US renews JCPOA sanctions relief & adds to ballistic missile sanctions

The US has renewed the sanctions relief on Iran that it agreed to under the JCPOA nuclear deal, which must be renewed every 4-6 months.

It has also imposed new sanctions designations on 2 senior Iranian defence officials, one of whom is said to have facilitated the sale of explosives to Syria, 1 person and 3 entities allegedly involved in a China-based network supporting Iran’s military and ballistic missile programme, and an Iran-based firm supporting SHIG, a designated organisation involved in Iran’s liquid-fuel ballistic missile programme. The details of the new designations are here.

Canadian government endorses Magnitsky sanctions bill

The Canadian government has said that it supports a draft bill which, if passed through the Canadian legislature, would impose sanctions on human rights violators anywhere in the world.  The “Magnitsky-style” sanctions were recommended by a Canadian Parliamentary committee last month (see previous blog).  A Russian official responded to the Canadian government’s endorsement of the bill by saying that it would “not be left unanswered”.  The US, UK, and several other countries have already introduced Magnitsky sanctions on human rights violators in Russia and elsewhere.

US additions to Syria sanctions list

The US has sanctioned 5 people and 5 entities based in Syria for their connections with the Syrian government.  Among the new designations are a cousin of President Assad and people associated with the Scientific Studies and Research Centre, the Syrian government agency said to be responsible for developing and producing non-conventional weapons. A list of the new designations is here.

Ukraine blocks access to Russian social networks & TV stations

Ukraine has blocked access to several Russian websites and imposed asset freezes and broadcasting bans on a number of Russian television channels.  The blocked websites include Russian search engine Yandex, social-networking sites Odnoklassniki and Vkontakte, and the websites of Russian cybersecurity firms Kaspersky Lab and DrWeb.

The Ukrainian government’s Security and Defence Council said that the ban was imposed in part to protect against entities “whose activities threaten the information and cyber security of Ukraine”.  Over 400 Russian entities have been sanctioned by Ukraine since Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014.

EU Court annuls 2 Syrian sanctions listings

The General Court of the EU has just annulled the sanctions listings of Ahmad Barqawi and Mouhamad Abdulkarim from the EU’s sanctions on Syria – Cases T-303/15 Barqawi and T-304/15 Abdulkarim.  Mr Barqawi was listed for supporting and benefitting from the Syrian regime in his capacity as Managing Director of listed entity Pangates, and director of its parent company Al Karim Group. Mr Abdulkarim was included as Executive Director of Pangates International and for his position in the Al Karim Group. Al Karim group’s sanctions listing was annulled by the General Court last month (see previous blog).

As in the case of Al Karim, the Court found that the news articles and US government press releases cited by the Council contained insufficient evidence to establish a connection between Pangates and the Syrian government. Therefore, the applicants’ management positions in Pangates and Al Karim, which was listed solely on the basis that it was the parent company of Pangates and whose listing was previously annulled by the Court, could not justify their inclusion on the EU’s sanctions against Syria.  The Court also found that the applicants could not rely on the fact that Pangates had subsequently gone into liquidation, because the relevant facts were those at the time they were listed.

OFAC designates financial supporters of several terrorist groups

OFAC has sanctioned 3 people and 1 entity, all based in Pakistan, said to be involved in leading or financially supporting the terrorist organisations Jama’at ul Dawa al-Qu’ran, the Taliban, al-Qaida, and ISIL.  They are Hayat Muhammad, Ali Turab, Inayat Rahman, and the Welfare and Development Organisation of Jamaat-Ud-Dawah for Qur’an and Sunnah.

In its press release, the US Treasury said that the individuals are “opportunistic and willing to work with extremist organisations, even those ideologically opposed to one another, to help them deepen their foothold in the region”.

UK financial services industry group revises sanctions guidance

The UK’s Joint Money Laundering Steering Group (JMLSG), a non-governmental organisation whose aim is to promote good practice in countering money laundering, is consulting on proposed revisions to its anti-money laundering and terrorism financing guidance. The revisions account for the establishment of OFSI, and make a number of other changes to the guidance covering the range of UK sanctions powers, including exemptions, licencing regimes, and the rules on providing insurance.

The consultation documents are available here, and JMLSG invites comments by 26 May 2017.

Chatham House paper on sanctions problems for UK NGOs

Chatham House has published a paper investigating the impact of banking restrictions and sanctions on UK-based NGOs.  The paper highlights the “challenging…and deteriorating” problem for NGOs and others involved in humanitarian aid of legal transfers of funds being blocked by banks wary of breaching sanctions. The report deals in particular with NGOs near areas where non-state armed groups are facing increasing restrictions on access to the financial system, including delayed transfers, freezing of funds and closure of bank accounts. It encourages banks and NGOs to cultivate relationships and for the UK Government to “take ownership of this challenge, providing guidance and clear messaging where ambiguity exists as regards sanctions and counterterrorism legislation…”

The UK government’s previous Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation David Anderson QC drew attention to this problem in several of his reports (see previous blog) and the Center for a New American Security discussed this problem in the USA in its paper published in 2016 (see previous blog).