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.