EU measures lifting most Belarus sanctions

As foreshadowed (see previous blog), the EU has now published measures extending its asset freezes and travel bans against Belarus until 28 February 2017 only in relation to 4 people – all of whom are said to be involved in the unresolved disappearances of 2 opposition politicians, a businessman, and a journalist. The 4 people still subject to sanctions are:

  1. Vladimir Naumov – Former Minister of Interior and former Head of the President’s Security Service
  2. Dmitri Pavlichenko – Former Head of the Special Response Group at the Ministry of Interior
  3. Viktor Sheiman – Head of the Management Department of the President’s Administration and former Secretary of the Security Council
  4. Iury Sivakov – Former Minister of Interior, Minister of Tourism and Sports, and former Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration.

Sanctions have been lifted in relation to President Lukashenko, 3 defence companies said to have close ties to the government in Minsk, and 169 others, in relation to whom sanctions had been suspended since 31 October 2015.

The renewal is made by Council Implementing Regulation (EU) 2016/276 implementing Council Regulation (EC) 765/2006 and Council Decision (CFSP) 2016/280 amending Council Decision 2012/642/CFSP.   The EU’s notice to the 4 people still subject to sanctions is here.

EU Scrutiny Committee clears new CAR listings

The House of Commons EU Scrutiny Committee has cleared EU measures listing Haroun Gaye and Eugene Barret Nagikosset on EU sanctions against the Central African Republic (see previous blog) from scrutiny.  The Committee said that Minister for Europe David Lidington had explained clearly and convincingly why the listings were appropriate, for undermining attempts to bring peace, reconciliation, and democracy to “this deeply traumatised country”.  As is often the case, the Minister approved the measures before the Committee had a chance to scrutinise them; the Minister said this was because the “rapid transposition of UN sanctions designations into EU legislation is highly desirable…and ensures the effectiveness and credibility of the sanctions regime”.  A summary of the Committee’s views is here.

EU Scrutiny Committee clears OPIC relisting

The House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee has cleared measures published by the EU in November 2015 relisting the Oil Industry Pension Fund Investment Company in its targeted Iran sanctions (see previous blog).  OPIC is one of several people and entities to have been re-listed on the EU’s sanctions lists following a successful annulment application in the European court (on which see here).  The Committee’s summary is here.

Although it cleared the measures, the Committee noted that the standard by which Minister for Europe David Lidington assessed the evidence for OPIC’s relisting, that it was “sufficient for the Council, in the event of a challenge, to defend its relisting decision”, was lower than the standard sought by the Committee when it first considered the matter, that the evidence “was sufficiently robust either to deter or to withstand further legal challenge”. The Committee also criticised Mr Lidington’s reasons for not providing information to Parliament on what public domain information is held by the Council in relation to OPIC, and stated that it finds it unlikely that either the UK Government or the EU Council will be able to enforce the confidentiality of this information or sustain it if challenged.  The same Committee kept the re-listings of the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) and Mr Golparvar under scrutiny last March (see previous blog).

Halliburton subsidiary agrees OFAC penalty for Cuba violations

Halliburton Atlantic Limited (HAL) has agreed to pay $304,706 to settle its potential liability for violations of US sanctions on Cuba.  The violations related to transactions worth $1,189,752, with a base penalty of $423,202 and a maximum of $1,235,000.

Between February and April 2011, HAL and its affiliate Halliburton Overseas Limited (HOL), both subsidiaries of US company Halliburton Energy Services, are said to have violated US sanctions by dealing in property in which Cuba or a Cuban national had an interest.  The violations occurred when HAL and HOL exported goods and services for use by a consortium in oil and gas exploration within the Cabinda Onshore South Block oil concession, in which Cuba Petroleo, a state-owned Cuban company, had a 5% interest through the consortium.

OFAC said the subsidiaries acted with “reckless disregard” for US sanctions, and should have known that a Cuban entity belonged to the consortium, but the violations were voluntarily disclosed and were a “non-egregious case”.  OFAC also noted, in mitigation, that Cuba Petroleo’s interest in the concession was only 5%, which limited the extent of the economic benefit provided to Cuba. OFAC’s enforcement notice is here.

