UN Security Council threatens new sanctions on N Korea

The UN Security Council has condemned North Korea’s most recent ballistic missile test, and threatened to “take further significant measures including sanctions”.  In a statement, the Security Council demanded that North Korea fully comply with its obligations under the relevant UN resolutions, including immediately terminating its illegal ballistic missile and nuclear activities.

Russian Supreme Court case on sanctions and lease rescission

Russia’s Supreme Court will give judgment on an appeal brought by the proprietor of office premises in Russia leased to VTB Bank before VTB was subject to US, Canadian, and EU sectoral sanctions. VTB brought the claim for a declaration that it had validly rescinded this lease when sanctions were imposed. The first instance court held that the lease had been validly rescinded because the imposition of sanctions on VTB constituted “an exceptional and unforeseen circumstance…which the parties did not except while entering into the contract”, and its findings were upheld on appeal to the Court of Cassation. The case name is VTB v Luisa Bikmaeva (Case А39-5782/2015).

Iran signs trade and banking agreement with Pakistan

Trade and banking relations between Pakistan and Iran are set to grow, following the signing of a trade-settlement mechanism between the countries’ central banks. The agreement, signed with the intention of promoting bilateral trade between Pakistan and Iran, was made possible by the lifting of several US sanctions on Iran under the JCPOA last year (see previous blog).

USA – Iran, ISIL, & Al-Qaida designations

Iran

OFAC has sanctioned the Tehran Prisons Organisation and a senior official within Iran’s State Prison Organisation, Sohrab Soleimani, in connection with alleged serious human rights abuses in Tehran’s Evin Prison. Tehran Prisons Organisation, which Soleimani previously headed up and now oversees in his current role, is allegedly responsible for abuses against political prisoners housed in Evin Prison, including an incident in April 2014 in which several political prisoners are said to have been brutally attacked by prison staff.  In its press release, the US Treasury said that the US would “vigorously exercise its sanctions authorities outside the scope of the JCPOA to counter the Iranian government’s support for terrorism, ballistic missile programme, regional destabilisation, and human rights abuses”.

ISIL & Al-Qaida

Two ISIL financial facilitators in Libya, Ali al-Safrani and Abd Zarqun, and Algerian ISIL supporter Hamma Hamani have been designated by OFAC as Specially Designated Global Terrorists.  Al-Safrani and Abd Zarqun are said to be high-level leaders within ISIL, and Hamani is said to have supported ISIL and trafficked weapons in Libya. The Treasury’s press release is here.

In addition, the US State Department has designated 2 Canadian citizens, Tarek Sakr and Farah Shirdon, as Specially Designated Global Terrorists. Sakr is said to have conducted sniper training in Syria and been linked to Syrian al-Qaida affiliate al-Nusrah Front. Shirdon is allegedly a prominent ISIL fighter and recruiter who has also been involved in fundraising. The State Department’s press release is here.

Canada sanctions 27 top Syrian officials

Canada has sanctioned 27 of Syria’s top government officials, in an effort to increase pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to end the violence against civilians in his country. The new sanctions, which follow a lethal chemical weapons attack on civilians in Syria’s Idlib province earlier this month, impose an asset freeze on the 27 officials and prohibit people and entities from dealing with them. The Canadian government’s press release is here.

USA – Zimbabwe de-listing & CAR designations

Zimbabwe

OFAC has removed Zimbabwe’s former Minister of Water Resources Munacho Mutezo from its SDN List. Mr Mutezo’s removal follows his expulsion from the ZANU-PF party for supporting Joice Mujuru, former Vice-President who was expelled following accusations that he tried to depose President Mugabe. The circumstances of Mr Mutezo’s de-listing are similar those of Sylvester Nguni in November 2016, another former ZANU-PF member who, like Mr Mutezo, joined the opposition party Zimbabwe People First after his explusion from ZANU-PF (see previous blog).

Central African Republic

OFAC has designated Abdoulaya Hissene and Maxime Mokom under its CAR sanctions for engaging in actions that threaten the peace, security, or stability of the CAR. They are both said to have been involved in failed coup attempts, preventing people from voting, and lethal violence involving civilians and security forces.

Sharif University’s ECJ appeal rejected

The European Court of Justice has dismissed the appeal brought by Sharif University of Technology against the General Court’s judgment declining to annul its listing on the EU’s sanctions against Iran (see previous blog). SUT was listed for providing support for the government of Iran. See Case C-385/16 P Sharif University of Technology v Council [2017].

The Court dismissed SUT’s first argument, that the General Court had not considered one of SUT’s grounds for annulment, because the ECJ said the University had not raised it before the General Court. The ECJ upheld the General Court’s interpretation of the listing criterion of providing “support, such as material, logistical, or financial support, to the Government of Iran” as not requiring any connection with Iran’s nuclear activities.  It held that the General Court had been correct to find that SUT provided support to the Iranian government for these purposes because it had been involved with the government in military (as opposed to nuclear) or military-related fields, evidenced by agreements between SUT and the government of Iran involving the production of satellites, participation in smart boat competitions, and work for Iran’s air force.

EU renews its human rights sanctions on Iran

The EU has renewed its human rights sanctions on Iran until 13 April 2018.  The sanctions currently impose a travel ban and asset freeze on 82 people and 1 entity, as well as a ban on exports to Iran of equipment which might be used for internal repression or monitoring telecommunications. See Implementing Regulation 2017/685 implementing Regulation 359/2011 and Decision 2017/689 amending Decision 2011/235/CFSP.