical. The law applicable to piracy off Somalia is presently a mix of customary law, UN Security Council Resolutions and treaty law. If pirates are captured, questions of national law and international human rights obligations also arise.

In my view, there is no short-term, military “fix” for piracy. It remains to be seen whether recent uses of lethal force against pirates will deter them, or escalate violence against ships and hostages. In the short term, the best we can hope for is better regional co-operation and judicial capacity-building in Kenya – the destination for many captured pirates. The later is presently being undertaken by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime with a substantial grant from the German government.

The customary law

The core of the customary law of piracy, as codified in Articles 101-107 and 110 of the UN Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS) is relatively simple. Piracy consists of: (i) any act of violence; (ii) committed for private ends; (iii) on the high seas or in a place beyond the relevant jurisdiction of any State; and (iv) which is committed by one vessel against another. Any State may send a warship to board a pirate vessel, arrest those on board and subject them to the jurisdiction of its courts. Warships may also use reasonable force to that end.

It is commonly held that piracy does not cover politically motivated acts. This, I believe, is a myth (for reasons I have explained elsewhere). Any act of violence lacking State sanction is, in my view, an act “for private ends”. The limitations within the definition of piracy are fairly obvious. It does not cover internal hijacking or events within territorial waters (the latter is normally termed “armed robbery against ships” and regarded as a matter for coastal-State law enforcement), nor does the law of piracy allow pirates to be pursued from the high seas into territorial waters.

 One of the problems with the current attempt to combat piracy is that though, as a matter of international law, all States have jurisdiction to try pirates, few States have adequate national laws for the prosecution of pirates who have not committed offences against either their nationals or flag vessels. This has lead to some startling results, such as the German navy releasing some captured pirates on the basis that they had no authority to detain them. While UNCLOS requires that States must co-operate to suppress piracy (Art. 100) it only provides that a capturing warship may send pirates for trial before its courts (Art. 105). The inference is that States are under no duty to have adequate national offences for trying pirates and may co-operate in the suppression of piracy by other means (such as “deter and disrupt” patrols). If States are under a positive obligation to have such laws, the majority have been continually in breach since before the 1920s League of Nations codification project. There is also no clear duty upon port States to receive pirates captured by a third State for trial.

 The UN Security Council Resolutions

The relevant resolutions on Somali piracy are 1816, 1838, 1846 and 1851, all containing the talismanic Chapter VII authority to use “all necessary means” to counter piracy. In broad-brush terms, these Resolutions encourage States to develop a cooperative framework to counter piracy in the region as well as granting specific authority to “cooperating States” to enter Somalia’s territorial sea to repress piracy in a manner consistent with the international law applicable on the high seas. 1851 authorises “cooperating States” to go further and engage in counter-piracy action on Somali soil. Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
 

Can UNSC Presidential Statements be Legally Binding?

Published on April 15, 2009        Author: 

The United States government now apparently thinks so. A couple of days ago the Security Council adopted a presidential statement condemning the recent missile launch by North Korea (press release here; text here). In response to reporters questioning why the Council was unable to adopt a formal resolution, and whether this meant that the presidential statement was merely imposing political, rather than legal obligations on the DPRK, Susan Rice, the US Ambassador to the UN, said the following:

First of all the United States views presidential statements, broadly speaking, as binding. In this instance, it is more than binding in that it adds to an existing Chapter 7 sanctions regime. So in our view, there is no doubt that the measures that will be imposed as a consequence of this presidential statement by the 24 or 30 of April will occur and will be binding.

Source: US Mission to the UN; see also this CNN report. According to another report, Ambassador Rice also said that the presidential statement “is a strong and legally binding outcome of the Security Council which meets all of the objectives that we have.” Her remarks were echoed by British Ambassador John Sawers, who called the proposed draft “a formal and binding position of the council.” (source: AP).

So, it appears that at least two of the P-5 now take the position that presidential statements can qualify as binding decisions of the Council. This is news – maybe not terribly big news, but news nonetheless. Readers are of course aware that many scholars (and states) have historically been of the view that only formal Chapter VII resolutions of the UNSC can be legally binding. The ICJ disagreed with that proposition in its Namibia advisory opinion, holding that Article 25 of the Charter’s notion of Council ‘decisions’, which are binding in nature, are not confined merely to Chapter VII resolutions, and are subject to no particular requirement of form.

The Council’s practice, which is quite deliberately full of ambiguity, on the whole seems to be supportive of the broader view (for an excellent and succinct primer on UNSC decisions, see this research report). But even within this broader view the orthodoxy has so far been that presidential statements impose only political, not legal obligations – see generally S. Talmon, ‘The Statements by the President of the Security Council’, (2003) 2 Chinese JIL 419, at 447 et seq. The importance of the issue (though it should by no means be overstated) is that a broader notion of binding decisions allows for greater diplomatic flexibility in decision-making within the UNSC.

The UNSC’s treatment of nuclear proliferation and North Korea is indeed an excellent example of how such flexibility can be of practical use. Russia and China in particular have consistently attempted to prevent what they saw as overreaction by the other permanent members. They have especially seemed keen on precluding any possible use of force against the DPRK, particularly through an implied UNSC authorization argument a la Iraq 2003. Thus, the UNSC first adopted Resolution 1695 (2006), which in its chapeau did not reference Chapter VII, nor made an Article 39 determination, but rather invoked the language of Article 24 of the Charter. That it was not a Chapter VII resolution does not necessarily mean, however, that it imposed no legal obligations on the DPRK. Later Resolution 1718 (2006) was explicitly a Chapter VII resolution, with op. paras. 15 & 16 seemingly deliberately designed to prevent an implied authorization argument.

