The United Nations, the European Union, and the King of Sweden: Economic Sanctions and Individual Rights in a Plural World Order

Reawakened from its decades-long slumber during the Cold War, the UN Security Council has become more active than ever before.  Increased UN activity, however, has not always spelled increased accountability.  The problem is particularly acute with regard to the UN Security Council’s anti-terrorism Resolutions that impose economic sanctions on named individuals who are suspected of sponsoring the Taliban or Al Qaeda.  These targeted sanctions, or the process by which they are determined, are in severe tension with international and domestic conceptions of fundamental rights.
When the UN enlists regional organizations and States in freezing the assets of named individuals, the multiplicity of legal actors and systems bearing down on the individual may be a blessing or a curse.  The resulting plurality of claims to legal authority may create multiple veto points that check for the protection of fundamental values or may provide myriad opportunities for obstruction, burden shifting, and evasion of responsibility.  The difficulty, then, lies in arriving at an approach that can mediate productively between the needs for collective action and the particular perspective of each institutional participant without losing site of fundamental values, such as human rights.
This Article tackles these issues in the European context in which they prominently unfolded.  This Article (1) examines the international human rights constraints that operate on UN authority, (2) briefly discusses the UN’s anti-terrorist sanctions regimes, (3) examines the European Community’s powers to implement targeted sanctions, and (4) analyzes the clash of legal orders in the context of recent litigation in the European Courts – especially in the momentous Kadi case – surrounding the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1267 in the European Union and its Member States.