EU renews sanctions on Belarus

The EU has extended its sanctions on Belarus until 28 February 2018, which consist of an arms embargo and targeted asset freezes and travel bans against 4 people. The 4 people are suspected of being involved in the unresolved disappearances of 2 opposition politicians, 1 businessman, and 1 journalist in 1999 and 2000. It has also prolonged a derogation allowing the export of biathlon equipment to Belarus, such as sporting rifles, subject to prior authorisation.

See Council Decision (CFSP) 2018/280 and Council Regulation (EU) 2018/275. EU press release here.

OFAC continues Belarus sanctions relief

Logo_of_the_U.S._Office_of_Foreign_Assets_Control_(OFAC)The US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has issued General Licence No. 2D, which continues the extension of certain sanctions relief towards nine Belarusian entities until 30 April 2018.

Subject to the restrictions set out in the licence, all transactions otherwise prohibited by Executive Order 13405 involving the nine Belarusian entities, or any entities that are owned, individually or in the aggregate, directly or indirectly, 50% or more by one or more of the named Belarusian entities, are authorised.

US persons relying on the licence to engage in transactions involving, directly or indirectly, any of the named Belarusian entities must file a report to the US Department of State if a transaction (or series of transactions) exceeds $50,000. For the OFAC press release, see here.

BelTechExport’s Belarus re-listing upheld by EU Court

The General Court of the EU has dismissed BelTechExport’s application for its re-listing on the EU’s targeted Belarus sanctions to be annulled. Judgment here: Case T-765/15 BelTechExport ZAO v Council [2017]. BelTechExport, an arms manufacturer, was listed on the grounds that it “benefits from the regime as a main exporter of arms and military equipment in Belarus, which requires authorisation from the Belarusian authorities”, but has since been removed from the EU’s sanctions lists (see previous blog).

BelTechExport was previously listed on the basis that “It supports and provides revenue to the Lukashenka regime by its sale of arms”, “benefits from the regime as the main exporter of arms and military equipment owned by the state or produced by state owned companies”, and has ties to a listed individual, Vladimir Peftiyev; the Court annulled that designation (see previous blog).

US renews Belarus general licence

The US Treasury has renewed its general licence (which authorises transactions with all entities listed on its Belarus sanctions) for 6 months, until 30 October 2017.  The renewal was made by Belarus General Licence 2C, which replaces and supersedes General Licence 2B under which the authorisation was previously granted. The EU lifted most of its sanctions on Belarus in February 2016 (see previous blog).

The General Licence requires any US person to report any such transactions, or series of transactions, in excess of $50,000 to the US Department of State no later than 30 days after their execution.  No new property has been unblocked by General Licence 2C.

EU renews Belarus sanctions

belarus-minsk-1The EU has renewed its remaining sanctions against Belarus for 1 year, until 28 February 2018.  The sanctions include an arms embargo, and a travel ban and asset freeze on 4 people listed in connection with the disappearances of 2 opposition politicians, 1 businessman, and 1 journalist in 1999/2000.  Renewing the measures, the EU Council reiterated that “tangible steps taken by Belarus to respect universal fundamental freedoms, rule of law, and human rights” will be key to the future of EU policy towards the country.  In February 2016, the EU lifted most of its sanctions against Belarus (see previous blog).

See Council Regulation 2017/331 amending Council Regulation 765/2006 and Council Decision 2017/350 amending Council Decision 2012/642/CFSP.  The EU’s notice to listed people is here.

Vadzim Ipatau’s 2nd Belarus case rejected

The General Court of the EU has rejected Vadzim Ipatau’s 2nd application for his listing on the EU’s sanctions against Belarus to be annulled – in Joined Cases T-694/13 & T-2/15 Ipatau v Council [2016].  The reason given for his listing on these measures which target people (inter alia) responsible for violations of electoral standards in Belarus, is that he is the Vice-President of Belarus’ highest electoral authority (the CEC).

This is the same as the reason given for his previous designation; the revised version adds Mr Ipatau’s involvement in the Parliamentary elections of September 2012, in addition presidential election of December 2010. His previous application for annulment was dismissed by the General Court in a judgment upheld by ECJ in June 2015 (see previous blog). This case is very similar; the Court said the reasons for his listing sufficiently clear, Mr Ipatau did not dispute that he was Vice-President of the CEC, the highest electoral authority in Belarus, and an OSCE report supported the Council’s reasons. The Court (as it usually does) rejected the rights of defence and proportionality arguments and ordered the applicant to pay the Council’s costs.

USA renews Belarus sanctions

The USA has renewed its sanctions on Belarus, by President Obama continuing the national emergency declared in respect of actions of the Belarus Government under the National Emergencies Act.  This has the effect of renewing US sanctions on people who directly or indirectly “undermine Belarus’ democratic processes or institutions, commit human rights abuses related to political repression, or engage in public corruption” for a year.

The sanctions automatically expire if not renewed by the President within 90 days prior to the anniversary date of the national emergency being declared. The White House statement is here.

EU court annuls sanctions again on Belarus journalist Mikhalchanka

The General Court of the EU has annulled Aliaksei Mikhalchanka’s inclusion on the EU’s sanctions against Belarus, in Case T-693/13 Mikhalchanka v Council [2016].  His inclusion on previous EU measures against Belarus was annulled by the General Court in 2014 (see previous blog), but his application to annul the listing that replaced it in 2013 was inadmissible at that time.  He has now successfully applied to have the replacement listing annulled.

The statement of reasons for the applicant’s listing under the new measures was the same as under the previous measures, so as before the Court found that the Council had made a manifest error of assessment when it sanctioned him for supporting the regime’s anti-democratic behaviour as an influential journalist on state television, without adducing any evidence to demonstrate his influence on the repression of political opponents and civil society or that of the program he presented.  The Court also found that his interest in the proceedings remained even though he was de-listed after his application was lodged, as have been all but 4 other people targeted by the EU’s sanctions on Belarus (see previous blog).

The Court dismissed the applicant’s argument that the rights of the defence had been violated, finding that new notification was not needed for the replacement listing, in spite of the subsequent annulment of his old listing, because the reasons for his listing were the same in both cases and annulment of a listing does not also annul the original notification of that listing.  It also dismissed the argument that the Council’s reasons for the applicant’s listing were inadequate. The Council was ordered to bear the applicant’s costs.