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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 August 2017

Linos-Alexander Sicilianos
Vice-President of the European Court of Human Rights,


The ECtHR is in the process of refining its conceptual tools for determining the responsibility of the States Parties to the ECHR acting in execution of a Security Council resolution. Where the implementation of resolutions involving the use of force is concerned, the Court's recent case law has shown a shift towards systematic acceptance of the extraterritorial scope of the ECHR. As to whether the conduct in issue should be attributed to the States Parties or to the UN, the Court now makes a clear distinction between operations authorized by the Security Council and UN peacekeeping operations. The implementation of UN economic sanctions will be addressed differently according to whether or not the respondent State is a member of the EU. The criterion of ‘equivalent protection’ is only applicable in the former scenario. And in any event, it needs to be applied cautiously on a case-by-case basis. As regards the enforcement of economic sanctions by non-EU Member States, the Court tends to interpret Security Council resolutions in a manner consistent with the obligations deriving from the ECHR. More generally, the Court's approach is oriented towards systemic harmonization rather than towards normative conflict.

Copyright © British Institute of International and Comparative Law 2017 

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1 Bosphorus Hava Yolları Turizm ve Ticaret Anonim Şirketi v Ireland, App No 45036/98, Grand Chamber Judgment (ECtHR, 30 June 2005).

2 Al-Dulimi and Montana Management Inc. v Switzerland, App No 5809/08, Grand Chamber Judgment (ECtHR, 21 June 2016).

3 Behrami and Behrami v France and Saramati v France, Germany and Norway, App No 71412/01 and 78155/01, Grand Chamber Decision (ECtHR, 2 May 2007).

4 Al-Skeini and Others v the United Kingdom, App No 55721/07, Grand Chamber Judgment (ECtHR, 7 July 2011).

5 Al-Jedda v the United Kingdom, App No 27021/08, Grand Chamber Judgment (ECtHR, 7 July 2011).

6 Nada v Switzerland, App No 10593/08, Grand Chamber Judgment (ECtHR, 12 September 2012).

7 Stichting Mothers of Srebrenica and Others v the Netherlands, App No 65542/12, Decision (ECtHR, 1 June 2013).

8 Jaloud v the Netherlands, App No 47708/08, Grand Chamber Judgment (ECtHR, 20 November 2014).

9 For an overall analysis of the judicial control of Security Council resolutions by international, regional and national courts see Institute of International Law, ‘Judicial Control of Security Council Decisions (UNO)’, Rapporteur: R Wolfrum, Tallinn Session (2015) 74. See also Tzanakopoulos, A, Disobeying the Security Council: Countermeasures against Wrongful Sanctions (Oxford University Press 2011)Google Scholar; Tzanakopoulos, A, ‘Sharing Responsibility for UN Targeted Sanctions’ (2015) 12 IOLR 427 Google Scholar; Leary, D, ‘Balancing Liberty and the Security Council: Judicial Responses to the Conflict between Chapter VII Resolutions and Human Rights Law under the Council's Targeted Sanctions Regime’ in Green, JA and Waters, CPM (eds), Adjudicating International Human Rights: Essays in Honour of Sandy Ghandhi (Brill/Martinus Nijhoff 2015) 69Google Scholar.

10 See Corten, O, Le droit contre la guerre (2nd edn, Pedone 2014) 531Google Scholar.

11 On this point see Sicilianos, L-A, ‘Entre multilatéralisme et unilatéralisme: l'autorisation par le Conseil de sécurité de recourir à la force’ (2008) 339(9) Collected Courses of The Hague Academy of International Law 166 Google Scholar.

12 See, among many other sources, Gondek, M, ‘Extraterritorial Application of the European Convention on Human Rights: Territorial Focus in the Age of Globalization’ (2005) NILR 349 Google Scholar; Milanovic, M, Extraterritorial Application of Human Rights Treaties: Law, Principles and Policy (Oxford University Press 2011)Google Scholar; Tzevelekos, VP, ‘Reconstructing the Effective Control Criterion in Extraterritorial Human Rights Breaches: Direct Attribution of Wrongfulness, Due Diligence, and Concurrent Responsibility’ (2014) 36 MichJIntlL 129 Google Scholar; Bhuta, N (ed), The Frontiers of Human Rights: Extraterritoriality and Its Challenges (Oxford University Press 2016)Google Scholar; Raible, L, ‘The Extraterritoriality of the ECHR: Why Jaloud and Pisari Should Be Read as Game Changers’ (2016) EHRLR 161 Google Scholar.

