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United Nations designated terrorist groups and targeted sanctions


This section introduces students to the United Nations designation and targeted sanctions regimes against the Taliban, Al-Qaida, ISIL and affiliated individuals and groups under Security Council resolution 1267 (1999) and is aimed at promoting discussion on the strengths, weaknesses and challenges associated with the counter-terrorism approach of the United Nations under that resolution and its successive resolutions (see also Module 3).

There are two primary non-State groups, namely the Taliban and Al-Qaida, which have been designated "terrorist" organizations by the Security Council. In 1999, following the refusal of the Taliban to surrender Osama Bin Laden and his associates for their roles in the August 1998 attacks on United States Embassies in Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzania, under its resolution 1267 (1999) the Security Council designated as terrorist groups the Taliban and associated individuals and entities, through targeted travel and arms embargos, and financial/assets sanctions. In 2011, under Security Council resolution 1989 (2011), the Council divided the so-called "Consolidated List" of individuals and entities associated with the Taliban and Al-Qaida into two separate lists: the "Al-Qaida, or 1988 List", and the Taliban List, which contains those individuals and entities associated with the Taliban who are deemed to present an ongoing threat to the peace and security of Afghanistan. Finally, under Security Council resolution 2253 (2015), the Al-Qaida List was further extended to include ISIL and Al Nusrah Front (ANF).

See the reading list for further information on the groups and organizations designated by the Security Council, and their evolution, objectives, ideologies and tactical approaches. Moreover, in periodic reports to the Secretary-General, the Security Council has reported on the threat posed by ISIL (Da'esh) to international peace and security. In its report to the Council on 29 January 2018 (S/2018/14), the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team, which supports the Committee established under Security Council resolution 1267 (1999), states:

In Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) lost control over all remaining urban areas. The group continues to transform into a terror organization with a flat hierarchy, with cells and affiliates increasingly acting autonomously. The global fight against ISIL will have to focus on the threat posed by less visible international networks. The combination of "frustrated travellers", ISIL sympathizers, returnees and relocators poses an increased security risk for Member States. Attempts by ISIL to infuse money into the licit economy in combination with a greater inflow of funds for reconstruction of recaptured areas will necessitate adjusted counter measures.

The global Al-Qaida network has remained resilient and in several regions poses a greater threat than ISIL. Despite being under military pressure, Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) increasingly serves as the communications hub for Al-Qaida as a whole. In North and West Africa, Al-Qaida affiliates and groups loyal to ISIL increased their activities; while in East Africa, Al-Shabaab has sustained its dominance over ISIL groups. In South Asia, Al-Qaida affiliates and ISIL are taking advantage of the volatile security situation in Afghanistan. Although the recapture of Marawi City by the Philippine authorities was a military success, the ability of ISIL affiliates to maintain a temporary stronghold within the city was a propaganda victory with potential long-term consequences for the region.

The global flow of foreign terrorist fighters has continued to slow, with only individual cases being reported. However, the marked reduction of territorial control by ISIL in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic will force many foreign terrorist fighters to make a choice between joining other groups or leaving the region. With the adoption of its resolution 2396 (2017), the Security Council has taken a significant step towards meeting the challenges posed by returnees and relocators.

In implementing their obligations under the sanctions regimes established against Al-Qaida, ISIL and other affiliated groups designated by the Security Council under resolution 1267 (1999), many States have established a range of domestic mechanisms for giving effect to the United Nations lists of designated individuals, groups or entities. Often, this will involve the adoption of the lists, at a national level, or the use of nationally-based designations of individuals or entities appearing on them. 

In addition, in countering the financing of terrorism, States are obliged under Security Council resolution 1373 (2001), operative para. 1 (c), to freeze, without delay, funds, other financial assets or economic resources of persons who commit, or attempt to commit, terrorist acts or participate in or facilitate the commission of terrorist acts; or of entities they own, control or direct, as well as of persons and entities acting on their behalf or direction, and to prohibit their nationals or any persons and entities within their territories from making any funds, financial assets or economic resources or financial or other related services available, directly or indirectly, for the benefit of persons who commit or attempt to commit or facilitate or participate in the commission of terrorist acts (operative para. 1 (d)). As a result, many States have in place, at a national level, legal and institutional frameworks for the designation of individuals or groups their governments consider to be terrorists, that are on the United Nations list, or are designated for national or multilateral (e.g., European Union) purposes. The use of such designation mechanisms potentially raises a number of implementation challenges for States, and rights-based concerns. An example of these can be found in the landmark case of Case C-402/05 P and C-415/05, P. Kadi and Al Barakaat International Foundation v. Council and Commission [2008] ECR I-6351.

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