Obama eases US sanctions on Burma/Myanmar

burma-1President Obama has lifted a prohibition on providing government to government assistance to the Myanmar government, in a Presidential Determination.  This also ends the ban on granting visas to government officials from Burma, and the requirement that the US vote in international financial institutions against providing assistance or loans to Burma.

The Obama administration has been steadily lifting US sanctions on Burma/Myanmar, in response to its “substantial advances to promote democracy…the release of many political prisoners, and greater enjoyment of human rights” (see previous blog).  Sanctions imposed by the US Congress, relating to arms and military cooperation, remain in force.

US lifts sanctions on Burma/Myanmar

As foreshadowed, President Obama has ended the national emergency declared in respect of Burma/Myanmar, lifting the sanctions that first came into force in 1997 in response to a “pattern of severe repression” by the Burmese regime (see previous blog).  The  Executive Order states that “Burma’s substantial advances to promote democracy…the release of many political prisoners, and greater enjoyment of human rights” had significantly altered the situation since the sanctions were introduced.  The sanctions restricted trade in precious stones and doing business with some of Myanmar’s military officials and their associates.  Separate US sanctions on Burma relating to arms and military cooperation remain in force. The US Treasury has published a Fact Sheet and FAQ on the changes, along with the details of the related de-listings, here.

USA to lift sanctions on Burma/Myanmar

President Obama has said that the USA will lift most of its sanctions on Burma/Myanmar, in recognition of the country’s moves towards democracy.

Currently, US sanctions restrict trade in precious stones, and doing business with some of Myanmar’s military officials and their associates. US sanctions relating to arms and military cooperation, will not be affected.  The US Treasury’s new FAQ on the announcement is here.

EU Scrutiny committee refuses to clear some EU sanctions

The House of Commons European Scrutiny committee has published its conclusions on recent EU sanctions measures relating to Iran, Central African Republic, Burma/Myanmar, and Ukraine & Russia.  It has not cleared them all…

Iran

Considering the EU’s decision in April 2016 to re-list Bank Saderat with new reasons on its Iran sanctions, after the bank had the annulment of its prior sanctions listing upheld by the Court of Justice (see previous blog), the Committee declined to clear the related measures from scrutiny.  It said that Minister for Europe David Lidington had not provided an explanation as to why the Council considered that the new listing would be any more likely to withstand challenge than the previous one, adding that lack of any explanation in respect of the “barely discernible” changes gave rise to the inference that the new listing was an artificial legal device to prolong sanctions with a weak legal foundation.

Central African Republic

The Committee cleared the EU’s decision in April to make minor amendments to the derogations under its arms embargo on the CAR and update the designation criteria for its asset freeze and travel ban, primarily to reflect that elections had taken place in the country (see previous blog).  However, the committee objected to its scrutiny having been overridden in this case, distinguishing it from the EU measures targeting Joseph Kony (see previous blog) that it cleared last month.  It stated that the override of its scrutiny was “part and parcel of a policy adopted recently by the Minister”, by which he is “deliberately undermining scrutiny” by the House of Commons.

Burma/Myanmar

The EU’s decision to extend its sanctions against Burma for a further 12 months, until 30 April 2017 (see previous blog), was cleared of scrutiny by the Committee.  It noted the ongoing challenge posed by the influence that the Burmese military retains in government, and concerns about Burma’s human rights situation, and asked the Minister to report back to it on an upcoming meeting of the EU-Myanmar Human Rights Dialogue.

Ukraine & Russia

The Committee has called for the Commons to debate the wider context of the EU’s economic and sectoral sanctions against Russia, which the Minister has said should be extended in July in view of the fact that the Minsk peace agreements have yet to be implemented in full.  In the meantime, the Committee has kept under scrutiny the EU’s decision to extend its targeted sanctions against people undermining the sovereignty of Ukraine until 15 September 2016 (see previous blog).

USA renews reduced Burma sanctions

The USA has renewed its sanctions regime on Burma/Myanmar for another year, published a new general licence, updated 2 existing licences, and amended its SDN List. The US Treasury’s press release explaining the changes is here.

The US imposed sanctions on Burma in 1997 and lifted its trade and investment bans in 2012 & 2013, but maintained the restrictions on importing Burmese jade or rubies and its SDN listings. The decision to renew sanctions on Burma is said to reflect ongoing concerns about people and entities who continue to obstruct political reform, commit human rights abuses, or propagate military trade with North Korea.  The US has eased its sanctions to support Burma’s political and economic progress following last year’s elections.

The new general licence authorises US persons to conduct most transactions ordinarily incident to living in Burma, such as paying rent and buying goods or services.  OFAC has updated General Licence 20, which authorises transactions ordinarily incident to exports to or from Burma involving a sanctioned person, to extend it indefinitely and permit certain transactions incident to the movement of goods within Burma.  OFAC also added 2 currently designated banks to another general licence, so that the US now authorises most transactions involving all Burmese financial institutions. OFAC has removed 7 state-owned enterprises from the SDN List, and designated 6 new companies that are owned 50% or more by already designated people or entities.

EU renews Myanmar sanctions for 1 year

The EU has renewed its remaining sanctions on Burma/Myanmar for a year, until 30 April 2017.  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) 2016/627 amending Decision 2013/184/CFSP.

New OFAC general licence on Burma

OFAC has issued a six-month general licence to authorise certain trade-related transactions with Burma, otherwise prohibited by US sanctions on the country.  The general licence covers most transactions that are ordinarily incident to the export of goods, technology, or non-financial services to or from Burma, provided the export is not to, from, or on behalf of a sanctioned person or entity.

The new licence also authorises US financial institutions to unblock and return transactions that were blocked on or after 1 April 2015, where those transactions would not have been blocked under the general licence.

In its summary of the new licence, OFAC states that it “is intended to support US and Burmese exporters and to facilitate trade with Burma”, adding that the licence “supports the prior easing of US economic sanctions on Burma in response to significant positive reforms in the country, while maintaining targeted sanctions against specific individuals and entities”.

OFAC REMOVES 6 PEOPLE FROM SDN LIST

OFAC has removed 6 people from its list of Specially Designated Nationals, who have all of their assets within US jurisdiction frozen and are subject to a prohibition on US persons doing business with them.  3 of the people were listed under OFAC’s Burma/Myanmar designations and 3 under its Balkans designations.

The people whose entries have been deleted are:

Burma

  1. Soe Win
  2. Maung Bo
  3. Thidar Zaw (aka. Daw Thidar Zaw; Thida Zaw)

Soe Win was the Prime Minister of Burma/Myanmar from 2004 until his death in 2007.  Thidar Zaw is the wife of another listed individual, Tay Za, a Burmese business tycoon and close associate of former head of state Than Shwe.

Balkans

  1. Rahim Ademi
  2. Esad Landzo
  3. Pasko Ljubicic

Rahim Ademi was indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in 2001 but was acquitted in 2008 by the Croatian court to which he was referred by the ICTY and his acquittal was upheld by Croatia’s supreme court in 2010.  Esad Landzo was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 1998 by the ICTY for breaches of the Geneva Conventions and other violations of the laws or customs of war during his time as a prison camp guard.  Pasko Ljucbicic was found guilty of war crimes during his time serving in Croatia’s military police by the ICTY in 2008 and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

OFAC’s notice is here.