Saturday 20 December 2008

Human Rights Committee Decision Condemns Implementation of Security Council Counter-terrorism Sanctions by Belgium

In Views issued following its November 2008 session, dated 9 December 2008, the United Nations Human Rights Committee has found Belgium to be in breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights for its implementation of sanctions adopted by the United Nations Security Council ( The two applicants, who were suspected of being El Qaeda sympathisers, had their assets frozen and found themselves unable to travel as a result of being placed on the blacklist.
In particular, the travel ban – to which Belgium had apparently objected, but felt itself obliged to enforce – constituted a violation of article 12 (freedom of movement) in that it prevented the applicants from leaving the country. Public dissemination of the names of the two applicants on the blacklist constituted a violation of article 17 (right to privacy). There are several individual and dissenting opinions, including dissents by Ruth Wedgwood and Ivan Shearer.
Security Council sanctions seem to defy the rule of law. So it is a welcome development that the United Nations Human Rights Committee has deemed itself authorised to examine the violations that result from their implementation. The decision joins a growing body of material challenging the way the sanctions are imposed, emanating from the European Court of Justice and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
The decision is only available in French at present, and doesn’t seem to be posted on the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. It is currently being translated into English.

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