IHL and the humanitarian impact of counterterrorism measures and sanctions

Unintended ill effects of well-intended measures
Research paper Updated 21 September 2021 Published 3 September 2021 ISBN: 9781784134907
A wide view of the Security Council chamber with curtains open during the meeting on the situation in Mali.

In recent decades, international and domestic counterterrorism measures have addressed ever broader forms of support to terrorist acts and groups designated as terrorist. When these measures apply in situations of armed conflict, there is a real risk that they can impede the operations of humanitarian organizations. Country-specific sanctions can raise similar problems.

Challenges arise as a direct result of the restrictions themselves, their incorporation in funding agreements and their cascading effects, as commercial actors that provide services necessary for humanitarian operations – banks, insurers and commodity providers – restrict the services they are willing to provide.

This paper presents the three relevant bodies of law – counterterrorism measures, country-specific sanctions and international humanitarian law – identifies the principal points of friction; clarifies outstanding questions and frequent misunderstandings; and makes recommendations to contribute to finding practical solutions for resolving the tensions.