David Crawford’s Oct. 2 Politics & Economics article “The Black Hole of a U.N. Blacklist” is short on fact and long on opinion; It should have appeared as an editorial. The U.N. Security Council has rightly imposed sanctions on hundreds of al Qaeda members and the Taliban. These sanctions have made it harder for terrorists to acquire weapons, move freely around the world, and finance their plots. Member states have frozen $150 million in terrorist assets, which Mr. Crawford fails to acknowledge.
Mr. Crawford’s central argument is that terrorists are stripped of their assets without hearings or the right to appeal. He profiles three men under U.N. sanctions for supporting al Qaeda and highlights that none of them has been criminally convicted by a court. Obviously, the U.N. is not a court, and sanctions are not a criminal punishment. Terrorist designations made by the Security Council are based on international security and policy considerations, and they are designed as a preventive tool to cripple terrorists and their networks.
Mr. Crawford is wrong when he claims that individuals under U.N. sanctions cannot appeal the decision. In the United States, those designated have the right to challenge the decision through administrative channels or by turning directly to the court system, and many have done so. However, every challenged designation has been upheld by U.S. courts, including at the appellate level. The U.N. has also lifted sanctions, in cases where the individual severed his ties to al Qaeda.
Mr. Crawford is also wrong in stating that the Security Council does not debate designations. In fact, they are debated extensively, usually over a period of many months. By way of example, we approved sanctions for Saad al-Fagih, a known associate of Osama bin Laden, Abdelghani Mzoudi, a member of the Hamburg cell that planned 9/11, and Mamoun Darkazanli, a known al Qaeda financier. These are the same three people Mr. Crawford cites to prove the system is broken. I believe they prove the system is working. Mr. Crawford would have known these facts if he had called the U.S. Mission to the U.N. to ask. But he didn’t.
John R. Bolton
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations