The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has annulled the European Union’s implementation of the UN sanctions against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The UN Sanctions Committee requires UN member countries to freeze the assets of people put on a “blacklist” who are believed, or proven to be, associated with the Taliban or Al Qaeda. The blacklist is enforced in the European Union by means of Regulation 881/2002 which is binding in its entirety upon all 27 EU Member States. The ECJ was asked to rule on Case C-402/05 P, Kadi v Council and Commission. This case involved a challenge to Regulation 881/2002 by two individuals placed upon the UN blacklist who, as a consequence, were made subject to Regulation 881/2002. The parties considered that the European Union did not have competence to act in this area and that the EU Regulation infringed human rights, in particular the right of property and rights of defence.

The ECJ held that the European Union did have competence to legislate in this area. However, while the ECJ recognised the importance of such sanctions for security, it considered that Regulation 881/2002 nonetheless failed to conform with human rights. In particular, the ECJ considered that the rights of defence were not satisfied because there were no means for an individual to be informed of the reasons for their placement on the UN blacklist or to challenge this. This is the first time the ECJ has taken jurisdiction over UN sanctions, which had been thought to fall outside the ECJ’s competence. The Judgment means that such UN sanctions must conform to basic EU norms when implemented in the European Union. The ECJ has given the European Union three months to re-adopt a new Regulation that puts in place the necessary guarantees for the protection of human rights.