India has strongly criticised the lack of transparency in the procedures of decision-making by the UN Security Council’s Sanctions Committees, and said the practice of keeping in secrecy the failed efforts of proscribed terrorists to get themselves removed from the world body’s list of designated entities has “no legal sanction.”
Last month, government sources in New Delhi said that the United Nations rejected an appeal of 2008 Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed to remove his name from its list of banned terrorists. Saeed, chief of UN-designated terrorist organisation Jamaat-ud-Dawa, was banned on December 10, 2008 by the United Nations Security Council after the Mumbai terror attacks in which 166 people were killed.
Saeed had filed an appeal with the UN through Lahore-based law firm Mirza and Mirza in 2017, while he was still under house arrest in Pakistan, for removal of the ban. Participating in the informal meeting of the Plenary on the Intergovernmental negotiations on equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin said here Thursday: “An area that we haven’t been able to focus adequately in the past is the matter of the working methods of the subsidiary bodies of the Security Council. These bodies have grown in number and importance.”
Akbaruddin said the work of the subsidiary bodies of Security Council is consequential for all member states but added that the Working Methods of the Council’s Subsidiary bodies suffer from an “Attention Deficit Syndrome.”
He said it is assumed that given the numerous decisions being made by the Council’s subsidiary bodies, referred to as the “Subterranean Universe of the Council,” their rules will be meticulous, transparent, listed and consistent but there is lack of consistency in the guidelines and practices being followed, without any clarity of their legal basis.
Akbaruddin cited the example of the aspect of procedures of decision-making by the Sanctions’ Committees. “These are an interesting case study as a starting point for understanding how broke the system is,” he said, adding that these bodies have given each member a veto and all members therefore are now equal, meaning unless consensus is achieved no action can proceed.
He listed various scenarios that come into play in cases where consensus cannot be achieved by these bodies, including provisions for submitting the matter to the Security Council by the Member concerned, referring the matter to the Security Council by the Chair, submitting the issue to the Security Council by the Chair or by the Committee member concerned and one where there is no explicit option at all to refer to Security Council. “All are children of the same parent – the Security Council. Yet, there are so many differences with no rationale for these differences. None can fathom the rationale for this,” he said.
On the issue of transparency and making public the decisions of these bodies, Akbaruddin said there is inconsistency in this regard as in some instances, decisions regarding delisting requests made to some of these bodies by sanctioned individuals and entities are made public while in others, they are not made public at all. “Some other subsidiary bodies do not even mention that any such request was received and declined from known and listed terrorist entities or individuals. Bizarre as it may seem, the hiding of failed efforts of terrorists, to get themselves delisted, is attempted to be cloaked in secrecy. It is sought to be kept from being made public by some of the subsidiary bodies on account of practice. Such practice has no legal sanction in the rules, guidelines or resolutions,” he said.
Akbaruddin further said that normal reporting by these subsidiary bodies to the same parent – the Security Council also varies. “Some report only in closed meetings. Others report in both closed and public meetings, some others choose not to do so at all. “Again, there is no rhyme or reason for these differing time-periods and methodologies for reporting of similarly constituted bodies handling similar work. Consistency does not impede performance or effectiveness or efficiency. Why go for multiplicity when simplicity can do?” he said. He emphasised the need to enhance the transparency, consistency and clarity of the Working Methods of the Subsidiary bodies.
In a symbolic gesture aimed at ensuring more transparency and openness in the work of the UN Security Council, Germany, the President of the Council for April, had the curtains in the UNSC chamber drawn aside for the first time since 1964, when Che Guevara was addressing the General Assembly and Cuban exiles fired a 3.5-inch bazooka at the United Nations from across the East River. The German Mission said having the curtains open in the Security Council chamber, “a rare occurrence throughout its 75-year history”, will let the “sunshine” in and underscores that “transparency and openness to broader @UN membership & civil society are crucial not just symbolically, but also in practice for credibility & legitimacy.”