In March 2015, the EU Court of Justice dismissed the appeal brought by Ahmed Ezz and 3 of his spouses (Abla Salama, Khadiga Yassin and Shahinaz al Naggar) against the General Court’s judgment refusing to annul their initial listings on the EU’s Egypt misappropriation sanctions (see previous blog).
The General Court has now dismissed the applicants’ action to annul their 2015, 2016 and 2017 renewed designations – see Ezz and Others v Council T-288/15 (27 September 2018). The Court rejected the submission that the Council had erred in its assessment of the evidence relating to political and judicial developments that had occurred since their original designations in 2011 which sought to establish infringements by the Egyptian authorities of the rule of law and fundamental rights in legal proceedings in Egypt. The applicants are no longer subject to EU sanctions since March 2018 (see previous blog).
The EU General Court has dismissed Russian defence company Almaz-Antey’s application to annul its 2016-2017 listing under the EU’s sectoral sanctions on Russia – see judgment here (13 September). The same Court dismissed the company’s action against its 2015-2016 listing (see previous blog).
The Court held (inter alia) that the stated objective of the sanctions regime was to increase the costs of Russian acts undermining the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, and to promote a peaceful settlement of the crisis. That such an objective was consistent with the objective of maintaining peace and international security, in accordance with the EU’s external action objectives. Furthermore, with regard to the principle of proportionality, the importance of the objectives pursued had justified the possibility that, for certain operators, which were in no way responsible for the situation in Ukraine, the consequences may be negative, even significantly so. Consequently, interference with the Almaz-Antey’s freedom to conduct a business and the right to property could not be considered disproportionate in the circumstances.
Advocate General Sharpston has handed down a detailed opinion on the challenge by the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) and various entities said to be connected with IRISL, to the legal criteria for designation enacted by the EU in 2013.
The main issue was whether it was lawful for the EU to have introduced criteria permitting designation on the grounds of connection with IRISL after IRISL’s own listing had been annulled. The Advocate General considers that that criterion was unlawful, and that the General Court’s judgment on this point (see previous blog) should be overturned. She rejected all other grounds of appeal. The next step is the judgment of the Court of Justice.
The EU General Court has dismissed actions to annul the EU’s sanctions that relate to Russian banks and energy companies: DenizBank, Sberbank, VTB Bank, Vnesheconombank, PSC Prominvestbank, Rosneft, and Gazprom Neft. The Court held (in brief summary) that:
a. These measures (even though they are not the asset freeze provisions) are targeted sanctions to which the due process requirements (reasons etc) apply.
b. Those duties had been sufficiently complied with.
c. The measures were not incompatible with the EU-Russia Partnership Agreement or other trade agreements because they were justified by the EU’s security interests.
d. The measures were not an unjustified or disproportionate restriction on fundamental rights even though the operators they targeted had nothing to do with Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
The Court of Justice has rejected Bank Mellat’s appeal in its case seeking to challenge not the targeted asset freeze on it (on which it succeeded – see previous blog), but the wider restrictions on Iranian banks that had been imposed by EU sanctions pre-JCPOA. Judgment here. The ECJ has held that Bank Mellat had no continuing interest in the case because the JCPOA lifted the banking restrictions it was challenging (the court distinguished the Abdulrahim cases concerning targeted asset freeze challenges).
The lower court had held (see previous blog) some of the application inadmissible on jurisdictional grounds and rejected other parts on the grounds that the restrictions had a valid legal basis and were proportionate. We reported on Advocate General Mengozzi’s opinion in June this year (see previous blog).
We reported in September 2016 that the EU General Court had annulled the 2014 designation of Andriy Klyuyev (former Head of Administration of the President of Ukraine) under the EU’s sanctions relating to the misappropriation of Ukrainian state funds. However, the Court upheld his 2015 listing, as subsequently amended by the EU Council (see previous blog).
This week (11 July 2018), the same Court decided to uphold Mr Klyuyev’s 2016 listing but annulled his 2017 re-listing, see judgment: Klyuyev v Council T-240/16. The Court held that the information relied upon by the Council in maintaining Mr Klyuyev’s 2017 listing, as set out in letters from Ukraine’s Prosecutor General, had been “incomplete and tainted with inconsistencies”. Accordingly, when considered alongside the exculpatory evidence presented by Mr Klyuyev, the Council ought to have investigated further and sought clarification from the Ukrainian authorities. The Court held that the Council had therefore committed a manifest error of assessment in having considered that it was not required to take into account the evidence produced by Mr Klyuyev or to make further enquiries of the Ukrainian authorities.
In March 2018, Mr Klyuyev was re-listed until 6 March 2019 under Council Decision (CFSP) 2018/333. That 2018 re-listing, however, was not addressed in the present judgment. As a result, Mr Klyuyev continues to remain on the EU sanctions list (subject to an asset freeze).
We previously reported that the EU General Court annulled the original designation of HX (court had granted him anonymity), who had been subject to restrictive measures under the EU’s Syria sanctions for supporting and benefitting from the regime as a prominent businessman in the oil and gas sector – he denied that he supported or benefitted from the regime.
The Court has now upheld his 2016 and 2017 re-listings, see judgment: HX v Council T-408/16 (19 June 2018). HX was relisted for being an “influential businessman operating in Syria” who supported or benefitted from the Syrian regime, and for being a member of the Syrian Parliament. The Court rejected HX’s argument that the Council had breached its obligation to state reasons by equating being an influential businessman in Syria with support or benefit from the Syrian regime. The new listing criteria meant that being an “influential businessman operating in Syria” was sufficient.
The Court of Justice of the EU has dismissed Rami Makhlouf’s appeal against the General Court’s judgment which had dismissed his application to annul his EU Syria sanctions listing, finding no errors in the judgment below. Link to blog on lower court judgment here and appeal judgment here.