French inquiry into LafargeHolcim’s Syria activities

A judicial inquiry into LafargeHolcim, a Swiss-French cement company, has been opened in France on the basis of suspicions that it entered into transactions with sanctioned groups to keep one of its plants operating in Syria. Lafarge is alleged to have made payments, via intermediaries, to armed groups in return for its operations being left alone and for the release of kidnapped employees.

EU renews Syria sanctions for 1 year

The EU has renewed its sanctions on Syria for another year, until 1 June 2018.  The sanctions impose asset freezes and travel bans against people supporting or associated with the Syrian regime or oppression in the country.  In addition, the entries for several listed people and entities have been amended.

See Council Implementing Regulation 2017/907 implementing Council Regulation 36/2012 and Council Decision 2017/917 amending Council Decision 2013/255/CFSP.

EU Court rejects Syria annulment application by Rami Makhlouf

The General Court of the EU has dismissed the annulment application brought by Rami Makhlouf, a cousin of President Assad, in respect of his listing on the EU’s sanctions against Syria. He is listed for being a member of the Makhlouf family, having close ties to and supporting the Assad regime, and being an influential businessman in Syria.  See Case T-410/16 Makhlouf v Council [2017]. His case failed because the EU’s Syria sanctions now include influential businessmen in Syria and members of the Assad or Makhlouf families as criteria on the basis of which the EU can include people for designation.

The EU’s current Syria sanctions (including the listing criteria) and all judgments of this kind in the European Court are on this blog here.

US additions to Syria sanctions list

The US has sanctioned 5 people and 5 entities based in Syria for their connections with the Syrian government.  Among the new designations are a cousin of President Assad and people associated with the Scientific Studies and Research Centre, the Syrian government agency said to be responsible for developing and producing non-conventional weapons. A list of the new designations is here.

EU Court annuls 2 Syrian sanctions listings

The General Court of the EU has just annulled the sanctions listings of Ahmad Barqawi and Mouhamad Abdulkarim from the EU’s sanctions on Syria – Cases T-303/15 Barqawi and T-304/15 Abdulkarim.  Mr Barqawi was listed for supporting and benefitting from the Syrian regime in his capacity as Managing Director of listed entity Pangates, and director of its parent company Al Karim Group. Mr Abdulkarim was included as Executive Director of Pangates International and for his position in the Al Karim Group. Al Karim group’s sanctions listing was annulled by the General Court last month (see previous blog).

As in the case of Al Karim, the Court found that the news articles and US government press releases cited by the Council contained insufficient evidence to establish a connection between Pangates and the Syrian government. Therefore, the applicants’ management positions in Pangates and Al Karim, which was listed solely on the basis that it was the parent company of Pangates and whose listing was previously annulled by the Court, could not justify their inclusion on the EU’s sanctions against Syria.  The Court also found that the applicants could not rely on the fact that Pangates had subsequently gone into liquidation, because the relevant facts were those at the time they were listed.

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.