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National statements

Open Briefing – United Nations Security Council’s Al Qaida Sanctions Committee

Thematic issues

  • Counter-terrorism
  • Justice
  • Peace and Security
  • Sanctions
  • Terrorism


Statement by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations

Chair, Al Qaida Sanctions Committee

Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us today for this open briefing on the Security Council's Al Qaida Sanctions Committee.

Holding this briefing in the week of the Biennial Review of the UN's Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy is deliberate.

The UN's Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy demonstrates the multi-faceted response needed to tackle contemporary terrorism; and because terrorism is a threat to international peace and security, the Security Council is part of that mix.

Under the Strategy, Member States resolve to implement all Security Council resolutions related to international terrorism and to cooperate fully with the counter-terrorism subsidiary bodies of the Security Council in the fulfilment of their tasks.

The Al Qaida Sanctions Committee is one of these subsidiary bodies, and the purpose of today's briefing is to focus on the question of what does cooperation with the Al Qaida Sanctions Committee entail.

I hope to demonstrate in particular that this cooperation is mutually beneficial, both to the Security Council's efforts to prevent Al Qaida-inspired terrorism, as well as to Member States own efforts towards this end – that is, to show how the Al Qaida Sanctions Regime can contribute to national and regional responses to the threat posed by Al Qaida and its affiliates when Member States engage with the Committee.

Basically, I want to talk about how the Committee can be your partner in tackling the specific challenge of Al Qaida-inspired terrorism.

I am joined in this briefing by three additional speakers. The first is Alexander Evans, the Coordinator of the Committee's Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team, or Monitoring Team for short. If the Committee is your partner in tackling Al Qaida, then the Monitoring Team is your counsellor, available to provide advice and assistance on how the sanctions work. Alexander will brief you on the role of the Monitoring Team.

The Strategy recognises that many States continue to require assistance in implementing these resolutions. With this in mind, I have invited Saverio Mirarchi to brief you on a project of the UN's Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force to build capacity for terrorist designations and asset freezing, two of the key disciplines vital for making the Al Qaida Sanctions regime work.

Finally, in order to stimulate what I hope will be a lively discussion with you all this afternoon, I have invited Mr Kamel Rezag Bara, Adviser to the President of the Republic of Algeria, to provide a Member State's point of view.

Object and purpose of the Sanctions Measures

The Al Qaida Sanctions Regime is first and foremost a preventative tool. The sanctions measures are designed to constrain the ability of listed Al Qaida groups and individuals from mobilising the necessary resources to commit attacks.

Of course, the measures must be properly implemented by Member States to be truly effective, and there is a significant international effort underway to assist Member States in this regard. But critically, the measures must also be properly targeted – in other words, the Al Qaida Sanctions List must contain the right names to achieve this preventative effect and not retain those names that are no longer a threat. This is the main focus of today's briefing.

The measures themselves require Member States to freeze the assets of listed individuals and entities, and prevent them from getting their hands on new assets as well. They also require Member States to prevent the travel of listed individuals. Both these financial and travel sanctions are subject to exemptions, to ensure the impact of the sanctions is limited to their preventative intent. There are, however, no exemptions to the third set of measures: an absolute prohibition on the provision of any arms or military assistance to the listed persons and entities.

Principals and Enablers

Basically, two categories of persons and entities are eligible to be included on the Al Qaida Sanctions List, and thus subject to the sanctions measures. The first are the various cells, affiliates, splinter groups or derivatives of Al Qaida themselves and the individual members of these organisations. The next are any individuals or groups providing material support to Al Qaida or any cell, affiliate, splinter group or derivative thereof. Such support can take the form of financing, planning, facilitating, preparing, or perpetrating the acts or activities of those entities, or supplying them with arms or recruits.

Listing groups allied to Al Qaida, as well as their key leadership figures – in other words, the Principals – is an important declaratory measure. It eliminates any legitimacy these groups may have purported to have; and thus, any pretense that supporting them is in any way justified. It should also trigger action by national security and law enforcement agencies to crack down on those groups: to be on the lookout for, and take action to prevent, any effort to provide funds, arms or other material support to the listed groups.

But for the sanctions to be effective, they also need to target the enablers and the facilitators: individuals who for ideological or sometimes even purely mercenary motives provide material support to the group and its leaders, such as financial assistance or services, however basic, or arms, ammunition or other military assistance, like training, or forged documents, or internet services.

