EU Law, International Law and Economic Sanctions Against Terrorism: The Judiciary in Distress?01 Jan 2009
This article seeks to examine the relationship between European Union law, international law, and the protection of fundamental rights in the light of recent case law of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and the Court of First Instance (CFI) relating to economic sanctions against individuals. On 3 September 2008, the ECJ delivered its long-awaited judgment in Kadi and Al Barakaat on appeal from the CFI. In its judgment under appeal, the CFI had held that the European Community (EC) is competent to adopt regulations imposing economic sanctions against private organizations in pursuance of UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions seeking to combat terrorism; that although the EC is not bound directly by the UN Charter, it is bound pursuant to the EC Treaty to respect international law and give effect to UNSC; and that the CFI has jurisdiction to examine the compatibility of EC regulations implementing UNSC resolutions with fundamental rights not as protected by the EC but as protected by jus cogens. On appeal, following the Opinion of Maduro AG, the ECJ rejected the CFI's approach. It held that UNSC resolutions are binding only in international law. It subjected the contested regulations to full review under EC human rights standards and found them in breach of the right to a hearing, the right to judicial protection and the right to property. Kadi and Al Barakaat is the most important judgment ever delivered by the ECJ on the relationship between EC and international law and one of its most important judgments on fundamental rights. It is imbued by constitutional confidence, commitment to the rule of law but also some skepticism towards international law. In the meantime, the CFI has delivered a number of other judgments on anti-terrorist sanctions assessing the limits of the "emergency constitution" at European level. The purpose of this paper is to examine the above case law and explore the dilemmas and tensions facing the EU judiciary in seeking to define and protect the EU's distinct constitutional space. It is divided as follows. It first looks at the judgment in Kadi. After a short presentation of the factual and legal background, it explores the question whether the EU has competence to adopt smart sanctions. It then examines whether the EU is bound by resolutions of the Security Council, whether the ECJ has jurisdiction to review Community measures implementing such resolutions and the applicable standard of judicial scrutiny. It analyzes the contrasting views of the CFI, the Advocate General, and the ECJ taking account also of the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Further, it explores the consequences of annulling the contested regulation. It then turns to discussing CFI case law in relation to sanctions lists drawn up not by the UN Security Council but by the EC. The paper concludes by welcoming the judgment of the ECJ. Whilst its reasoning on the issue of Community competence is questionable, once such competence is established, it is difficult to support the abrogation of Community standards for the protection of fundamental rights. Such standards should ensure procedural due process whilst recognizing the importance of public security.