And now we have this presidential statement, the most recent product of negotiations between the P-5. It remains to be seen whether the UNSC’s practice (and the member states) will accept the possibility of legally binding decision-making through presidential statements, which are after all adopted by consensus – a more rigid requirement than for a resolution.

In other news, the DPRK has decided to withdraw from the six-party talks, restart its nuclear program, and expel IAEA inspectors. Oh well…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
 

The Security Council and Human Rights: What is the role of Art. 103 of the Charter?

Published on March 30, 2009        Author: 

At last week’s ASIL meeting there was a panel on whether the United Nations Security Council is bound by human rights law. The panelists (Vera Gowlland-Debbas, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Linos-Alexander Sicilianos, University of Athens  & Gráinne de Búrca, Fordham University School of Law) discussed cases such as the Kadi decision of the European Court of Justice, Al Jedda (House of Lords), Sayadi (Human Rights Committee and Behrami (European Court of Human Rights). These cases have been the subject of posts on this blog (for Kadi, see here and here, for Sayadi, see here and for Behrami, see here). One of the things that strikes me about much of this discussion is the use made of Article 103 of the UN Charter. That article provides that:

In the event of of a conflict between the obligations of the Members of the United Nations under the present Charter and their obligations under any other international agreement, their obligations under the present Charter shall prevail.

Of the four decisions mentioned above, only the Al Jedda decision discusses and applies Art. 103. According to Lord Bingham,

The central questions to be resolved are whether, on the facts of this case, the UK became subject to an obligation (within the meaning of article 103) to detain the appellant and, if so, whether and to what extent such obligation displaced or qualified the appellant’s rights under article 5(1) [of the European Convention on Human Rights]. (para. 26)

The House of Lords held that the Security Council authorisation to detain the appellant did indeed bring Art. 103 into play (on the theory that Art. 103 also extends to authorisations) and that rights under the ECHR were qualified to the extent that they conflicted with that authorisation. Some have criticised the ECJ in Kadi  and the Human Rights Committee in Sayadi for not evening mentioning Art. 103 and for failing to take the Al Jedda approaching (for some more discussion of this issue see here and here).

However, the role of Art. 103 is often overplayed in these debates concerning the conflicts between Security Council obligations and human rights law.  There are 2 overlapping questions here: (i) Is the Security Council bound by human rights norms when it acts (eg in combatting terrorism, imposing sanctions or in authorising action in peacekeeping or peace enforment)?; (ii) are States bound to apply Security Council decisions that may conflict with the human rights obligations of those States?.  Art. 103 does not and cannot answer the first question. Art. 103 should not be regarded as the starting point in answering the second question. Furthermore one may not even reach Art. 103 in answering that latter question. Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
 

Sayadi: The Human Rights Committee’s Kadi (or a pretty poor excuse for one…)

Published on January 29, 2009        Author: 

In October 2008, the Human Rights Committee decided the Sayadi case (CCPR/C/94/D/1472/2006) regarding UN Security Council terrorist blacklists, and the decision has now been made public (h/t to Bill Schabas, who made available the text of the views). As I will now explain, the Committee regrettably failed to do justice to the many complex issues of international law that were raised in the case.

The facts of the case were these: the applicants, a married couple of Belgian nationality living in Belgium, ran the European branch of an American NGO that was put on a Security Council blacklist pursuant to the sanctions regime established in Resolution 1267 (1999) and its progeny. In 2003, after the initiation of a criminal investigation against the applicants in Belgium, the applicants’ names were put on a list drafted by the Sanctions Committee and appended to a UNSC resolution. Pursuant to EU and Belgian implementing legislation, the applicants’ financial assets were frozen, and they were banned from travelling internationally. The applicants were not given the reasons and the relevant information for their listing. In 2005, the applicants asked a Belgian court to order the Belgian government to initiate delisting procedures before the UNSC Sanctions Committee, and obtained such an order. Additionally, the criminal proceedings against them were dismissed. The Belgian government did initiate a delisting procedure, as ordered, but the UNSC Sanctions Committee refused to delist the applicants.

Before the Committee, the applicants raised the violations of several articles of the ICCPR, basically claiming that they were denied any due process in the UNSC sanctions procedure, and that Belgium implemented the outcome of this procedure, with a considerable impact on their life and without providing them with any remedy. As is apparent even from the mere recitation of the facts of the case, the applicants’ claims were certainly warranted on the substance of their complaint (I will not review here the growing literature on the impact of UNSC listing on human rights, and the many different proposals that were made to improve the process).

However justified the applicants’ claim on the merits, the examination of the claim on the merits faced a great impediment, a consequence of the nature of state obligations under the UNSC listing process. Under Article 25 and Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the UNSC can pass resolutions that have binding force on UN member states. Article 103 of the Charter further provides that ‘In the event of a conflict between the obligations of the Members of the United Nations under the present Charter and their obligations under any other international agreement, their obligations under the present Charter shall prevail.’ These obligations under the Charter include binding UNSC decisions made under the Charter, as confirmed by the ICJ in the Lockerbie case.

Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email