Listing the enablers has a more immediate practical impact. They are more likely to be connected to financial and other networks of ordinary civilian life and thus vulnerable to the effect of sanctions. Closing down financing networks at the point they intersect with a regulated financial sector can significantly disrupt the principal entity and provide law enforcement with leverage to pursue the rest of the network to the principal itself.

It also maximises the preventative effect of the sanctions, by creating a deterrent amongst potential enablers from getting involved. The stigma arising from inclusion on the Al Qaida Sanctions List can generate strong familial and communal pressures to avoid getting involved in conduct that could see them placed on an international anti-terror list

This is where the assistance of Member States is absolutely crucial. Identifying enablers requires the kind of detailed knowledge of facilitation networks that only national security and law enforcement agencies are likely to have.

Follow up

A listing is not an end in itself. It has the potential to yield a significant intelligence dividend. If the listing is effectively implemented in countries where the groups and individuals are active, it may generate useful information for law enforcement, including through "suspicious transaction reports" submitted by financial institutions. It may even prompt the listed person to cooperate with law enforcement, in the form of information as part of the process for being eventually delisted.

Importantly, because the sanctions are global in scope – these are Chapter VII measures, after all – it is possible that other States will also be able to generate new information, intelligence and evidence related to the listed entity. If this information is properly shared, it can significantly boost regional and broader international efforts to target the person or entity concerned using criminal justice measures.

It is very important for the effectiveness of the sanctions regime that the Member State that originally proposed a listing – what is known as the "designating State" – continually updates the Committee as this new information comes forward. In particular, the Committee needs information that will better help identify the listed individual or entity.

Of course, once a key facilitator or enabler is listed, it is probable the target group will go elsewhere for their funds, arms, documents or other support. This in itself is an important disruptive effect and may both reduce the effectiveness of the listed group and make it vulnerable to detection as they seek out new and possibly less reliable agents. But it also necessitates more engagement with the Sanctions Committee: for the sanctions to remain effective, those new facilitators and enablers should also be listed as soon as enough information on them exists to support the relevant listing standard.

Finally, a listing should not be forever: it should only remain for as long as necessary to achieve the preventative intent of the sanctions regime. Designating States have the primary role in advising the Committee that an individual or entity they originally proposed for listing should now be removed from the list. In fact, if a designating State asks the Committee to remove a listing they had originally proposed, the resolutions establishing the regime provide that the name will automatically be removed, unless the Committee decides by consensus to prevent this, or the matter is referred to the Council itself for decision.

The point is that effective and properly targeted use of the Al Qaida Sanctions Regime can not only constrain the Al Qaida network; it can also generate new leads and opportunities for national security and law enforcement agencies. But for the sanctions to be most effective, the cooperation between the Committee and the designating State must continue for as long as that name remains on the List.


A system such as this, which seeks to integrate nationally generated targets into a global, internationally legally binding framework, naturally requires safeguards. The Al Qaida Sanctions Committee must first vet, and then agree to, all listing proposals before the sanctions will apply to the designated individual or entity. In doing so, the Committee assesses whether the information provided to justify the listing in fact meets both the listing criteria itself, as well as the necessary standard for listing. Occasionally, this takes some time. As the Committee must agree to a listing by consensus, a very strong case for a listing must be made. This further highlights the importance of engaging with the Committee early when contemplating a listing proposal.

A further safeguard is the Al Qaida Sanctions Ombudsperson who is authorised to receive petitions from listed individuals or entities to be removed from the sanctions list. The Ombudsperson independently and thoroughly reviews all available information from relevant Member States as well as the Petitioner and makes a recommendation to the Committee on whether to retain the listing or to delist the petitioner.

Monitoring Team

In concluding, I would simply reiterate that the regime will be most effective if it is seen by Member States as a useful instrument to complement – and contribute to – their own national and regional responses to the Al Qaida threat; and if we remember that the effectiveness of the regime depends critically on input from Member States to determine how the sanctions are targeted.

I would now like to pass the floor to the Coordinator of the Monitoring Team, Alexander Evans, to describe the Monitoring Team's role in assisting the Committee and Member States.

Thank you.

Last Updated: 5 June 2015
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