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Security Council Report, Special Research Report November 2013, p. 10 et seq.

Security Council Report, Special Research Report November 2013, p. 10 et seq.
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Table of Contents

UN Sanctions

Types of Targeted Sanctions

Functionally, there are five main types of targeted UN sanctions: diplomatic, travel ban, asset freeze, arms embargo and commodity interdiction. This section briefly evaluates each of these, including in relation to the 13 active sanctions regimes.


The “severance of diplomatic relations” is one of the possible measures specifically mentioned in Article 41 of the UN Charter. While historically diplomatic sanctions have been one of the more frequently used forms, no UN diplomatic sanctions are currently in effect. Diplomatic sanctions have been previously applied in the following regimes: Southern Rhodesia 253, Libya 748, Yugoslavia 757, Angola 864, Sudan 1054 and Afghanistan/Taliban/Al-Qaida 1267. In the cases of Libya and Sudan, diplomatic sanctions were imposed on recognised states; in the cases of Southern Rhodesia and Yugoslavia, diplomatic sanctions were imposed on unrecognised states; and in the case of Angola and the initial 1267 regime, diplomatic sanctions were imposed on nonstate actors—the rebel group União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola (UNITA) and the Taliban. Notably, the diplomatic sanctions against UNITA authorised in resolution 1173, which modified the 864 regime, contained an exemption for contact with the government of Angola, the UN and the observer states of the Lusaka Protocol peace process. As for the Taliban, the Council decided that member states would “close immediately and completely all Taliban offices in their territories” with resolution 1333. When the 1267 regime was subsequently split into two regimes with resolutions 1988 and 1989, these diplomatic sanctions were not retained.
Recourse to diplomatic sanctions has declined alongside the decline of comprehensive sanctions against state actors.Yet this is only part of the explanation as the cases above indicate diplomatic sanctions can also be targeted and applied in relation to nonstate actors. Notably, the travel ban imposed under the current Taliban 1988 regime specifically exempts travel that the committee determines “directly relates to supporting e orts by the government of Afghanistan to promote reconciliation”, which implies a change in Council intent compared to the diplomatic sanctions imposed one decade earlier. In other contexts, such as with the DPRK and Iran, it would seem that the Council has determined that the benefits of signalling illegitimacy with diplomatic sanctions would be outweighed by the cost in terms of lost opportunities for further multi-party negotiations. Similarly, in the case of Guinea-Bissau, where one might have expected the imposition of diplomatic sanctions in response to the 12 April 2012 coup, the Council has apparently decided that limited political engagement would be more e ective in restoring constitutional order.

Travel Ban

Travel bans are a common form of targeted sanctions: they are a feature of all but one (Iraq 1518) of the UN sanctions regimes currently in effect. The institutional predecessors to the individual travel ban have taken numerous forms: a comprehensive ban on travel by all nationals of a country, a ban on travel to an entire country, a ban on travel to rebel-held territory within a country, an aviation ban on all flights into or out of a country and a ban on the operation of a national airline. Most recently, the Libya 1970 regime added an aviation ban with resolution 1973, which was terminated six months later with resolution 2009 in September 2011. Previously, the Taliban/Al-Qaida 1267 regime also had an air embargo on Ariana Afghan Airlines (imposed with resolution 1267, terminated with resolution 1388) and a ban on flights over Taliban controlled territory (imposed with resolution 1333, terminated with resolution 1390). Exemptions for various reasons, usually at the discretion of the committee, have become standard for individual travel bans: humanitarian (10 regimes); religious (10 regimes); participation in peace, national reconciliation and stability processes (nine regimes); and justice or judicial process (five regimes). One of the more significant examples of the Council’s ability to be flexible and act quickly was the removal of former President Laurent Gbagbo of Côte d’Ivoire from the 1572 regime travel ban list to enable his transfer to The Hague in November 2011 to face charges at the ICC. As the table above indicates, travel bans are rarely imposed in isolation from other measures: the most common combination is a travel ban with an asset freeze and an arms embargo, which has been applied in 11 of the 13 active sanctions regimes.
While individual travel bans are among the most commonly imposed form of sanctions, they may also quite possibly be the most widely violated. A few reasons may account for a lack of compliance with UN travel bans. First, the scale of listings has become of such a magnitude that the committees and Secretariat find it increasingly di cult to manage the process effectively. Currently, 517 individuals have been designated for a travel ban by the UN; more than two-thirds of these have been listed under the Al-Qaida 1267/1989 and Taliban 1988 regimes. Second, as with other types of sanctions, the burden of implementation primarily falls on member states that often lack institutional capacity. To put this regulatory challenge in concrete terms, the International Air Transportation Association estimates there were 1.11 billion international air travellers during 2011. It also remains unclear in what context and to what extent travel bans have induced an intended response from targeted individuals (Cosgrove 2005: 207-228). In other words, even when they are enforced, little is known about their effectiveness. Finally, when travel bans are imposed on such a scale as to be virtually unenforceable, there is a risk that a widespread lack of compliance could damage UN institutional credibility.