13 Bankovic and Others v Belgium and 16 other States, App No 52207/99, Grand Chamber Decision (ECtHR, 12 December 2001).

14 Al-Skeini (n 4) paras 130ff.

15 Al-Jedda (n 5) paras 74ff.

16 Jaloud (n 8) paras 140ff.

17 See in particular the judgments cited above, nn 14–16.

18 See in particular ICJ, Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Advisory Opinion, [2004] ICJ Rep 136, para 111; Case concerning Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo v Uganda) [2005] ICJ Rep 168, para 216; Application of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (Georgia v Russian Federation), Provisional Measures [2008] ICJ Rep 353, paras 108ff; Human Rights Committee, General Comment No 31, ‘Nature of the General Legal Obligation on States Parties to the Covenant’ (29 March 2004) UN Doc CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.13; and Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Concluding Observations on Israel, UN Doc A/62/18, paras 225ff.

19 Art 1, International Law Commission (ILC) Draft Articles on Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts, Yearbook of the International Law Commission (2001) vol II (Pt Two) 32 and related commentary.

20 For a more detailed analysis of the differences between authorized operations and UN peacekeeping operations, see Sicilianos (n 11) 141–62.

21 Behrami (n 3), in particular paras 133ff.

22 For a criticism of this approach, see in particular Klein, P, ‘Responsabilité pour les faits commis dans le cadre d'opérations de paix et étendue du pouvoir de contrôle de la Cour européenne des droits de l'homme: quelques considérations critiques sur l'arrêt Behrami et Saramati ’ (2007) 53 Annuaire français de droit international 55 Google Scholar; Lagrange, P, ‘Responsabilité des États pour actes accomplis en application du Chapitre VII de la Charte des Nations Unies’ (2008) 112 Revue générale de droit international public 94–5Google Scholar; Laly-Chevalier, C, ‘Les opérations militaires et civiles des Nations Unies et la Convention européenne des droits de l'homme’ (2007) 40 Revue belge de droit international 642–4Google Scholar; Larsen, K Mujezinović, ‘Attribution of Conduct in Peace Operations: The ‘Ultimate Authority and Control’ Test’ (2008) 19 EJIL 521, 522Google Scholar; Palchetti, P, ‘Azioni di forze istituite o autorizzate dalle Nazioni Unite davanti alla Corte europea dei diritti dell'uomo: i casi Behrami e Saramati ’ (2007) 90 Rivista di Diritto Internazionale 689–90Google Scholar; Sari, A, ‘Jurisdiction and International Responsibility in Peace Support Operations: The Behrami and Saramati Cases’ (2008) 8 HRLRev 164 Google Scholar; Sicilianos, L-A, ‘L‘(ir)responsabilité des forces multilatérales?’ in de Chazournes, L Boisson and Kohen, M (eds), International Law and the Quest for Its Implementation, Liber Amicorum Vera Gowlland-Debbas (Brill 2010) 98Google Scholar; ILC, Draft Articles on the Responsibility of International Organizations, with commentaries, Report of the International Law Commission, UN Doc A/66/10 (2011), commentary on Article 7, paras 10ff.

23 ILC, Draft Articles, Ch II (Attribution of conduct to an international organization), Introduction, para 5. See also Institute of International Law, ‘L'autorisation du recours à la force par les Nations Unies’, Rapporteur: RE Vinuesa, Yearbook of the IIL (2011) 365, 384–5.

24 Al-Jedda (n 5) para 84.

25 S/RES 1511 (2003), 16 October 2003, paras 13, 14, quoted in Jaloud (n 8), para 94 and recalled in para 145.

26 Jaloud (n 8) para 149.

27 It is significant that the ECtHR left open the question whether the United Kingdom—which was not a party to the proceedings—had ‘exercised concurrent jurisdiction’ as one of the ‘lead nations’ of the operation in question (ibid, para 153).

28 Behrami (n 3), in particular para 147.

29 See Sicilianos (n 11) 180, and contrast R Kolb, ‘Does Article 103 of the Charter of the United Nations Apply Only to Decisions or Also to Authorizations Adopted by the Security Council?’ (2004) ZaöRV 26.

30 Al-Jedda (n 5) para 105.

31 ibid.


32 ibid, para 109.


33 See Christakis, T and Bannelier, K, ‘Acteur vigilant ou spectateur impuissant? Le contrôle exercé par le Conseil de sécurité sur les États autorisés à recourir à la force’ (2004) 2 RBDI 498 Google Scholar; Sicilianos (n 11) 155ff.

