COMING UP TRUMPS

February 5, 2008

Guantánamo has become a byword for the sacrifice of civil liberties in America's "war on terror," says the Economist.  But there is another, rarely talked-about way in which potentially innocent people are severely punished, while being deprived of any right to hear or challenge the allegations against them. Worse, they stand even less chance of escaping this fate than they do of being released from Guantánamo Bay.  The legal oubliette in question is the United Nations' terrorist watchlist.

  • Set up by the Security Council in 1999 at the behest of the United States, but greatly expanded after the September 2001 terrorist attacks, the so-called "consolidated list" includes 370 individuals and 112 outfits suspected of having links with the Taliban or al-Qaeda.
  • All are subject to a world-wide freeze on their assets, save for basic living expenses, along with a total travel ban outside their country of residence.

Getting onto the list is relatively easy, requiring a unanimous vote by the Security Council's sanctions committee (identical in membership to the Council itself).  Any UN member state can submit a name.

Getting off is a lot more difficult, says the Economist:

  • Requests for delisting have to be made either directly to the sanctions committee or through the affected person's country of birth or residence, and the burden of proof lies with the petitioner. 
  • The petitioner has to convince the same people who previously held him to be guilty that he is innocent -- a particularly onerous task when he has no access to the information that led to his inclusion on the list in the first place. 
  • In the list's eight-year history, only 11 people and 24 organizations have been removed.

Source: "Coming up trumps," Economist,  January 31, 2008.

For text:

http://www.economist.com/world/international/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10608577

 

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