Sunday, November 2, 2008

European Court of Justice could weaken the fight against terrorism

Problematic: "Terrorism Financing Blacklists At Risk."

In September, the European Court of Justice threw the future of the United Nations' sanctions program against al-Qaeda and the Taliban into doubt when it declared the blacklist violated the "fundamental rights" of those targeted. The Luxembourg-based court said the list lacked accountability and made it almost impossible for people to challenge their inclusion.

Courts in Britain and France have also questioned whether European countries can enforce the U.N. sanctions and other blacklists without violating local laws, including a defendant's right to see evidence. The United Nations keeps such evidence secret.

The list should be regulated, and those who are put on it should have an appeals process (which they do, though currently they must appeal through their home country), but here's the problem with a European Court of Justice: the UN needs to keep much of the evidence secret, though not all of it, in order to protect sources. Otherwise, the program is dead in the water. Of course, opponents of the list - terrorists - know this.

The Court can't have it both ways, protecting global interests while putting individual countries' laws first, undermining another "governing" body like the UN in the process. Inconsistent enforcement doesn't imply that the ban is wrong. And there need to be cross-lists; the UN doesn't consider Hezbollah to be a terrorist group, so they're not on the UN's list, free to travel and transfer funds unimpeded.

Just because terrorists have learned some tactics to evade the lists is a specious reason to end the program. Abandonment of the blacklists would force bodies like the UN to revert to sanctioning countries instead of the individuals they're trying to reach.

It's a bad time to re-fund terrorists.

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