34 Behrami (n 3) paras 142ff.

35 Stichting Mothers (n 7), in particular paras 146ff.

36 Letter of 3 February 2004 from the United Nations Legal Counsel to the Director of the Codification Division (A/CN.4/545, sect. II.G).

37 ILC, Draft Articles on the Responsibility of International Organizations, UN Doc A/66/10, commentary on Article 7, para 6.

38 See the example mentioned by the ILC, ibid, para 7.

39 S/1994/653, 37, paras 243ff.

40 The example of KFOR and UNMIK in Kosovo, established pursuant to Resolution S/RES/1244 (1999), adopted on 10 June 1999, is certainly the best known. However, there are a number of others, such as the ‘hybrid operation’ between the UN and the African Union in Darfur, the deployment of which was authorized by Resolution S/RES/1769 (2007), adopted on 31 July 2007. For further examples, see Sicilianos (n 11) 290ff.

41 According to the UN Secretary-General, UN Doc A/51/389, 7, paras 17ff.

42 According to the ILC (n 37) para 9.

43 See Tzanakopoulos (n 9) 40.

44 As regards the question of attributing conduct to two subjects of international law simultaneously, see Messineo, F, ‘Attribution of Conduct’ in Nollkaemper, A and Plakokefalos, I (eds), Principles of Shared Responsibility in International Law (Cambridge University Press 2014) 60Google Scholar.

45 With regard to this question, see in particular Gowlland-Debbas, V (ed), United Nations Sanctions and International Law (Kluwer 2001)Google Scholar; Forlati, L Picchio and Sicilianos, L-A (eds), Les sanctions économiques en droit international/Economic Sanctions in International Law (Martinus Nijhoff 2004)Google Scholar.

46 S/PV. 4128, 2.

47 See Tehindrazanarivelo, DL, Les sanctions des Nations Unies et leurs effets secondaires (PUF 2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

48 For further information about this reform process, see L-A Sicilianos, ‘Sanctions institutionnelles et contre-mesures: Tendances récentes’ in Picchio Forlati and Sicilianos (n 45) 61ff. On targeted sanctions see also Wolfrum (n 9) 28 ff.

49 Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Resolution 1597 (2008) ‘United Nations Security Council and European Union Blacklists’ para 6.

50 ECJ, Joined cases C-402/05 P and C-415/05 P Kadi and Al Barakaat International Foundation v Council and Commission (3 September 2008). For a critical analysis of this judgment, see among others Martínez, LM Hinojosa, ‘Bad Law for Good Reasons: The Contradictions of the Kadi Judgment’ (2008) 5 IOLR 339 Google Scholar.

51 Bosphorus (n 1) para 121.

52 See Kolb, R, ‘L'article 103 de la Charte des Nations Unies’ (2013) 367 Collected Courses of The Hague Academy of International Law 145ffGoogle Scholar.

53 Kadi I (n 50).

54 For a more in-depth analysis of the concept of equivalent protection see, among others, Hert, P De and Korenica, F, ‘The Doctrine of Equivalent Protection: Its Life and Legitimacy Before and After the European Union's Accession to the European Convention on Human Rights’ (2012) 13 German Law Journal 874 Google Scholar; Benoît-Rohmer, F, ‘Bienvenue aux enfants de Bosphorus: la Cour européenne des droits de l'homme et les organisations internationales’ (2010) Revue trimestrielle des droits de l'homme 19 Google Scholar; Costello, C, ‘The Bosphorus Ruling of the European Court of Human Rights: Fundamental Rights and Blurred Boundaries in Europe’ (2006) 6 HRLRev 87 Google Scholar; Ryngaert, C, ‘The European Court of Human Rights’ Approach to the Responsibility of Member States in Connection with Acts of International Organization’ (2011) 60 ICLQ 997 Google Scholar.

55 Bosphorus (n 1) para 156. See also Gowlland-Debbas, V, ‘The Security Council and Issues of Responsibility under International LawCollected Courses of The Hague Academy of International Law 353 (2011) 185 Google Scholar.

56 Bosphorus (n 1) paras 159–165.

57 Joint concurring opinion of Judges Rozakis, Tulkens, Traja, Botoucharova, Zagrebelsky and Garlicki, appended to Bosphorus (n 1) para 3.

58 ibid, para 3.


59 ibid, para 4.


60 ibid, para 3.


