Last month the General Court of the European Union quashed Sina Bank’s designation on the EU Iranian sanctions list.  Now Bank Mellat’s listing has been quashed too, in Case T-496/10 Bank Mellat v Council.  It is significant that two Iranian banks have now been delisted by the Court.  The Court’s judgment is also important for the following reasons.
First, the Court rejected the argument made by the Council and Commission that the Bank was State-owned and therefore not entitled to rely on fundamental rights.  Second, the Court analysed each reason for the Bank’s listing, and found that two of them were “excessively vague” because they give no details of the conduct alleged against the Bank, in breach of the duty to give reasons and the Bank’s rights of defence. Third, the Court has confirmed, for the first time, that if the Council is going to rely on listing proposals by Member States as its evidence for including people or companies on EU sanctions lists, it must disclose them to applicants in good time to enable them to respond, and the Council must undertake its own checking of the “relevance and validity” of the evidence against an applicant.


The Republic of Guinea

Council Regulation (EU) No 49/2013, of 22 January 2013, amends Regulation (EU) No 1284/2009 imposing certain specific restrictive measures in respect of the Republic of Guinea. The Regulation authorises the transfer of explosives and related equipment to Guinea for mining purposes, provided that the storage and use of the explosives and the related equipment and services are controlled, as well providing financial assistance for the same.


Council Regulation (EU) No 50/2013, of 22 January 2013, amends Regulation (EU) No 204/2011 concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in Libya. Regulation 50/2013 removes one entity from the EU maintained sanctions list the Organisation for Development of Administrative Centres. The Regulation also amends the personal details of a number of persons subjected to economic sanctions by way of inclusion in the UN sanctions list.


Commission Regulation (EU) No 53/2013, of 22 January 2013, amends Council Regulation (EC) No 1183/2005 imposing certain specific restrictive measures directed against persons acting in violation of the arms embargo with regard to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Regulations imposes specific restrictive measures against a further two persons and two entities.


Commission Regulation (EU) No 60/2013, of 24 January 2013, amends Council Regulation (EC) No 881/2002 imposing certain specific restrictive measures directed against certain persons and entities associated with Usama bin Laden, the Al-Qaida network and the Taliban. The Regulation removes Adel Abdul Jalil Ibrahim Batterjee from the list of persons subject to restrictive measures, following the decision of the Sanctions Committee of the United Nations Security Council to remove him from the UN Al Qaida sanctions list.


In a number of recent cases, the European Court has decided that there is no need for it to adjudicate on applications for annulment brought by people and companies on European sanctions lists, where they have been deleted from the list by the European Council before their cases have reached judgment (eg Case T-527/09 Ayadi v Commission). This has meant that delisted people have not been able to establish in Court that their listing was unlawful where they have been removed from the sanctions list in the course of proceedings.

Advocate General Bot’s opinion in Abdulbasit Abdulrahim v Council (handed down on 22 January 2013, link here) is that this line of cases should be rethought. Mr Abdulrahim was designated by the UN Security Council 1267 Committee in 2008, and therefore also by the European Union in Regulation 881/2002 (the Al Qaida list). He applied to the General Court to annul his EU designation. The UN Security Council removed his name from the 1267 list in 2010 and he was deleted from the EU list in 2011. The General Court ordered (in line with its previous case law) that his action for annulment was devoid of purpose, and he appealed to the Court of Justice.

The Advocate General’s opinion is that, despite being removed from the UN and EU sanctions lists, Mr Abdulrahim has a continuing interest in his action for annulment being adjudicated upon, so that he can seek to establish that his listing was unlawful. There is advantage to him in a court judgment establishing that his designation was always unlawful, and in the “retroactive elimination of his inclusion on the list at issue within the legal order of the European Union”. A judgment of that kind could prevent future unlawful designations, restore his reputation, and found a damages claim.