French inquiry into LafargeHolcim’s Syria activities

A judicial inquiry into LafargeHolcim, a Swiss-French cement company, has been opened in France on the basis of suspicions that it entered into transactions with sanctioned groups to keep one of its plants operating in Syria. Lafarge is alleged to have made payments, via intermediaries, to armed groups in return for its operations being left alone and for the release of kidnapped employees.

EU to renew Russia sanctions

EU President Donald Tusk announced yesterday that the EU has decided to renew its economic sanctions on Russia, imposed in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, for 6 months. They are currently due to expire on 1 August 2017.

These “phase 3” sanctions target Russia’s financial, energy, and defence sectors, restrict trade in dual-use goods and some Russian banks’ access to EU capital markets. The EU has said sanctions on Russia should continue until Russia complies with the Minsk agreements.

EU implements UN additions to its terrorism and CAR sanctions

The EU has added Fared Saal to its sanctions on ISIL & Al-Qaida, implementing a UN listing from earlier this month.  Fared Saal is said to be a member of ISIL, who has taken part in attacks that led to the deaths of large numbers of civilians. See Commission Implementing Regulation 2017/1094 amending Council Regulation 881/2002.

It has also implemented the UN’s listing of Hissene Abdoulaye on its sanctions against the Central African Republic (see previous blog).  He is said to have become one of the main leaders of armed militias in the country’s capital Bangui. See Council Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/1090 implementing Council Regulation 224/2014 and Council Implementing Decision 2017/1103 implementing Council Decision 2013/798/CFSP.

EU renews Guinea-Bissau sanctions

The EU has published a notice (link here) stating that it has reviewed all of the people & entities listed on its Guinea-Bissau sanctions and decided that sanctions should continue to apply to them. These measures target people who played a leading role in the coup d’état of 12 April 2012, and those who aim to undermine the rule of law and curtail the primacy of civilian power.

Queen’s Speech announces UK International Sanctions Bill

Prime Minister Theresa May announced today that a new international sanctions bill will form part of the UK’s legislative programme “geared towards making a success of Brexit”, to allow the UK “to continue to comply with our international obligations”.

The Queen’s Speech (link here) included the International Sanctions Bill among the new Brexit-related draft legislation, which will “support our role as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a leading player on the world stage, by establishing a new sovereign UK framework to implement international sanctions on a multilateral or unilateral basis. The Bill will return decision-making powers on non-UN sanctions to the UK, and enable the UK’s continued compliance with international law after the UK’s exit from the EU. The UK Government has issued a consultation document about the content of this new sanctions bill (see previous blog).

New US Russia designations

The USA has added 38 people and entities to its sanctions on Russia linked to Russia’s activities in Ukraine, and identified 20 subsidiaries that are owned 50% or more by desiganated AK Transneft OAO.  Among the new designations are several officials of the “Republic of Crimea” and “Luhansk People’s Republic”, entities said to have been operating in Crimea, and a number of businesses owned or controlled by Yevgeniy Prigozhin, who has been linked to Russian mercenaries fighting in Syria and Russian “troll factories”.

In the US Treasury press release, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the sanctions are designed to “maintain pressure on Russia to work towards a diplomatic solution” for the Ukraine crisis, and said that “there should be no sanctions relief until Russia meets its obligations under the Minsk agreements”. The new listings are here.

EU renews Crimea & Sevastopol sanctions

The EU has renewed its territorial sanctions on Crimea and Sevastopol for another year, until 23 June 2018.  The sanctions include prohibitions on the import of products originating in, export of certain goods and technologies to, investment in, and tourism in Crimea and Sevastopol. The sanctions are a response to what the EU says is “the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by the Russian Federation”. On renewing the sanctions (statement here), the EU Council reiterated that the EU “remains fully committed to fully implement its non-recognition policy” of any competing claim to Ukraine’s sovereignty over the regions.

See Council Decision (CFSP) 2017/1087 amending Council Decision 2014/386/CFSP.

ECJ rejects Faqih / Sanabel appeal

We previously reported on the General Court’s Kadi(2) type judgment (link here) rejecting the application for annulment brought by the Sanabel Relief Agency Ltd and 3 people connected with it (Al-Faqih, Abdrabbah, & Nasuf) on the grounds that the Commission had complied with its Kadi (2) duties of independently assessing the evidence for EU implementations of UN terrorist sanctions listings, the applicants had been sent narrative summaries, the EU had assessed their responses and the UN’s reasons, and the applicants had eventually been de-listed.  The Sanabel Relief Agency had ceased to exist so the Court also held that it had no continuing interest in the proceedings. The Court of Justice has just affirmed that judgment on appeal in Case C-19/16 P Faqih & Ors v Commission (Council intervening) – link to the appeal judgment here.  The ECJ has held that the Court below was entitled to have held that:

  1. Sanabel Relief agency no longer existed in law and therefore did not have capacity to bring legal proceedings before the EU court;
  2. the applicants’ proportionality plea was insufficiently particularised; and
  3. the Commission had properly discharged its Kadi (2) duties.