On June 21, 2021, the United States, the EU, the UK, and Canada announced coordinated sanctions following the forced and unlawful landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk and the detention by Belarusian authorities of journalist Raman Pratasevich and Sofia Sapega, in May 2021. The sanctions include new EU sectoral-style sanctions against certain sectors of the Belarusian economy, as well as targeted financial sanctions against dozens of individuals and entities in connection with alleged human rights violations and the violent repression of civil society, democratic opposition, and journalists in Belarus.

The new sanctions follow the reactivation, on June 3, 2021, of longstanding sanctions against nine Belarussian companies and their subsidiaries by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), as discussed in our April 20, 2021 blog post.


Continue Reading Belarus Faces New EU, US, UK, and Canadian Sanctions After Ryanair Flight Diverted

The European Commission recently issued three Opinions on the interpretation of specific provisions in different EU sanctions frameworks. They cover the notion “making available”, changes to the features of frozen funds as well as the release of frozen funds.

Continue Reading European Commission Issues Guidance on the Application of Specific EU Financial Sanctions Provisions

Advocate General of the Court of Justice Gerard Hogan rendered an Opinion in the first case before the Court of Justice of the European Union on the interpretation of the EU Blocking Statute. The case concerns Iranian bank Bank Melli Iran, which has a branch in Hamburg (Germany), and which claims before the German Courts that the notice of ordinary termination given by Telekom Deutschland with respect to their contracts for telecommunication services was motivated solely by Telekom Deutschland’s desire to comply with US sanctions legislation. Bank Melli Iran maintains that Telekom Deutschland violated the EU Blocking Statute, which prohibits EU undertakings (entities engaged in an economic activity, regardless of their legal form or the way in which they are financed) from complying with such extraterritorial US measures.

In its opinion, Advocate General Hogan finds that:

  1. The general prohibition contained in the EU Blocking Statute (which is directed against compliance with certain third country legislation providing for secondary sanctions) applies even in the event that such an undertaking complies with that legislation without first having been compelled by a foreign administrative or judicial agency to do so.
  2. An EU undertaking seeking to terminate an otherwise valid contract with an Iranian entity subject to the US sanctions must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the national court that it did not do so by reason of its desire to comply with those sanctions.


Continue Reading Advocate General Hogan Issues Opinion on Interpretation of EU Blocking Statute against Extraterritorial US Sanctions

The Council of the European Union (the Council) on May 17, 2021 agreed to prolong, for the second time, the sanctions framework concerning restrictive measures against cyber-attacks threatening the European Union (EU) or its Member States for another year, until May 18, 2022. The Council’s press release is available here.

Cyber sanctions are part of the EU cyber diplomacy toolbox and seek to prevent, discourage and respond to malicious cyber-attacks that have a significant impact on the EU. This framework was adopted in May 2019 under Council Decision (CFSP) 2019/797 and Council Regulation (EU) 2019/796, and is reviewed by the Council on a yearly basis. It allows the EU to sanction persons and entities deemed to be involved in major cyber-attacks threatening the EU or its Member States by imposing asset freezes or travel bans against those listed in the Council’s legal acts. The EU can also target those involved in attempted cyber-attacks with a potentially significant effect.


Continue Reading The EU Keeps Its Ability to Sanction Cyber Attackers for One More Year

On April 21, 2021, the EU General Court rendered a judgement on an appeal against the retention of Aisha Qaddafi, the daughter of the late Colonel Muammar Qaddafi, on EU sanctions lists. The judgment confirms the case law according to which the EU Council may, in certain cases, have to produce additional proof to justify the listing of a person, even where this person has been previously designated in a Resolution of the UN Security Council.

Aisha Qaddafi was first listed by the EU in March 2011, shortly after her designation by the UN Security Council. Since then, the EU sanctions lists have been updated several times without any amendments to the listing of Ms. Qaddafi. The contested acts by which the listing of Ms. Qaddafi was maintained and which were adopted in 2017 and 2020, did not mention any new factors other those which had been put forward for the initial listing of her name in 2011. The stated reason for listing her under EU sanctions was the simple fact that she had been designated by the UN Security Council in 2011.


Continue Reading EU General Court lifts sanctions against daughter of Muammar Qaddafi

On April 19, 2021, the EU Council added two companies controlled by the Tatmadaw (Myanmar Armed Forces) as well as 10 individuals to its Myanmar sanctions list (see Council Decision (CFSP) 2021/639 and Council Regulation 2021/638). The EU Council designated these entities and individuals by relying on the extended designation criteria established by Council Decision (CFSP) 2021/482 and Council Regulation 2021/479 on March 22, 2021, which provide for the possibility to impose restrictive measures against those involved in activities undermining democracy and the rule of law in Myanmar, as well as against the economic interests of the Tatmadaw. The EU Council had already adopted sanctions against eleven individuals on March 22, 2021 (see our previous client alert).