61 ECJ, Opinion 2/13 – Opinion pursuant to Article 218, para 11, TFEU (18 December 2014).

62 See, among many others, J-P Jacqué, ‘L'avis 2/13 de la CJUE. Non à l'adhésion à la Convention européenne des droits de l'homme?’ <>; D Simon, ‘Deuxième (ou second et dernier?) coup d'arrêt à l'adhésion de l'Union à la CEDH: étrange avis 2/13’ (2015) 2 Europe 4; Polakiewicz, J, ‘Accession to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) – An Insider's View Addressing One by One the CJEU's Objections in Opinion 2/13’ (2016) 36(1–6) HRLJ 10 Google Scholar.

63 Avotiņš v Latvia App No 17502/07, Grand Chamber Judgment (ECtHR, 23 May 2016).

64 ibid, paras 110–111 (emphasis added).


65 See the Chamber judgment in the case of Al-Dulimi and Montana Management Inc. v Switzerland App No 5809/08 (ECtHR, 26 November 2013) paras 115ff.

66 See for instance the Resolution 1597 (2008) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (n 49).

67 S/RES/1904 (2009), 17 December 2009.

68 This committee was set up by Resolution S/RES/1267 (1999), 15 October 1999.

69 See S/RES/1989 (2011), 17 June 2011 and S/RES/2083 (2012), 17 December 2012. On the importance of the changes introduced in the sanctions against Al-Qaeda, see Martínez, LM Hinojosa and Pérez-Bernárdez, C, ‘El Derecho a La Tutela Judicial Efectiva En El Derecho Europeo Y Las Sanciones Contra Al Qaeda’ in Llorens, J Cardona et al. (eds), Estudios de Derecho Internacional y Derecho Europeo en homenaje al Profesor Manuel Pérez González (Tirant lo Blanch 2012) 1576ffGoogle Scholar. It has to be noted, however, that the mandate of the Office of the Ombudsperson is limited to the Al-Qaida Sanctions List (see S/RES/2083 (2012) paras 19ff).

70 See Gasparini v Italy and Belgium, Decision, App No 10750/03 (ECtHR, 12 May 2009).

71 UNTS, vol. 34.

72 Nada (n 6).

73 Al-Dulimi (n 2) para 149.

74 ibid, para 140. For a brief commentary on this judgment see Peters, A, ‘The New Arbitrariness and Competing Constitutionalisms: Remarks on ECtHR Grand Chamber Al-DulimiEJIL: Talk! (30 June 2016)Google Scholar; Milanovic, M, ‘Grand Chamber Judgment in Al-Dulimi v. SwitzerlandEJIL: Talk! (23 June 2016)Google Scholar. Tzevelekos, VP, ‘The Al-Dulimi Case before the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights: Business as Usual? Test of Equivalent Protection, (Constitutional) Hierarchy and Systemic Integration’, 6 QIL 38 (2017), 534 Google Scholar. See also the critical approach by Judges Ziemele and Nußberger in their partly dissenting and dissenting opinions respectively, appended to Al-Dulimi (n 2), as well as the concurring opinion of Judge Pinto de Albuquerque, joined by Judges Hajiyev, Pejchal and Dedov, and the concurring opinions of Judges Keller and Kūris.


75 Al-Jedda (n 5).

76 Nada (n 6).

77 ILC, ‘Fragmentation of International Law: difficulties arising from the diversification and expansion of international law’, Report of the Study Group of the International Law Commission, finalized by M Koskenniemi, UN Doc Α/CN.4/L. 682 (13 April 2006) para 37. Report quoted in Al-Dulimi (n 2) para 56. See also ibid, para 138 together with Nada (n 6) paras 81 and 170.

78 Schabas, WA, The European Convention on Human Rights (Oxford University Press 2015) 55ffGoogle Scholar.

79 Al-Jedda (n 5) para 102. See also Nada (n 6) para 171; Al-Dulimi (n 2) para 140.

80 Nada (n 6) paras 171ff.

81 Al-Dulimi (n 2) paras 139–140.

82 Al-Jedda (n 5) para 102; Nada (n 6) para 171.

83 Al-Dulimi (n 2) para 140.

84 ibid, para 136.


85 S/RES/1483 (2003), 22 May 2003.

86 See Sicilianos (n 48) 82ff (also for further references).

87 Nada (n 6) para 180.

88 As described in paras 31, 32 and 34 of Al-Dulimi (n 2).

89 S/RES/1518 (2003), 24 November 2003.

90 Al-Dulimi (n 2) para 143.

91 See, among many other authorities, Cudak v Lithuania, App No 15869/02, Grand Chamber Judgment (ECtHR, 23 March 2010) para 55 and the references cited therein.

92 Al-Dulimi (n 2) para 152.

93 ibid, para 146.


94 ibid, para 145.


95 ibid. para 151.


96 To use the expression employed by Tzanakopoulos (n 9).

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