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Swiss say UN sanctions infringe human rights

Who is on the list of terrorism suspects? (swissinfo montage)

Switzerland says United Nations sanctions against individuals suspected of involvement in terrorism need to be more transparent to avoid violating human rights.

Addressing the Security Council, the Swiss ambassador to the UN in New York, Peter Maurer, said sanctions often had a punitive instead of preventive effect.

Maurer told the council’s counter-terrorism committee on Wednesday that Switzerland believed "targeted financial and travel sanctions against individuals [were] useful instruments" in combating terrorism.

However, he said that the scope of targeted sanctions had been extended considerably to "loosely defined categories of individuals and entities rather than specific groups of persons".

He said this had "severely affected" the rights of individuals under domestic and international law.

There is the real potential, he added, for the violation of an individual’s rights to a fair hearing in cases where they did not have the right to appeal.

Effective and compatible

Maurer outlined ways for the sanctions to be effective and compatible with human-rights conventions.

They include applying strict and transparent factual requirements when listing individuals and groups, notifying individuals once they are placed on a sanctions list, limiting the duration of sanctions and providing the right to appeal.

He said the current sanctions regime "undermined the legitimacy of Security Council action...and as a result [would] severely compromise the effectiveness of the council’s anti-terrorism strategy".

Maurer recommended the creation of a working group to come up with suggestions on how to improve the effectiveness of the listing procedures.

Inconvenience

During the day-long discussion countries debated the effectiveness of sanctions.

The United States called for the strengthening of sanctions against Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network and the Taliban.

The US countered demands from Switzerland and other European nations for more transparency by saying the world had to accept the "burden" and "inconvenience" of fighting terrorism.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

There are 7 entries on the UN sanction list which involve either Swiss citizens, residents of Switzerland or firms or organisations based in the country.
They are suspected of supporting either Islamic terrorist groups.
Individuals placed on a terrorist list have no right to appeal.

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