UK withdraws Iran export guidance following JCPOA

In light of the substantial lifting of EU sanctions on Iran under the JCPOA nuclear deal signed in 2015, the UK’s Export Control Organisation (ECO) has withdrawn its Iran List.  The list provided information about certain entities, companies, and organisations in Iran for exporters concerned about the possible end-use of their goods.  In future, exporters may use the end user advice service, which can be accessed via the SPIRE export licensing system.

The ECO’s notice is here.

Syrian sanctions on George Haswani annulled

The General Court of the EU has just annulled targeted sanctions on George Haswani, because the evidence the EU Council relied on in court did not provide any support for the reasons it had given for including him in the EU’s targeted sanctions on Syria – Case T-231/15 Haswani v Council [2017].  Mr Haswani was included for being an “important Syrian businessman”, co-owner of an engineering and construction company that has ties with the Syrian regime, for being an intermediary with the regime in oil contracts, and enjoying favourable treatment from the regime through Stoytransgaz, a Russian oil company.  The Court, after a detailed analysis of all the evidence put forward by the Council, concluded that the evidence it relied on was vague and general and did not substantiate the reasons given for his inclusion.

The Court rejected Mr Haswani’s claim for damages resulting from his unlawful EU listing because he had not demonstrated that the losses he claimed were caused by the imposition of EU sanctions. The Court also rejected his challenge to subsequent amended sanctions relating to him because he had not properly amended his pleadings to challenge those measures.

EU adds 4 military officials to Syria sanctions

The EU Council has decided to impose an asset freeze and travel ban on 4 high-ranking Syrian military officials, who allegedly played a role in the use of chemical weapons against the civilian population in Syria.  The additions bring the total number of people listed on the sanctions to 239, in addition to 67 entities. See Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/480 implementing Regulation 36/2012 and Implementing Decision 2017/485 implementing Decision 2013/255/CFSP.

UK implements EU changes to export controls on capital punishment goods

The UK’s Export Control Organisation has amended its rules on the export of goods which could be used for capital punishment, torture, or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, implementing changes made to the EU’s export controls in November 2016 (see Regulation 2016/2134).  The goods in question are found in Annexes II and III of the Export Control Order 2008. As a result of the changes, there are new prohibitions on:

  • transit of Annex II, and in some circumstances Annex III, goods within the customs territory of the union;
  • the provision of brokering services related to Annex II goods;
  • the provision of training related to Annex II goods;
  • the display or offering for sale of any Annex II goods at an exhibition or fair within the EU; and
  • the sale or purchase of advertising time or space for Annex II goods.

It also introduces more flexible licensing for Annex III goods, which are goods with potentially legitimate uses.  The ECO’s notice to exporters is here.

Ukraine to sanction 5 subsidiaries of Russian state-owned banks

Ukraine is reported to have proposed sanctions on 5 Ukrainian subsidiaries of Russian banks in which the Russian state has an interest (Sberbank, VTB, Prominvestbank, VS Bank).  According to an official from Ukraine’s central bank, the sanctions prevent the subsidiaries from removing capital from Ukraine.

Turkey threatens sanctions on the Netherlands

Turkey has threatened to impose economic sanctions on the Netherlands, in response to its decision to ban President Erdogan from speaking to rallies of overseas Turkish people in its territory.  Turkey has already suspended high-level diplomatic relations with the Netherlands, banned the Dutch ambassador from Turkey, and blocked Dutch diplomatic flights from entering Turkish airspace. Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus has said: “pressure will continue against the Netherlands until they make up for what they did. We’ve started with the political, diplomatic sanctions, and economic sanctions may follow,” he said.

EU court rejects Bank Tejarat’s challenge to its re-listing

The General Court of the EU has dismissed another challenge to an EU decision to re-list an Iranian entity that won its challenge to its original sanctions designation.  A link to the judgment is here. The Court regularly now upholds decisions to re-list entities on the revised basis that they provide support for the Government of Iran, in circumstances in which the EU could not sustain the original reasons given for their inclusion (usually on the grounds that they support Iran’s nuclear programme).

Bank Tejarat’s original listing was annulled in January 2015 (see previous blog) then it was re-listed in April 2015 (blog here). The General Court has said its re-listing was not unlawful essentially because it was based (inter alia) on the fact that it supports the Iranian Government by offering financial resources and services for oil and gas development projects which is a significant source of Government funding.

ECJ says actions by armed forces can be terrorist acts for sanctions purposes

The European Court of Justice has just given judgment in the LTTE case, Case C-158/14 A, B, C, D v Minister van Buitenlandse Zaken.  The Court followed the views of Advocate General Sharpston in her opinion (see previous blog). This was a preliminary reference, meaning that the ECJ was answering questions about the interpretation of EU law rather than being asked to invalidate sanctions measures.  The 2 main points in the judgment are that:

  • The preliminary reference was admissible because it was not clear that A, B, C and D would have had standing to bring a direct action in the General Court (since they were not EU-designated) – had they had so they would have had to have brought a direct action not a preliminary reference; and
  • Actions by armed forces during periods of armed conflict within the meaning of international humanitarian law can constitute terrorist offences / terrorist acts for the purposes of the EU’s terrorist asset freezing regime.