United Nations

 At the UN level, the power to impose mandatory international sanctions belongs to the Security Council.

According to Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the Security Council may decide the „complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations” (art.41) if the Council determines “the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression” (art.39). These international sanctions adopted through Security Council resolutions are binding for all UN Member States. 

The sanctions regimes of the Security Council have had a significant development, particularly after the end of the Cold War. Over 1945-1990, the Security Council imposed sanctions in only two cases - against Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa - to condemn human rights abuses and abuse of power in domestic politics. After 1990, with the adoption of international sanctions against Iraq, the Security Council expanded the use of this type of instrument to different situations such as inter-state armed conflicts, internal civil conflicts, terrorism, serious violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law. Since 1990 the UN Security Council has adopted 18 sanctions regimes, 14 of which are in force in 2010.

The increasing number and complexity of sanctions regimes prompted the Security Council to take certain administrative measures for their effective management. Therefore, it created an institutional framework under its supervision, composed of standing or temporary bodies, for tracking and improving the design and implementation of international sanctions:

  • Sanctions Committees were created to monitor the specific aspects of each sanctions regime, with a mandate to oversee implementation by Member States of specific UN sanctions imposed by Security Council resolutions. Currently, 12 Sanctions Committees are operating as subsidiary bodies of the Security Council.
  • On 17 April 2000, the Security Council decided to establish, for general issues related to international sanctions, an informal Working Group (Working Group on General Issues on Sanctions) designed to develop recommendations and guidelines on best practices in order to improve drafting and implementation procedures for the sanctions imposed by the Security Council.
  • · The Security Council decided, by its resolution 1730 (2006), to set up a focal point for de-listing applications, to ensure compliance with the standards for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms related to the listing and delisting procedure. This permanent body received the mandate to manage applications on de-listing in close cooperation with the Sanctions Committees experts and to ensure a channel of communication with individuals or entities subject to UN sanctions.

Moreover, the listing procedures according to resolutions 1267 (1999), 1822 (2008) and 1904 (2009) bring additional standards regarding listing on UN lists against terrorism, by reinforcing the procedural safeguards for listing with additional requirements on the detailed description of the circumstances which justify the listing of individuals, groups or entities, or on informing the persons concerned and the disclosure of information.