First Islamic Investment Bank loses annulment application despite breach of defence rights

First Islamic Investment Bank has lost its application to the EU General Court to annul its listing in the EU’s anti-nuclear proliferation sanctions against Iran, in Case T-161/13 First Islamic Investment Bank Ltd v Council [2015]. FIIB has been listed since 2012, for assisting designated entities to violate sanctions, providing financial support to the government of Iran, being used to channel oil-related payments, and for being part of the Sorinet Group owned by Babak Zanjani.

The Court held that some of the reasons given for the Bank’s inclusion were unjustified; there was no evidence that the Bank had assisted in the circumvention of sanctions or that it supported the Iranian government or was used to channel oil-related payments. However, the Court considered that being owned by Babak Zanjani (himself designated) was sufficient to justify the designation, even though there was no evidence that the “Sorinet Group” existed.

The Court also found that the applicant’s rights of defence had been violated by a 19 month delay on the part of the Council in responding to a request by FIIB for information on its listing, but (as in its judgment in the case of the Ministry of Energy of Iran (see previous blog)) it did not consider this to be sufficient reason to annul the applicant’s inclusion.

The parties were ordered to pay half of each other’s costs.

EU amends Russia sanctions to protect space industry

The EU has amended its Russia sanctions regime arms embargo to allow for trade in specific pyrotechnics referred to in the Common Military List that are necessary for operating launchers and fuelling satellites. Trade for fuelling launchers will be allowed with EU or Member State programmes and launch service providers, and trade for fuelling satellites with satellite manufacturers established in Member States.

The amendment is made by Council Decision (CFSP) 2015/1764 amending Council Decision 2014/512/CFSP.

EU publishes guidance on Russia sanctions

The EU has published a new FAQ on the implementation of its sanctions regime against Russia. These sanctions limit the access of Russian state-owned financial institutions to EU capital markets, impose an arms embargo, and restrict the access of Russian firms to certain sensitive technologies, particularly in the oil sector.

The FAQ covers several topics, including the meaning of providing financial assistance in the context of the arms embargo, when financing restrictions apply generally, how banks should ensure their compliance, the extent of the restrictions on access to capital markets, and the status of pre-existing loans.

The sanctions against Russia are imposed in response to Russia’s involvement in the Ukraine crisis, by Council Regulation (EU) 833/2014 and Council Decision 2014/512/CFSP as amended.

EU sanctions 4 Burundian nationals for undermining democracy

The EU Council has sanctioned 4 Burundian nationals whose activities are said to be undermining democracy in the country, particularly through violence and serious human rights violations. Earlier this week, EU diplomats suggested that the targets are four officials close to Burundi’s president, Pierre Nkurunziza, in response to his disputed re-election to a third term in office, breaking a decade-old agreement on a two-term limit, and the violent crisis that has followed. The diplomats also said that, in order to “keep open the channels of dialogue”, President Nkurunziza himself will not be sanctioned.

In its press release, the Council stated that the sanctions, comprising asset freezes and travel bans on all 4 people, are part of the EU’s efforts “to achieve a lasting political solution through an inter-Burundian dialogue”.


The EU has now published the sanctions measures in its Official Journal.  The sanctions target Godefroid Bizimana, Deputy Director-General of the National Police, Gervais Ndirakobuca, Head of Cabinet responsible for matters relating to the National Police, Mathias Niyonzima, Officer of the National Intelligence Service, and Léonard Ngendakumana, a former army general.

The sanctions are imposed by Council Regulation (EU) 2015/1755 and Council Decision (CFSP) 2015/1763.

UN sanctions 5th British national fighting with ISIL

The UN Security Council Sanctions Committee has added a 5th UK national said to be connected with ISIL to its Al-Qaida counter terrorist list, following the 4 that were added earlier this week at the UK’s request (see previous blog). The 5th person is Aseel Muthana, who travelled to Syria in early 2014 and is brother of the already listed Nasser Muthana. The narrative summary of the reasons for his designation says that he is a “foreign terrorist fighter with Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant…wanted by the authorities of the United Kingdom”.

USA’s new ISIL sanctions listings

OFAC and the US State Department on Tuesday designated 25 people and 5 entities as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT), and amended the existing entries for 2 additional entities. The new listings target people connected to ISIL, and they freeze all assets belonging to listed people and entities within US jurisdiction and prohibit any US persons from engaging in transactions with them.

In OFAC’s press release, acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Adam Szubin said that the Treasury “remains relentless about depleting ISIL’s financial strength and denying this violent terrorist group access to the international financial system”, adding that “we…will work closely with our partners across the US government and the international community”.

Among those newly designated by the USA are the 4 British nationals listed by the UN at the UK’s request earlier this week (see previous blog, and a link here to Maya Lester’s appearance on CNN discussing this on Tuesday).

President Obama announces progress with China on cyber crime

At a joint press conference with Chinese President Xi Jinping held on Friday, President Obama announced that he had reached a “common understanding” with his counterpart on the issue of economic cyber espionage, with both governments agreeing not to engage in it. Though he recognised the “significant progress” that had been made on a matter that he told journalists “has to stop”, Obama cautioned that “The question now is, are words followed by actions?”, and emphasised that he is prepared to sanction Chinese persons who continue to engage in cybercrime.

Prior to President Xi’s visit, the US had prepared to unveil sanctions targeting Chinese companies it believed to be responsible for cyber theft of US intellectual property, under an order signed by President Obama in April (see previous blog).

UN sanctions 4 British nationals fighting with ISIL

camunFollowing a request from the UK government, the UN has sanctioned 4 British nationals said to be fighting with ISIS in Syria. The sanctions make them subject to a UN-wide asset freeze and travel ban.

The 4 people are:

  1. Sally-Anne Jones
  2. Aqsa Mahmood
  3. Omar Hussain (aka. Abu al-Britani)
  4. Nasser Muthana

Jones is said to be listed for using Twitter to recruit women for ISIS, giving advice on how to reach Syria, and inciting bomb attacks in the UK. Mahmood, described as a key member of the all-female ISIS al-Khanssaa brigade, is also listed for recruiting online and inciting attacks in Europe. Hussain has encouraged women and children to travel to Syria using social media, and said that he would only return to the UK to carry out a bomb attack. Muthana is believed to have appeared in ISIS propaganda videos.

This is the first time since 2006, when a member of al-Qaeda was listed, that the UK has requested the UN sanction its own nationals in this way. Speaking on Monday, a spokesman for Prime Minister Cameron said that the listings send “a clear deterrent message to those thinking of going to fight for ISIL”, and added that “we will continue to consider whether more individuals should be subjected to the sanctions”.