OFAC sanctions supporters of N Korea government

pyongyang-1OFAC has imposed sanctions on 7 people and 16 entities for their alleged ties to the North Korean government or its nuclear and weapons programmes, and identified 16 aircraft as blocked property of a designated entity (details here).  In the US Treasury’s press release, Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Adam Szubin said that the sanctions “aim to cut the flow of financial resources to North Korea” and target people and entities “operating in key industries that support North Korea’s illicit activities”.

US Congress votes to extend Iran sanctions for 10 years

us-congress-building-1The US Senate has followed the House of Representatives in voting to extend the President’s authority to impose sanctions on Iran for 10 years (see previous blog).  The White House has said that President Obama will sign the legislation.  This does not disturb the Secretary of State’s authority to lift sanctions as provided for in the JCPOA. Iran has said this is a violation of the nuclear deal (see previous blog).

Independent Reviewer reports on UK Terrorism Acts

David Anderson QC, the UK independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, has published his report on the operation of the Terrorism Acts in 2015 (link here).  The sections on proscribed organisations are relevant to this blog but the report covers wide-ranging interesting material on the Terrorism Acts.

The report says 3 new organisations have been proscribed since 2015 after the usual “perfunctory debate” (which David Anderson makes suggestions to improve).

David Anderson reiterates his repeated criticisms of the deproscription process for proscribed organisations, in particular that the continued proscription of groups which do not or no longer satisfy the statutory test that they are currently concerned in terrorism is contrary to the rule of law (see previous blog).  He again proposes that proscription orders should automatically lapse after a period of time and only be renewed if there is sufficient evidence (as with terrorist asset-freezing) or that the statutory test is amended.

The report notes that organisations without the financial means to challenge their listings may remain proscribed long after they no longer satisfy the test for proscription, which includes some of the “up to 14” currently proscribed organisations in respect of which the Home Office has accepted that the test is not satisfied. Given that the only route is to make a deproscription application, David Anderson makes recommendations as to how those should be handled (prompt responses, full reasons, deproscription if the test is not met, the Government being prepared to defend its case if the case goes to POAC), none of which were followed in the ISYF case (see previous blog). He repeats the critical comments of the Court of Appeal on decision-making in this area, and comments: “the Home Office ignores the measured criticism of senior judges at its peril”.

New UN sanctions on North Korea

un-security-council-1As foreshadowed earlier this week (see previous blog), the UN Security Council has now imposed new sanctions on North Korea (DPRK) in response to its nuclear test on 9 September 2016.

The new measures, contained in Resolution 2321, impose an annual cap on North Korean coal exports, reducing their volume by around 60%.  They also prohibit North Korean exports of copper, nickel, silver, zinc, and statues, and impose asset freezes and travel bans on 11 people and 10 entities for alleged ties to North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.  They also require Member States to limit North Korean diplomatic missions to one bank account each, in an effort to prevent North Korea from using them for illicit activities.

1st EU Russia sanctions judgment – Arkady Rotenberg’s 1st listing was unlawful and 2nd lawful in part

The General Court of the EU has today decided the 1st case challenging the legality of a Russian EU sanctions listing. The case was brought by Arkady Rotenberg and the judgment is here – Case T-720/14 Rotenberg v Council.  Maya Lester QC appeared for Mr Rotenberg.

The Court held that Mr Rotenberg’s original listing in July 2014 was unlawful. This was because the EU could not prove that he:

  • Was “associated with people responsible for undermining the territorial integrity of Ukraine” because the EU could not prove that AR was a shareholder in / controlled Giprotransmost or a beneficial owner of Volgomost, which had conducted a feasibility study into the construction of  bridge from Russia into Crimea. In order to fulfil that criterion, the Court said the EU would have to have demonstrated “a direct or indirect link” between the activities or actions of listed people and the situation in Ukraine.
  • “Benefitted from decision-makers who were responsible for the annexation of Crimea”, because the EU had relied on contracts Mr Rotenberg’s companies had won for the Sochi Olympics that had been awarded before President Putin had threatened the annexation of Crimea. The Court said that in order for that criterion to satisfy the principle of legal certainty, it had to be interpreted to mean that the Russian decision-makers in question (who had to be named) “should already at the very least have started to prepare the annexation of Crimea and the destabilisation of Eastern Ukraine” in which case those benefitting from those decision makers could not have been “unaware of the involvement of those decision-makers” in those preparations, and that they would be prevented from supporting those decision-makers by the resources they derived from those benefits being targeted.

Mr Rotenberg’s listing in July 2015 was also in part unlawful because it repeated those 2 reasons.  However, the July 2015 listing was upheld because it had added 2 new reasons for suggesting that Mr Rotenberg had benefitted from decision-makers (in this case President Putin) responsible for the annexation of Crimea which the Court said were sufficient, namely that Mr Rotenberg:

  • owns Stroygazmontazh which had been awarded a contract to build a bridge between Russia and Crimea, which the Court held would undermine Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and
  • is the Chairman of the publishing house Prosvescheniye, and as chairman the Court said Mr Rotenberg “could not reasonably have been unaware of the editorial line in publications of the publishing house which he headed” namely a public relations campaign to persuade Crimean children that they are Russian citizens.

The applicant’s additional arguments on the vagueness of reasons, proportionality, rights of defence and data protection did not succeed. Each side was ordered to bear its own costs.

Ayatollah Khamenei says Iran will retaliate if US extends Iran sanctions

tehran-1Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has threatened to take action if the US Senate and President Obama follow the House of Representatives extending sanctions against Iran under the Iran Sanctions Act for another 10 years (see previous blog).

Although the JCPOA nuclear-deal with Iran commits the US to lifting some if its sanctions against Iran, it leaves many US sanctions largely untouched, including a general ban on trade with Iran, a prohibition on Iran accessing the US financial system, and restrictions on use of the dollar.

UN to impose new sanctions on N Korea

north-korean-soldier-1The 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council are meeting to approve new sanctions on North Korea, aimed at substantially cutting its revenue from exports.  Reports suggest that the new resolution could cut North Korea’s export revenue of $3bn by at least $800m, by capping exports of coal, helicopters, vessels, and statues.  The new sanctions, if confirmed, will also impose asset freezes and travel bans on 11 people and 10 entities for alleged roles in North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

China, a major importer of North Korean coal, is said to support the new sanctions, but Russia is not yet reported to have given them its backing.

Vadzim Ipatau’s 2nd Belarus case rejected

The General Court of the EU has rejected Vadzim Ipatau’s 2nd application for his listing on the EU’s sanctions against Belarus to be annulled – in Joined Cases T-694/13 & T-2/15 Ipatau v Council [2016].  The reason given for his listing on these measures which target people (inter alia) responsible for violations of electoral standards in Belarus, is that he is the Vice-President of Belarus’ highest electoral authority (the CEC).

This is the same as the reason given for his previous designation; the revised version adds Mr Ipatau’s involvement in the Parliamentary elections of September 2012, in addition presidential election of December 2010. His previous application for annulment was dismissed by the General Court in a judgment upheld by ECJ in June 2015 (see previous blog). This case is very similar; the Court said the reasons for his listing sufficiently clear, Mr Ipatau did not dispute that he was Vice-President of the CEC, the highest electoral authority in Belarus, and an OSCE report supported the Council’s reasons. The Court (as it usually does) rejected the rights of defence and proportionality arguments and ordered the applicant to pay the Council’s costs.