4 indicted in USA for violating Iran sanctions

4 men have been indicted in the USA for conspiring to violate US sanctions by exporting technical equipment with apparent applications in the oil and gas industry to Iran.  The indictment alleges that Shahin Tabatabaei, a Canadian national, ran companies in Mexico and Canada that shipped US goods through Turkey or the UAE into Iran between 2007 and 2011, and that he falsely stated in his paperwork that the goods would not be exported to countries where doing so was prohibited by sanctions. According to the FBI, Mr Tabatabaei was arrested at the US-Canada border last week.

Another of those indicted is Canadian Mohammad Fatemi, from whom Mr Tabatabaei rented office space until 6-8 months ago.  He is alleged to have shipped prohibited goods to co-conspirators in the UAE.  The others are Abbas Moradi and Amirreza Sahebjamei, both based in Iran, who are alleged to have collected orders from Iranian companies, sent those orders to Mr Tabatabaei, and facilitated payments to Mr Fatemi.

UK order to de-proscribe International Sikh Youth Federation

On Monday (22 February 2016), the Home Secretary Theresa May laid before Parliament an order to remove the International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF) from the UK’s list of organisations proscribed under the UK Terrorism Act 2000.

The Home Secretary has the power to proscribe organisations that she considers to be “concerned in terrorism”, for example by participating in, preparing for, or promoting acts of terrorism.  The effect of proscription is that it is a criminal offence for a person to belong to, invite support for, arrange a meeting in support of, or wear or display articles in public which arouse suspicion that they are a member of that organisation. The ISYF was proscribed in March 2001, and lodged an application for de-proscription and an appeal to the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission (POAC) last year.  The Home Secretary has now concluded that the statutory test is not met, and that there is insufficient information that the ISYF is currently concerned in terrorism and so their application should be granted.

This is the second time on which the Government has laid an order to de-proscribe a group before Parliament since the Act came into force in 2001.  The first was in 2008, removing the Peoples’ Mojahedin of Iran (the PMOI, or MEK) after a POAC judgment and appeal to the Court of Appeal.

ISYF remains proscribed until Parliament has agreed that the order should come into force, under the affirmative resolution procedure. The House of Commons will debate the order on 15 March 2016. Guidance on UK proscribed organisations is here.  Maya Lester acted for the ISFY before POAC.

EU court refuses damages in Jannatian case

The General Court of the EU has dismissed Mahmoud Jannatian’s application for damages arising from his listing on the EU’s targeted Iran sanctions – Case T-328/14 Jannatian v Council [2016].

There are a number of interesting aspects of the judgment:

  1. Mr Jannatian had been de-listed by the time of the judgment; he was originally included in 2010 because he was the Deputy Head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI), when in fact he had not held that role since 2007. Although the fact that his name had already been removed did not mean he no longer had an interest in the proceedings, the applicant had asked the court not adjudicate on the annulment. The issue was his entitlement to damages from 2008 – 2015.
  2. The Court said (for the first time) that it had no jurisdiction to rule on damage resulting from the travel ban, as opposed to the asset freeze, given that it was an act relating purely to EU foreign policy.
  3. The Court said (again for the first time) that the purpose of the listing criteria in EU restrictive measures is “to protect the interests of the individuals concerned, by limiting the cases of application, extent or degree of the restrictive measures that may lawfully be imposed on those individuals”.
  4. In principle, damages were available arising from an asset freeze if there were a sufficiently serious breach of EU law causing damage; the provisions were intended to confer rights on individuals and the Council did not have any discretion as to whether to observe the applicant’s fundamental rights.
  5. There was a breach of EU law here because Mr Jannatian’s inclusion was based on an error (that he was Deputy head of AEOI, when he was not) and the EU had not showed that he had continuing links with the AEOI. The Court said that would not have been a sufficiently serious mistake when he was first listed, but maintaining his designation for 7 years despite the Council being told that it was incorrect was sufficiently serious; “an administrative authority exercising ordinary care and diligence would … have understood that it was for it to verify” whether the reasons given were well founded when deciding whether to re-list him.
  6. But the Court found that no damage was suffered from the asset freeze; the applicant had no evidence hat he could not carry out bank transfers, and he had not claimed in time damage to reputation (which would be compensated in any case by a finding that the measures were unlawful).