The new listings include:

  • Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company Limited (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation Limited (MEC) as they are owned and controlled by the Tatmadaw and generate revenue for the Tatmadaw.
  • U Chit Naing, Minister for Information and Chairman of the State Administrative Council. He is deemed responsible for junta propaganda and spreading disinformation through state media, as well as for decisions that led to the crackdown on Myanmar media.
  • Nine members of the State Administrative Council, that are considered to undermine democracy and the rule of law, and responsible for serious human rights violations. These include Mahn Nyein Maung; Thein Nyunt; Khin Maung Swe; Jeng Phang Naw Htaung; Maung Ha; Sai Long Hseng; Saw Daniel; Dr Banyar Aung Moe; and Aye Nu Sein (also Vice-chair of the Arakan National Party).


Continue Reading EU Imposes Additional Sanctions against Two Military-Controlled Companies and 10 Individuals in Relation to the Military Coup in Myanmar

On March 22, 2021, the EU, UK, US and Canada announced a range of coordinated sanctions to crack down on alleged serious human rights abuses in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).  The coordinated announcements comprised measures of various types, including asset freezes and travel bans against individuals and entities alleged to be involved in serious human rights violations against Uyghurs and other minority groups in the XUAR.  The measures elicited the swift imposition of retaliatory sanctions by China against a group of EU individuals and institutions.

Continue Reading EU, UK, US and Canada Announce Coordinated Xinjiang Sanctions

Following the adoption of the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime, which is set out in Council Regulation (EU) 2020/1998 and Council Decision (CFSP) 2020/1999 (see our previous client alert), the European Commission published a Guidance Note on the implementation of certain provisions under Council Regulation (EU) 2020/1998. The stated aim of the Guidance Note is to address the questions most likely to arise in the application of the new restrictions and to ensure their uniform implementation by EU operators and EU Member States competent authorities. Upon its issuance, Mairead McGuinness, European Commissioner for Financial Services, Financial Stability and Capital Markets Union, explained that this was the first time that a new EU sanctions framework is accompanied by such Note.

The Guidance Note provides guidance on the scope of financial restrictions, including the freezing of funds and economic resources and the prohibition to make funds and economic resources available to sanctioned persons, entities and organizations. It also addresses compliance obligations and specific notions, such as “ownership” and “control” of entities by listed persons. Further, the Guidance contains information on exceptions and derogations, including for the provision of humanitarian aid.


Continue Reading European Commission issues Guidance Note on the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime

On December 7, 2020 the Council of the EU adopted a Decision and a Regulation establishing a EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime. Similar to the US Magnitsky Act, the framework will enable the EU to target individuals, entities and bodies responsible for, involved in or associated with serious human rights violations and abuses worldwide, regardless of where they occurred.

The new sanctions regime makes it possible to act against human rights violations through the freezing of funds and economic resources of sanctioned persons, entities and organizations. Additionally, it will be prohibited to make funds and economic resources available to those listed. Sanctioned individuals will also be prohibited from traveling to the EU.

The EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime covers a wide range of human rights violations including, genocide; crimes against humanity; torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; slavery; extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and killings; enforced disappearance of persons; as well as arbitrary arrests or detentions. It also covers other violations or abuses, if they are widespread, systematic or otherwise of serious concern when measured against the objectives of the EU common foreign and security policy. Such other violations or abuses include, trafficking in human beings, as well as abuses of human rights by migrant smugglers; sexual and gender-based violence; violations or abuses of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; and violations or abuses of freedom of opinion and expression or religion or belief.


Continue Reading EU adopts Magnitsky-style sanctions framework against human rights violations

On October 19 the European Commission and the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy put forward a Joint Proposal for a Council Regulation concerning implementation of sanctions against serious human rights violations and abuses worldwide. The Joint Proposal for a Council Regulation together with the Council Decision proposed by High Representative Josep Borrell will, once adopted by the Council, establish the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime.

Similar to the 2012 Magnitsky Act in the US, the new sanctions regime will provide the EU with greater flexibility to target those responsible for serious human rights violations and abuses, regardless of where they occur or who is responsible. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen recently explained that there is a need for such framework in view of the EU’s recent difficulties to impose sanctions on Belarus, Turkey or Russia.

The drafts of the proposed sanctions regime are not yet available. However, the new framework is expected to provide for measures such as asset freezes and travel bans. On the latter, the Joint Proposal would also give, for the first time, the Commission oversight on the implementation of the travel bans. The new framework will not replace existing EU geographic sanctions regimes, some of which already address human rights violations and abuse. It should also be noted that some EU Member States, including Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, have already adopted restrictive measures, such as travel bans, targeting individuals involved in human rights violations.


Continue Reading European Commission proposes Magnitsky-style sanctions framework