EUROPEAN COURT REJECTS CHALLENGE TO SYRIAN SANCTIONS

assadOn 13 September 2013, the General Court of the European Union in Luxembourg upheld EU sanctions imposed on two Syrian nationals, Eyad Makhlouf and Issam Anbouba.

The European Council first imposed restrictive measures against Syria on 9 May 2011, including an arms embargo, travel bans, and freezing the funds and economic resources of people responsible for “the violent repression of the civilian population in Syria”.  Sanctions against Syria have extended since then, most recently for a further 12 months in June 2013   (see previous blog posts here).

Eyad Makhlouf, an officer in the Syrian army, was included on the list on 23 May 2011 and Issam Anbouba, the president of an agro-industrial company, was added on 2 September 2011.  Mr Makhlouf was included on the grounds that he is the brother of Rami Makhlouf, and is an army officer involved in violence against the civilian population.  Mr Anbouba was included on the grounds of his position as president of an agro-industry company, and for providing “economic support for the Syrian regime”.

The Court dismissed the actions for annulment brought by the applicants, and found that the European Council:

  • Did not infringe the rights of defence of either applicant by including them on the list, even though neither of them had received individual notification of their inclusion, because they were able to bring actions before the European court.

  • Had given specific enough reasons for including both individuals to allow them to know why they had been included.

  • Had not erred in its assessment that either of them should be included.

On the last point, it is arguable that the approach of this Court (the Sixth Chamber) differs somewhat from some of the Court’s previous case law, and from the approach of the recent Iranian judgments decided at the same time (which will be the subject of other blog pieces), in the following respects.

In a number of recent Iranian nuclear proliferation cases, a different chamber of the Court has held that the Council may not maintain designations where applicants refute the factual basis for their inclusion and the Council cannot supply evidence to support its assertions.  In these Syrian cases, by contrast, the Court has emphasised the Council’s broad discretion over the Council’s judgments in including people on sanctions lists, the limited role of the Court, and has permitted the Court to rely on rebuttable presumptions against individuals rather than evidence that they have engaged in prohibited conduct.

By contrast to the Tay Za case in which the Court would not permit presumptions that businessman in Burma/Myanmar must be connected with the regime, in relation to Mr Anbouba, the Court found that it was reasonable for the Council to assume that, as a leading businessman in Syria, he supported the Syrian regime on the basis that he could only have succeeded in business if he was receiving favours from the Assad regime and providing some support in return. Presumably the Court is also assuming that a connection with the Assad regime equates to the requirement that a person be responsible for the violent suppression of the civilian population in Syria if he is to be included on the list.

The Court also considered both listing decisions to be proportionate when considered in light of the repression that President Assad has carried out against the Syrian population and the objectives of these restrictive measures.

Links to the judgments are here: (Case T-383/11 Eyad Makhlouf v Council), (Cases T-563/11 and T-592/11 Issam Anbouba v Council) and the European Court’s summary press release (in English) is here. The applicants have two months and 10 days in which to appeal to the European Court of Justice.  Links to the current EU sanctions against Syria are on the blog here.

This entry was posted in European Court Cases, Syria by Michael O'Kane. Bookmark the permalink.

About Michael O'Kane

Michael O’Kane is a partner and Head of the Business Crime team at leading UK firm Peters & Peters. Described as ‘first-rate’ (Legal 500 2012), he “draws glowing praise from commentators” (Chambers 2013) for handling the international aspects of business crime, including sanctions, extradition and mutual legal assistance. Called to the Bar in 1992 and prior to joining Peters & Peters he was a senior specialist prosecutor at the Crown Prosecution Service Headquarters(CPS). At CPS HQ he was a key member of a small specialist unit responsible for the prosecution of serious and high profile fraud, terrorist and special interest criminal matters including the Stansted Airport Afghan hijacking and the prosecution of Paul Burrell (Princess Diana’s butler). Michael joined Peters & Peters in 2002. He became a partner in May 2004, and Head of the Business Crime team in May 2009. Since joining Peters & Peters, Michael has dealt with a wide range of business crime matters. He has particular expertise in international sanctions, criminal cartels, extradition, corruption, mutual legal assistance, and FSA investigations. Described as“ an influential practitioner in fraud and regulatory work, so much so that he is top of the referral lists of many City firms for independent advice for directors” (The Lawyer’s Hot 100 2009), he was recognised as one of the UK’s most innovative lawyers in the 2011 FT Innovative Lawyer Awards and included in the list of the UK's leading lawyers in 'The International Who's Who of Asset Recovery 2012. In 2012 he was the winner of the Global Competition Review Article of the Year. Michael regularly appears on television and radio to discuss his specialist areas and he is the author of the leading textbook on the UK Criminal Cartel Offence “The Law of Criminal Cartels-Practice and Procedure” (Oxford University Press 2009). Recent/Current Sanctions Work • Representing 109 individuals and 12 companies subject to designation by the European Council under targeted measures imposed against Zimbabwe. This is the largest and most complex collective challenge to a sanctions listing ever brought before the European Court. • Acting for a former Egyptian Minister and his UK resident wife, challenging their designation by the European Council of Ministers under targeted measures brought against former members of the Egyptian Government. • Advising a company accused in a UN investigation report to have breached UN sanctions imposed in relation to Somalia. • Advising a UK company in relation to ongoing commercial relationships with an Iranian company listed under both EU and UN sanctions. • Advising an individual in relation to a UK investigation for alleging breaching nuclear export controls.

3 thoughts on “EUROPEAN COURT REJECTS CHALLENGE TO SYRIAN SANCTIONS

  1. Pingback: RECENT EUROPEAN COURT JUDGMENTS ON IRANIAN SANCTIONS | European Sanctions Blog

  2. Pingback: ECJ REJECTS ANBOUBA APPEAL - European Sanctions

  3. Pingback: EU COURT APPLIES KADI 2 TO SYRIA SANCTIONS - ANNULS INCLUSION OF HAMCHO, KADDOUR AND JABER - European Sanctions

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