Switzerland supports states and international organisations in their efforts to combat terrorism, working in particular with the UN and the Council of Europe. It works to ensure compliance with international human rights law and international humanitarian law in the fight against terrorism, and is in particular committed to the continuous improvement of the procedural rights of individuals targeted by UN counter-terrorism sanctions.
Protecting human rights
With Resolution 1267 and subsequent resolutions, the UN Security Council has required member states to implement various sanctions to combat terrorism, including an assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo against individuals and entities (e.g. companies) suspected of being associated with Al-Qaida or the Taliban. Some 500 individuals and entities are currently on the list of counter-terrorism sanctions. Switzerland has been implementing these sanctions since 3 October 2000.
Long-standing commitment to the rights of sanctioned individuals
Already in 2005, Switzerland and a group of like-minded states (Austria, Belgium, Costa Rica, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Liechtenstein, The Netherlands, Norway and Sweden) launched an initiative to improve the sanctions regime. This group regularly submits proposals to the Security Council.
For example, in the summer of 2008 the group submitted a concrete proposal for the establishment of an independent reviewing body. Various national and regional courts and parliaments also criticised the lack of legal protection. Most recently, in November 2015 Switzerland and this group of like-minded states proposed to the Security Council ways of improving human rights by means of the UN sanctions regime.
Ombudsperson for the rights of sanctioned individuals
There was no adequate procedure for removing someone from the sanctions list. In particular there was no mechanism for enabling affected individuals or entities to have their inclusion in the list reviewed by an independent and impartial body.
On 17 October 2009 the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1904, establishing the Office of an Ombudsperson whom individuals and entities that are included in the UN Security Council's Al-Qaida sanctions list can contact. The Ombudsperson is entitled to receive requests from individuals and entities seeking to be removed from the sanctions list and makes appropriate recommendations to the Sanctions Committee.
Removal from the sanctions list, known as delisting, requires first of all a consensus decision by the Sanctions Committee. Since 17 June 2011 (Resolution 1989) the Ombudsperson has been able to recommend to the Committee that an individual or entity be removed from the Sanctions List. The requirement for a consensus decision was thus inverted: the removal of an individual or entity as recommended by the Ombudsperson automatically enters into effect if the Sanctions Committee does not decide otherwise by consensus. In cases where consensus does not exist, any member of the Committee may demand that the request for delisting be referred to the Security Council.
Switzerland welcomes the improvements to the procedure, which now takes better account of the rights of individuals at the international level and strengthens the legitimacy of the UN's sanction system. Switzerland is continuing to advocate for improvements together with like-minded states submitted its latest proposals to the UN Security Council on 7 December 2018 .