Lithuanian parliament introduces Magnitsky sanctions bill

The Lithuanian parliament has introduced a bill that, if passed, would establish “Magnitsky-style” sanctions that ban people involved in human rights abuses, corruption, or money laundering from entering Lithuania.  The sanctions are named after Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, whose death in Russian custody in 2009 prompted the US to introduce the first sanctions of this kind on human rights abusers in Russia. A Canadian parliamentary committee recommended that the Canadian government follow the US, UK, and several other countries in imposing Magnitsky-style sanctions earlier this month (see previous blog).

US to adopt sanctions and diplomacy-based strategy on North Korea

The Trump administration has announced that its strategy on North Korea will be to increase sanctions and diplomatic pressure until North Korea ends its nuclear and missile programmes.  The announcement came after Trump briefed all 100 US senators, who said that no specific military option was presented to them.  The South Korean president’s office also released a statement saying that South Korea and the US had agreed “to swiftly take punitive measures, including a new UN Security Council resolution, that are unbearable for the North” if North Korea continues to breach international law.

EU renews Burma/Myanmar sanctions for 1 year

The EU has renewed its sanctions against Burma/Myanmar for another year, until 30 April 2018.  The sanctions impose an embargo on providing Burma/Myanmar with arms and goods that might be used for internal repression.   Before April 2013, the EU also had trade, financial, and targeted sanctions in place, but those have now been lifted (see previous blog).

See Decision (CFSP) 2017/734 amending Decision 2013/184/CFSP.

US sanctions 271 people connected to Syria’s chemical weapons programme

As foreshadowed earlier this month (see previous blog), the US has imposed sanctions on 271 Syrian people in response to the Assad regime’s sarin attack on civilians in Idlib province on 4 April. All of the newly sanctioned people are employees of Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Centre, the government agency responsible for developing and producing non-conventional weapons, and are said to have worked in support of SSRC’s chemical weapons programme since at least 2012.  The new designations are one of the largest sanctions actions in OFAC’s history, and more than double the number of people and entities designated under US sanctions on Syria.

The US Treasury’s press release is here.

New OFAC de-listing guidance

OFAC has updated its guidance / FAQs on the procedure for applying to be removed from its sanctions / SDN lists.  The FAQs say that OFAC de-lists 100s of entities each year (which was not the case until recently), and that the purpose of designation is not punitive but to change behaviour (the most frequent basis for delisting is that the SDN has stopped the behavior that led to designation).

Government response to Lords’ report on legality of sanctions

The UK government has responded to a report and recommendations by the House of Lords’ EU Justice Committee on the legality of EU sanctions (see previous blog).  In its response the Government accepted:

  • That the EU courts have been right to annul listings where the EU has been unable to adduce evidence supporting them, and states that the UK “has been seeking to improve the robustness of sanctions listings” in particular by providing open source evidence, and only agrees to a listing if it is satisfied that the evidence available satisfies a “reasonable grounds to suspect” test, which the Government considers to be the appropriate test.
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  • The concern that it takes the EU institutions too long to respond to correspondence from listed people and entities, and agreed that there should be an expedited correspondence procedure in cases of mistaken identities.

The Government disagreed with:

  • The suggestion that the practice of re-listing people who have had their listings annulled by the EU courts makes those judgments inconsequential, and states that the EU would not re-list without good reason.
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  • The Committee’s call for open-source evidence packages substantiating sanctions listings to be provided to the scrutiny committees as a routine aspect of scrutiny due to confidentiality and diplomatic concerns.
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  • The suggestion that an EU Ombudsperson be created akin to the UN AQ Committee Ombudsperson.

The response also criticises the EU Court’s closed material procedure (see previous blog), but the Government’s recent White Paper plans to introduce UK closed material procedures in the UK post Brexit (on which see previous blog).

ExxonMobil denied waiver of US sanctions ban on Russia oil joint venture

ExxonMobil, a US oil and gas corporation, and other US firms have been told that the US Treasury will not be issuing them with waivers authorising drilling prohibited by current US sanctions on Russia. ExxonMobil recently applied to the US Treasury for authorisation to resume its Arctic joint venture with Russian state-owned oil firm Rosneft, which was halted by the imposition of US sanctions on Russia in 2014.  ExxonMobil also applied for authorisation to operate in the Black Sea in July 2015, but its application was turned down.  The sanctions prohibit US firms from participating in projects that would involve them sharing certain technology with Russian firms.

UK Government consultation on sanctions legislation post-Brexit

As foreshadowed on this blog (link here), the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in the UK Government has published a white paper consulting on the legal powers it will need to be able to continue imposing and implementing sanctions once the UK leaves the EU.  Its focus is on the legal powers necessary to operate UK sanctions and not on the shape of UK sanctions policy in the future or other policy issues.   Comments on the questions for consultation should be sent to the FCO by 23 June 2017 (details on the consultation paper).  The House of Lords External Affairs Committee has postponed its inquiry into UK post-Brexit sanctions policy (see previous blog) in light of this white paper, updates will be published when available.