Asset Freeze

The predecessor of asset freezes targeting individuals and entities was general financial sanctions, which had been imposed in the following contexts: Southern Rhodesia 253, Iraq 661, Libya 748, Yugoslavia 757, Yugoslavia 820 and Haiti 841. Similar to individual travel bans asset freezes have also been included in all but one (Guinea-Bissau 2048) of the current sanctions regimes. Cumulatively, there are 575 individuals and 414 entities currently designated for asset freezes by the Security Council. In terms of the targeting of entities, the Iraq 1518 (208 entities), Iran 1737 (78 entities) and Al-Qaida 1267/1989 (63 entities) regimes are perhaps most notable. Presumably, the respective purposes are asset recovery, non-proliferation and counter-terrorism.With the exception of the Iraq 1518 regime, each of the sanctions regimes have exemptions to asset freezes, which in the majority of cases use standard language regarding humanitarian assistance, basic and extraordinary expenses and legal costs. Interestingly, the Iran 1737 regime specifically allows for the sale or transfer of equipment for light-water reactors and low-enriched uranium, while the Libya 1970 regime includes language on financing for public purposes by state banks and investment funds.
Targeted asset freezes are undoubtedly an improvement over their predecessor, general financial sanctions, as they are more likely to be implemented and have diminished side effects. Nonetheless, numerous challenges to e ective implementation remain, particularly within the context of international enforcement. Some of the problems facing implementation of UN targeted asset freezes are basically the same obstacles that anti-money laundering initiatives face more generally. Global money laundering remains endemic, despite considerable effort on the part of the international community, such as the launch of the World Bank Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative in 2007. According to economists at Global Financial Integrity, the developing world lost $859 billion in illicit outflows in 2010 (Kar and Freitas 2012). This does not mean that UN targeted asset freezes cannot be enforced, but given the sophistication of money-laundering methods and a chronic lack of transparency in international banking, effective implementation will be diffcult.

Arms Embargo

Historically, nearly all UN sanctions regimes have included an arms embargo, with the exception of the now-terminated Sudan 1054 regime and the currently active Lebanon 1636 and Guinea-Bissau 2048 regimes. Arms embargos have taken both general and targeted forms. Among the current regimes, the DPRK 1718 and Iran 1737 regimes are distinctive due to the inclusion of specific nonproliferation measures.The DPRK sanctions include a ban on heavy conventional weapons and materials, equipment, goods and technology related to nuclear programmes, ballistic missile programmes and other WMD programmes.The Iran sanctions include a ban on items related to the enrichment or reprocessing of nuclear materials as well as the development of delivery systems for nuclear weapons. In both sanctions regimes, there is also a prohibition on the export of arms, including conventional, from each country. This is an innovative measure, which theoretically serves the dual purposes of non-proliferation and constraining government financing from weapons sales. Two-way arms embargos have also been applied in the cases of the Eritrea 1907 Libya 1970 regimes As with travel bans and asset freezes, most current arms embargoes include exemption of one form or another, with the exceptions of one form or another, with the exception of three sanctions regimes: Al-Qaida 1267/1989, Iran 1737 and Taliban 1988.
The most recent report of the Panel of Experts assisting the Libya 1970 Committee illustrates some of the diffculties in implementing a two-way arms embargo within the context of an intrastate conflict and its aftermath (S/2013/99).The panel found that:

- the delivery of arms during the uprising against Qaddafi was undertaken without any controls on the ground, so many of these arms are now in the possession of non-state actors or are being tra cked out of the country;

- there has been a collapse in state control over weapons stockpiles and an absence of any border controls, leading to the spread of conventional weapons to West Africa, the Middle East and possibly the Horn of Africa; and

- UN member states have transferred weapons to the authorities in Libya under an exemption to the arms embargo, but in numerous cases the ostensible end users have been inadequately specified.

The panel concluded that the “lack of an effective security system remains one of the primary obstacles to securing military materiel” and therefore “the proliferation of weapons from Libya continues at an alarming rate”. While Libya may not be representative of the UN track record on arms embargoes, these are not encouraging observations for a sanctions regime that had already been in effect for two years.

Commodity Interdiction

The imposition of commodity sanctions in a UN context dates back to the first comprehensive regime on Southern Rhodesia. However, the two most significant cases in terms of setting a precedent for the current use of targeted commodity sanctions were Angola (1998-2002) and Sierra Leone (2000-2003), in which sanctions were imposed on rough diamond exports in order to reduce the financing available to two rebel groups, UNITA and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), respectively. There are currently commodity sanctions imposed within three sanctions regimes: the export of diamonds from Côte d’Ivoire (resolution 1643 of 15 December 2005), the export of luxury goods to the DPRK (resolution 1718 of 14 October 2006) and the export of charcoal from Somalia (resolution 2036 of 22 February 2012). There is also voluntary language regarding mining-industry financing in Eritrea and natural resource supply chain due-diligence in the DRC. The DRC 1533 sanctions regime also includes designation criteria regarding support for armed groups through the illicit trade of natural resources. Among other countries curently under UN sanctions, previous commodity measures included the Oil for Food Programme in Itaq (1995-2003) and sanctions on diamond (2001-2007) and timber (2003-2006) exports from Liberia.
The most recent report of the Monitoring Group assisting he Somalia/Eritrea 751/1907 Committee highlights some of the difficulties in implementing primary commodity interdiction sanctions (S/2013/413). Among the findings of the Monitoring Group are the following:

- although sanctions were imposed in February 2012, the amount of charcoal exports has increased from a rate of 9 million sacks per year in 2011 to a rate of 24 million sacks per year in 2013;

- the Kenyan Defence Forces (KDF), which operate in Somalia under mandates from the AU and UN, and the allied Ras Kamboni militia have been actively involved in the charcoal trade in the port city of Kismayo;

- the Al Shabaab insurgency continues to export as many as 600,000 to 1 million sacks of charcoal per month, with an international market value of $9 million to $16 million; and

- tansit routes for charcoal exports from Somalia to Dubai, as well as specific individuals and firms trading charcoal in violation of the sanctions regime, have been identified (no action has yet been taken).

These types of obstacles to effective implementation - i.e., complicity in sanctions-busting by peacekeepers, chronic evasion of interdiction by rebel groups and impunity for local and regional businesses that violate sanctions - are not unique to Somalia.
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