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.

Canada sanctions 27 top Syrian officials

Canada has sanctioned 27 of Syria’s top government officials, in an effort to increase pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to end the violence against civilians in his country. The new sanctions, which follow a lethal chemical weapons attack on civilians in Syria’s Idlib province earlier this month, impose an asset freeze on the 27 officials and prohibit people and entities from dealing with them. The Canadian government’s press release is here.

G7 rejects UK’s call for new sanctions on Russia and Syria

G7 foreign ministers have rejected UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s call for sanctions on Syrian and Russian military figures responsible for coordinating Syrian military efforts (see previous blog). Italian foreign minister Angelino Alfano said that there was no consensus for imposing the new sanctions, and the group concluded that an investigation into the attack was necessary before taking any such action.

US to introduce new sanctions on Syria

At the end of last week, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that the US will impose new sanctions on the Syrian government, aimed at preventing its use of chemical weapons.  Mnuchin said that the administration viewed sanctions as “a very important tool”, and that the new sanctions would be introduced in the “near future”. G7 foreign ministers are currently meeting in Italy, where they will discuss imposing new sanctions on Syrian and Russian military officers (see previous blog).

EU annuls listing of Alkarim on Syria sanctions

The General Court of the EU has annulled a listing of Alkarim for Trade and Industry LLC, a Syrian firm involved in trading lubricants and base oils, from the EU’s sanctions on Syria.  Alkarim remains listed for reasons given in subsequent listings that it did not challenge.

The challenged reasons for Alkarim’s listing were “Parent company of Pangates with operational control of it. As such it is providing support to and benefiting from the Syrian regime. It is also associated with listed Syrian oil company Sytrol”. See Case T-35/15 Alkarim for Trade and Industry LLC v Council [2017]. The Council said these reasons showed that Alkarim benefited from and supported the regime, and was associated with a listed entity, Sytrol.

The Court found that the Council had not provided sufficient evidence to support its assertions that Alkarim was the parent company of Pangates, a listed firm, and that it was associated with Sytrol, or that it was associated with the Syrian regime. The judgment contains comments about the circumstances in which applicants can rely on evidence submitted late. The Council was ordered to pay Alkarim’s costs.

Syrian sanctions on George Haswani annulled

The General Court of the EU has just annulled targeted sanctions on George Haswani, because the evidence the EU Council relied on in court did not provide any support for the reasons it had given for including him in the EU’s targeted sanctions on Syria – Case T-231/15 Haswani v Council [2017].  Mr Haswani was included for being an “important Syrian businessman”, co-owner of an engineering and construction company that has ties with the Syrian regime, for being an intermediary with the regime in oil contracts, and enjoying favourable treatment from the regime through Stoytransgaz, a Russian oil company.  The Court, after a detailed analysis of all the evidence put forward by the Council, concluded that the evidence it relied on was vague and general and did not substantiate the reasons given for his inclusion.

The Court rejected Mr Haswani’s claim for damages resulting from his unlawful EU listing because he had not demonstrated that the losses he claimed were caused by the imposition of EU sanctions. The Court also rejected his challenge to subsequent amended sanctions relating to him because he had not properly amended his pleadings to challenge those measures.

EU adds 4 military officials to Syria sanctions

The EU Council has decided to impose an asset freeze and travel ban on 4 high-ranking Syrian military officials, who allegedly played a role in the use of chemical weapons against the civilian population in Syria.  The additions bring the total number of people listed on the sanctions to 239, in addition to 67 entities. See Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/480 implementing Regulation 36/2012 and Implementing Decision 2017/485 implementing Decision 2013/255/CFSP.

Russia & China veto new UN sanctions on Syria

un-security-council-1Russia and China have vetoed a draft UN resolution put forward by the US, UK, and France that would have prohibited the sale of helicopters to Syria and sanctioned 11 Syrian commanders or officials and 10 entities linked to chemical weapon attacks in the country (see previous blog). Russian President Vladimir Putin described the draft resolution as “totally inappropriate”, and China said that while it opposed the use of chemical weapons it was too early to act as the international investigation into the attacks was ongoing. It is the 7th time Russia has vetoed a UN resolution on Syria, and the 6th time for China.