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

According to public statements of high-ranking representatives, the EU is considering whether to impose new economic sanctions against Turkey. The measures discussed include targeting certain Turkish industry sectors, such as the energy industry.

On November 11, 2019 the Council of the EU  adopted a sanctions framework set forth in Council Regulation 2019/1890 and Council Decision 2019/1894, and subsequently designated two executives of the Turkish oil company TPAO on February 27, 2020, in response to Turkish hydrocarbon drilling activities in what the EU views as Cypriot territorial waters. The sanctions that are currently in place consist of a travel ban to the EU, an asset freeze for persons and entities, as well as a prohibition to satisfy claims for their benefit. In addition, EU persons and entities are forbidden from making funds and economic resources available to those listed.


Continue Reading EU Mulls New Economic Sanctions Against Turkey

Following a joint request from several EU national competent authorities (“NCAs”), the European Commission issued an opinion on asset freeze measures imposed on non-EU entities that are controlled by designated persons targeted by EU Council Regulation No 269/2014. The Regulation concerns restrictive measures in respect of actions undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine (“the Regulation”). In its opinion, the Commission takes position on the interpretation of article 2 of the Regulation, which requires EU operators to freeze all funds and economic resources belonging to, owned, held or controlled by persons designated in Annex I to the Regulation. EU operators are also prohibited from making funds or economic resources available, directly or indirectly, to these designated persons. The guidance provided by the Commission is of particular relevance to credit and financial institutions that may be required to comply with EU asset freeze measures.

The NCAs asked the Commission a number of questions in connection with the interpretation of paragraph 63 of the EU Best Practices Guidance, which sets out the criteria to be taken into account when assessing whether a legal person or entity is controlled by another person or entity. The EU Best Practices are non-binding recommendations which aim to promote the uniform implementation of EU sanctions.


Continue Reading European Commission Provides Guidance on the Scope of the Asset Freeze under the EU’s Ukraine-Related Sanctions

The European Commission has published a Guidance Note on how humanitarian aid related to COVID-19 can be provided to countries and areas that are subject to EU sanctions. The Note provides practical help, in the form of questions and answers (Q&As), on how to comply with EU sanctions when providing humanitarian aid, such as medical assistance and supplies, to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The first version of the Guidance Note covers Syria. The Commission will update it with further information on other countries subject to EU sanctions, including Yemen, Somalia and North Korea.

EU sanctions targeting Syria are set out in Council Regulation (EU) No 36/2012 – as periodically amended – and consist of a number of sectoral restrictions, such as a prohibition on exporting goods or technology which might be used for internal repression, including chemicals used in chemical attacks, and a prohibition on the local purchase and import of petroleum products. The EU framework provides for a number of exceptions, notably for humanitarian purposes. It also includes individual designations entailing notably the freezing of funds or economic resources of certain persons, entities and bodies (“designated persons”).


Continue Reading European Commission publishes Guidance on the provision of humanitarian aid to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in countries subject to EU sanctions

The department responsible for overseeing EU sanctions policy has been relocated, following a decision by the new European Commission (EC) team led by President Ursula von der Leyen. The supervision of the preparation and implementation of EU sanctions— until now carried out by the Foreign Policy Instrument (FPI), a small EC service integrated within the external action structure of the EU—has been moved to the Directorate General in charge of financial services. This institutional change, which might seem relatively insignificant at first sight, could announce a more assertive European sanctions policy for the years to come and help reduce discrepancies in sanctions implementation at the Member State level.
Continue Reading Institutional Changes May Signal a More Assertive EU Sanctions Policy

On January 14, Germany, France and the UK initiated the dispute resolution mechanism in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) based on Iran’s decision to pull away from its obligations under the agreement. While the European participants see the dispute resolution mechanism as a way to keep the JCPOA alive, triggering the mechanism also serves as the first of several steps that must be taken before UN and EU sanctions could potentially be reimposed. Though the reimposition of sanctions is far from inevitable, it is important to understand the functioning of the dispute resolution mechanism in order to anticipate the timeline of any possible future developments.
Continue Reading Germany, France and the UK begin the JCPOA’s Dispute Resolution Mechanism Process – A Gateway for the Reimposition of UN and EU sanctions?

The European Commission recently published a non-binding Guidance with recommendations on internal compliance programs for dual-use trade controls under the EU Dual-Use Regulation. The Guidance aims to provide a framework to help exporters identify, manage and mitigate risks associated with dual-use trade controls and to ensure compliance with the relevant EU and national laws and