Pursuant to section 231(a) of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), the US administration has until 29 January 2018 to detail a list of people for sanctions that have knowingly engaged in a “significant transaction” with a person that is part of, or operates for or on behalf of, the defence or intelligence sectors of the Russian Government.
In late October 2017, the US issued guidance under section 231(d) of CAATSA, naming 39 Russian entities that fit into that category of being part of, or operating for or on behalf of, the defence and intelligence sectors of the Russian Government. The guidance itself does not impose sanctions on the specified entities (see previous blog here).
Yesterday, the US and Canada co-hosted the Vancouver Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Security and Stability on the Korean Peninsula. Twenty nations (including the co-hosting nations, the UK, France, Japan, India and South Korea – full list here) pledged to the “full and effective implementation of existing [UN] sanctions on North Korea”. Furthermore, they collectively agreed “to consider and take steps to impose unilateral sanctions and further diplomatic actions that go beyond those required by UN Security Council resolutions”. Summary of meeting here. Remarks from the Foreign Ministers of the US, UK, Canada, Japan and South Korea here.
Despite being permanent members of the UN Security Council, China and Russia did not participate in the meeting.
President Trump has agreed to waive sanctions lifted by the USA (for the second time) as part of the JCPOA. His statement is here. These sanctions must be waived every 120 days to keep the sanctions from coming back into force under that agreement. The President said it would be the last time he issues such a waiver unless there is an agreement with “the Europeans” to “fix the deal’s disastrous flaws… This is a last chance… if at any time I judge that such an agreement is not within reach, I will withdraw from the deal immediately”. He is also seeking to amend the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, and to agree new “triggers” with the EU for sanctions to snap back.
The US Treasury Department also imposed new sanctions on 14 Iranian people and entities said to have committed human rights abuses or supported Iran’s ballistic missile programmes (outside the scope of the JCPOA). These include Sadeq Larijani, head of Iran’s judiciary. OFAC Notice here, and US Treasury press release here.
On 9 January 2018, the Iran Human Rights and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act was introduced to the US House of Representatives. The Bill makes provision for the imposition of sanctions (asset freezes and visa restrictions) against Iranian officials (including family members) responsible for politically-motivated intimidation, abuse, extortion, detention or trial of US citizens (as well as Iranian expatriates). The Bill also requires the President to submit a report, detailing a list of Iranian officials who should be sanctioned for human rights abuses and/or corruption. Bill summary here.
On the same day, the House of Representatives also passed a Resolution urging “the [US] Administration to use targeted sanctions and work to convene emergency sessions of the United Nations Security Council and the United Nations Human Rights Council to condemn the ongoing human rights violations perpetrated by the Iranian regime”.
President Trump has until 13 January 2018 to decide whether to certify Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA (the Iran nuclear agreement) and whether to waive sanctions on Iran. The President must determine those issues every 90 and 120 days, respectively. The US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, stated last week that, in the event waivers are extended, more non-nuclear US sanctions would be coming; he cited the recent OFAC designations in respect of Iran’s ballistic missile programme as an example (see previous blog here). The UK government has re-indicated its support for the JCPOA.
On the previous JCPOA certification date (13 October 2017), President Trump refused to certify the accord on the basis that Iran had violated the “spirit” of the deal (see previous blog here). As a result, it fell to the US Congress to decide (within 60 days) whether it would pass new legislation to address the President’s concerns over the nuclear deal, or to reimpose sanctions against Iran. Congress did not take any action (see previous blog here). President Trump had previously certified the nuclear deal in April and July 2017, and continued to waiver sanctions on Iran in September 2017.
Israel has published a blacklist of 20 international organisations (primarily European and American) for supporting a boycott campaign against the country (for giving support to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement). As a result of the blacklisting, members of the 20 groups will be denied entry visas and residency rights within the state of Israel from March 2018.
The European organisations blacklisted: France-Palestine Solidarity Association; BDS France; BDS Italy; the European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine; Friends of Al-Aqsa; Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign; the Palestine Committee of Norway; Palestine Solidarity Association of Sweden; Palestine Solidarity Campaign; War on Want; and BDS Kampagne.
The American organisations blacklisted: American Friends Service Committee; American Muslims for Palestine; Code Pink; Jewish Voice for Peace; National Students for Justice in Palestine; and US Campaign for Palestinian Rights.
Other groups blacklisted: BDS Chile; BDS South Africa; and BDS National Committee.
Acting pursuant to Executive Order 13692, OFAC has designated four current or former Venezuelan government officials for being “associated with corruption and repression in Venezuela” (asset freezes imposed).
The four individuals are: Rodolfo Clemente Marco Torres (Governor of Aragua State); Francisco Jose Rangel Gomez (Former Governor of Bolivar State); Fabio Enrique Zavarse Pabon (Commander of the Capital Integral Defense Operational Zone of the National Armed Forces); and Gerardo Jose Izquierdo Torres (State Minister for the New Border of Peace). Links here for the OFAC Notice and the US Treasury press release.
Under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, the US Secretary of State annually designates governments that have engaged in or tolerated violations of religious freedom as ‘Countries of Particular Concern’. Yesterday, it was announced that the US Secretary of State had re-designated Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan as ‘Countries of Particular Concern’ on 22 December 2017. Pakistan was also placed on a ‘Special Watch List’ for “severe violations of religious freedom”.
Designated governments face potential sanctions under section 405 of the Act, including an order prohibiting US agencies from issuing specific licences to them under various US statutes (e.g. the Export Administration Act of 1979, the Arms Export Control Act, or the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, etc).