We reported last year that 2 men were being prosecuted in the federal District Court in Chicago for engaging in “public relations, political consulting and lobbying” US officials to lift sanctions against President Robert Mugabe and others on the US Zimbabwe sanctions list, in exchange for the promise of payment.
One of them, Prince Asiel Ben Israel, has today been sentenced to 7 1/2 months in prison. He had pleaded guilty to trying to persuade US government officials, including an Illinois state senator and two US representatives from Chicago, to push for the lifting of the sanctions imposed in 2003 on President Robert Mugabe and other Zimbabwean government officials. His co-defendant C Gregory Turner has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.
The position of the US Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) is that lobbying is not covered by an OFAC licence authorising the provision of legal services to people on a US sanctions list, and is therefore a criminal offence. Although OFAC licences authorise “representation of persons before any federal or state agency with respect to the imposition, administration, or enforcement of U.S. sanctions against such persons”, OFAC does not consider Congress or State legislatures to be “agencies”.
We reported yesterday that the UN Security Council blacklisted 6 people said to be connected with the Islamic State and Nusra Front, including Abu Mohammed Al-Adnani.
Today the US Department of State has designated Abu Mohammed al-Adnani as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order (E.O.) 13224. Born Taha Sobhi Falaha in Syria, he is the said to be the “official spokesman for and a senior leader of ISIL, and ISIL’s main conduit for the dissemination of official messages, including ISIL’s declaration of the creation of an Islamic Caliphate.”
The State Department press release explains that the consequences of designation include a prohibition against US persons engaging in transactions with Mr al-Adnani, and the freezing of all property and interests of Mr al-Adnani that are in the United States, or come within the United States or the possession or control of US persons.
Yesterday’s UN designation means that he will be added to the UN 1267/1989 al-Qa’ida Sanctions list, requiring all member states to implement an asset freeze, a travel ban, and an arms embargo against Mr al-Adnani.
The United Nations Security Council yesterday adopted a resolution that blacklists 6 people who will be subject to an international travel ban, asset freeze and arms embargo, who are said to be connected with or providing support for the Islamic State and Nusra Front (both organisations blacklisted by the Security Council).
The Security Council resolution states that it “deplores and condemns in the strongest terms the terrorist acts of ISIL (Islamic State) and its violent extremist ideology, and its continued gross, systematic and widespread abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law.”
The resolution condemns the recruitment of foreign fighters and expresses readiness to blacklist people financing or facilitating travel of foreign fighters. It expresses concern that revenue generated from oilfields captured by both groups is being used to organize attacks. The resolution condemns any direct or indirect trade with Islamic State or Nusra Front and warns such moves could lead to sanctions. It asks UN experts – charged with monitoring violations of the council’s al Qaeda sanctions regime – to report in 90 days on the threat posed by Islamic State and Nusra Front, and on details of their recruitment and funding.
The Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union issued a Press Release today concerning its Russia sanctions, stating that:
1) The grounds for the imposition of restrictive measures against the Russian Federation “remain valid”. The restrictive measures taken by the EU are “directly linked to the Russian Federation’s violation of international law with the illegal annexation of Crimea and the destabilisation of Ukraine.”
2) The Council, with the Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, remain “engaged in the monitoring and assessment of these measures” and “ready to consider further steps, in light of the evolution of the situation on the ground.”
3) The Council also stated that the EU “regrets the Russian Federation’s announcement of measures targeting imports of certain agricultural products originating in the EU. The Council welcomes the exchange of information organised by the Commission to assess the impact of these measures and the appropriate response and looks forward to continuing work in this respect.” An extraordinary meeting of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council has been convened for early September.
4) “In order to ensure the unity of the international community and to uphold international law, the European Union expects third and candidate countries to refrain from measures which are aimed at exploiting new trading opportunities arising from the introduction of these measures.”
On 12 August 2014, the Ukrainian parliament unanimously passed a law which allows Ukraine to impose sanctions against foreign individuals and companies.
Ukraine can now impose sanctions in response to threats to national security, breaches of UN Security Council resolutions, and violations of EU decisions. The legislation does not specifically mention Russia, but the Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said that it would permit Ukraine to impose sanctions against multiple Russia companies and individuals.
Yatsenyuk announced that he has already asked for 172 individuals and 65 companies ‘mostly of Russian ownership’ to be considered as potential sanctions subjects for ‘supporting terrorism, supporting the annexation of Crimea and having direct responsibility for crimes on Ukrainian soil’.
The form of any sanctions that may be imposed is expected to mirror those imposed by the EU against Russia.
On 12 August 2014, the UK government announced that some licences for British companies to sell arms to Israel will be suspended if hostilities in Gaza resume.
Despite earlier disagreements within the Cabinet over restricting arms sales to Israel, the decision was made after an investigation revealed that twelve UK export licences to Israel cover “components which could be part of equipment used by the Israel Defence Forces in Gaza”. These include parts for tanks, fighter jets and radar systems.
The Business Secretary Vince Cable said “We welcome the current ceasefire in Gaza and hope that it will lead to a peaceful resolution. However, the UK government has not been able to clarify if the export licence criteria are being met. In light of that uncertainty we have taken the decision to suspend these existing export licences in the event of a resumption of significant hostilities.”
No new licences for military equipment for use by the Israel Defence Forces will be issued during the review period.
On 11 August 2014, the EU was reported to be planning talks to dissuade Latin American countries from providing Russia with agricultural produce, after Russia imposed retaliatory food import sanctions against multiple western countries last Thursday.
Moscow has been negotiating with Latin American countries to secure alternative food supplies since it sanctioned food imports last week. According to EU officials, Latin American food producers could sign new contracts with Russia to fill the supply gap left by the embargo, but any such agreements would be ‘difficult to justify’. The EU is seeking to make clear that there is an expectation that the countries will not ‘profit unfairly from the current situation’, and to emphasise the importance of a united front in relation to the situation in Ukraine.
Several Latin American countries and trade groups have already declared that the sanctions imposed by Moscow will offer them a trade advantage. Chile is set to benefit from Russia’s ban on the import of European fish and Brazil has already permitted 90 meat plants to begin exporting chicken, beef and pork to Russia. Seneri Paludo, Brazil’s Secretary for Agricultural Policy, said that “Russia has the potential to be a large consumer of agricultural commodities, not just meat”.
The EU will meet on 14 August 2014 to discuss its response to the Russian food import sanctions.
On 12 August 2014, Norway announced that it will join sanctions the EU has imposed on Russia over the situation in Ukraine.
Although Norway is not part of the EU, the Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende said that the country will impose restrictions on Russia of a similar nature to those imposed by the EU on 1 August 2014. Russian state-owned banks will be banned from taking long-term and mid-term loans, arms exports will be banned and supplies of equipment, technology and assistance to the Russian oil sector will be prohibited.
Russia has already imposed sanctions of its own against Norway, which was one of the countries included in the food import ban implemented by Moscow last Thursday.