On 29 January 2015, EU Foreign Ministers agreed to extend the EU’s existing sanctions against Russia, which target people and entities who are involved in threatening and undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The measures will now be extended until September 2015.
The High Representative and the Commission have been called upon to present a proposal on additional listings within one week, in time for the proposed new additions to be considered at the next meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee on 9 February 2015.
The Council’s published conclusions from the meeting (available here) state that the Council ‘strongly condemns the indiscriminate shelling of residential areas, especially in Mariupol and the recent escalation of fighting in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine’ and says that the Council ‘expects Russia to exert its influence and to induce the separatists… to stop their hostile actions’.
On 27 January 2015, the European Union published Council Implementing Regulation (EU) 2015/109 (which amends Council Regulation (EC) No 560/2005) and Council Implementing Decision (CFSP) 2015/118 (which amends Council Decision 2010/656/CFSP).
The measures implement the United Nations Sanctions Committee’s decision on 20 November 2014 to remove Alcide DJÉDJÉ from the list of those subject to sanctions in view of the situation in the Ivory Coast.
A full list of EU sanctions currently in force against the Ivory Coast can be found on the ‘sanctions in force’ section of this blog.
We reported on 13 November 2014 that three people and one company that were added to the EU’s restrictive measures against Syria won their applications to annul their listings in the EU General Court (see previous blog). The Council of the EU has today (27 January 2015) published new measures re-listing all of them on the basis of new statements of reasons.
The people are Aiman Jaber, Khaled Kaddour and Mohammed Hamcho, and the company is Hamcho International.
The new Decision and Implementing Regulation are on the sanctions in force section of this blog.
The proposal to re-list them was subject to scrutiny last week by the UK House of Commons’ European Scrutiny Committee, as we reported. The UK Minister for Europe was asked to confirm “that he considers the reasons now given for the restrictive measures, and the underlying evidence, to be sufficiently robust to deter or withstanding further legal challenge”.
The re-listed companies and people have two months to apply again to the European Court annul their designations if they choose to do so. A notice for data subjects (the same people / entities) under the EU data protection Regulation (EC) No 45/2001 has been published, informing them that the data controller is the Council of the EU and giving contact details in relation to the data processing operation.
Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, has called for an emergency meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Brussels on Thursday 29 January 2015 to discuss further potential sanctions against the Russian Federation following the recent increase in violence in Ukraine.
On 24 January 2015, an attack by separatist rebels in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol killed at least 30 civilians, with 107 injured. The escalation of violence prompted an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on 26 January 2015.
The United States has also signalled that it is considering further sanctions against Russia. President Obama stated that the US is “deeply concerned about the latest break in the cease-fire and the aggression that these separatists – with Russian backing, Russian equipment, Russian financing, Russian training and Russian troops – are conducting. And we will continue to take the approach that we’ve taken in the past, which is to ratchet up the pressure on Russia.” He added that the US will “look at all additional options that are available to us short of military confrontation and try to address this issue.”
The House of Commons’ European Scrutiny Committee said on Wednesday of this week (report here) that it is considering the UK Government’s proposals to re-list 3 people and 1 entity said to be associated with the Assad regime in Syria on the EU’s asset freeze / travel ban measures (which are on the ‘sanctions in force’ section of this blog). All had their previous designations annulled by the EU General Court.
The Committee states that it supports “the principle that restrictive measures should be both targeted and legally robust” and comments that “it is not evident that this is the case with these proposals, particularly given the background, which includes the Council being unable to provide sufficient supporting evidence for the original restrictions using open sources when invited to do so in court hearings last June”. The Committee asked the UK Minister for Europe “to confirm that he considers the reasons now given for the restrictive measures, and the underlying evidence, to be sufficiently robust to deter or withstanding further legal challenge” and noted that “similar issues are raised by the restrictive measures against Iran”.
Bank Tejarat, an Iranian bank, has had its listing on the EU’s sanctions relating to Iran annulled by the General Court (First Chamber), in Case T-176/12 Bank Tejarat v Council (link to the judgment is here).
The Bank has been listed since 2012 on the grounds that it is a State owned bank that has facilitated Iran’s nuclear programme in various ways. The Bank denied all of these allegations (including majority State ownership) and the Court held that the Council had not provided any evidence to substantiate the allegations against the Bank. The Court has maintained the sanctions on Bank Tejarat for 2 months to permit the Council to remedy these defects if it should seek to do so.
Mohammad Makhlouf has lost his application for the General Court of the European Union to annul his listing on the EU’s Syria sanctions. A link to the judgment in Case T-509/11 Mohammad Makhlouf v Council is here (available only in French).
Mr Makhlouf was included in the EU’s restrictive measures against Syria in 2011 because he is the uncle of Syrian President Bashar Bashar Al-Assad, and a business associate and father of Rami, Ihab and Iyad Makhlouf. He challenged the Council of the EU for not respecting his fundamental rights, rights of defence and judicial review, the duty to give reasons, and for making an error of assessment. The Court rejected all these arguments, holding in particular that being a close family member of the President of Syria is sufficient for Mr Makhlouf to be considered to be an “associate” of the Syrian regime, and that the evidence was uncontested that he provided the regime with economic support.