- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 31, 2005

European law-enforcement officials say U.N. counterterrorism institutions are too bureaucratic and sclerotic to be used effectively against a new generation of terror groups, more loosely networked than their predecessors.

Baltazar Garzon, the Spanish investigating magistrate who is Spain’s leading prosecutor for terrorism and related crimes, told a conference of European and U.S. officials in Florence, Italy, that the so-called “1267 committee” responsible for freezing the assets of terrorist financiers in particular suffered from “stiffness” and employed “restrictive” definitions.

“We can’t include under these definitions the authors of the Madrid attacks … [or] of more than 90 percent of the recent attacks” by Islamic extremists, he said, speaking through an interpreter.

“That system needs fixing,” said Gjis de Vreis, the European Union’s counterterrorism policy coordinator.

He said European nations and the United States were seeking reform of the committee.

“We are looking at … how to strengthen the mechanism,” he said.

Both men were speaking at a counterterrorism conference last week organized by New York University’s Center on Law and Security.

The committee, named for U.N. Security Council Resolution 1267, is also known as the al Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee. Set up in 1999, it aimed to provide an authoritative list of entities involved in financing al Qaeda and supporting the Taliban regime that ruled Afghanistan at the time.

Member states are required by Resolution 1267 to freeze any assets of any entity on the list, prevent entry into or transit through their territories of any people on the list, and prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of weapons to them.

The committee operates by consensus, and the process for listing individuals and groups has been criticized as cumbersome.

“Generally, they lag our list [of terror finance entities],” said one U.S. official who asked for anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the press.

Roger Cressey, who was the White House deputy counterterrorism coordinator during the first Bush administration, said that as a Security Council institution, the committee had to operate by consensus.

“That’s just the nature of the beast in the Security Council,” he said.

He called the presence on the council of countries that have been involved in sponsoring terrorism such as Syria, which recently held a seat there — “a huge problem,” but emphasized that “what really matters is what the [permanent five members of the council] will accept.” But that ability of the so-called “P5 nations” to write the rules is precisely what troubles other observers, who say the asset-freezing system is breaking new and potentially dangerous legal ground.

“There are legal and procedural issues with giving this kind of administrative authority to an international institution in the absence of any administrative law or judicial oversight to prevent arbitrary or erroneous actions,” David Golove of New York University told UPI in Florence.

He said there was “nothing approaching due process” for the entities or individuals listed.

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