Counter-terrorist sanctions regimes: Legal framework and challenges at UN and EU levels

Briefing 20-10-2016

Targeted sanctions against individuals and entities suspected of supporting terrorism are an important part of the United Nations Security Council's counter-terrorism programme. Under the main counter-terrorist sanctions regimes created under Chapter VII of the United Nations (UN) Charter, UN member states are obliged to impose an asset freeze, travel ban and arms embargo on persons and entities designated by the United National Security Council (UNSC), and also to take all necessary domestic measures to criminalise support of terrorism and to establish their own sanctions systems. The European Union (EU) implements all UN Security Council-imposed sanctions and has also instituted its own autonomous counter-terrorist restrictive measures regime. However, both the UN and EU sanctions regimes have been severely criticised for infringing key fundamental rights, including due process rights. Legal challenges before national and regional courts prompted a series of procedural reforms, but critics still consider the regimes to fall short of accepted standards. The EU Court of Justice (CJEU) has been the leading jurisdiction to perform reviews of counter-terrorist sanctions, but the secrecy surrounding listings has impeded review of cases on the merits. Nevertheless, the CJEU has repeatedly annulled restrictive measures on procedural grounds, and in the process, affirmed the autonomy of the EU legal order. It is argued that, until the UNSC allows for judicial review, counter-terrorist sanctions will continue to be contested both in court and in the political arena.