On Ombudspersons and the UN Al-Qaida Listing Process

Cross-referencing: NSL, ch. 6, p.244 et seq.

At last week's Canadian Council on International Law Annual Conference, UN Ombudsperson Kimberly Prost offered a heartening assessment of her role in reviewing requests for delisting from the UN's al-Qaida sanctions list.  This list is described in detail in NSL, ch. 6, p.244 et seq.  She described how her office has pursued an almost a "special advocate"-style approach to advancing legitimate delisting requests with the UN Security Council's Al-Qaida's Sanctions Committee. 

Kent Roach and I have been among those who predicted that her function would be greatly impaired by the security intelligence cunundrum -- that is, the unwillingness of intelligence agencies to share with the United Nations, let along the Ombudsperson, the actual intelligence (or even a reasonably detailed summary thereof) that supports listing.  This remains an obvious conundrum and potentially irresolvable in many instances. However, Ombudsperson Prost reported that she has concluded agreements on intelligence with several states, including most notably the United Kingdom.  She could not divulge the content of these understandings, but they presumably impose protocols that permit her greater access to undergirding secret information than would otherwise be the case.

How all this will work out in practice remains to be seen.  However, these protocols, and the June 2011 Security Council resolution 1989 that encourages states to share confidential information and (importantly) affirmatively recognizes the Ombudsperson's capacity to make actual recommendations to the Sanctions Committee on delisting, constitute important developments. Future positive developments would include the actual release of the Ombudsperson's reports on delisting requests.

We now await the Sanction Committee's decision on the famous Abdelrazik case.