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ES Sanctions Developments Monthly Round-Up

  • United Kingdom
  • Fraud and financial crime
  • Litigation and dispute management
  • Sanctions


Potential sanctions against Russia

There is a possibility that Russia will take military action in Ukraine. The situation is escalating rapidly resulting in co-ordination across the EU, the UK, Canada and the US with regards to the potential implementation of further extensive sanctions on Russia. Contingency and business continuity planning for such an eventuality should therefore be taking place now.

Eversheds Sutherland has published a detailed briefing note on the potential scope of any further sanctions and related issues which can be accessed here.

EU Parliament calls for sanctions regime targeting disinformation

Following an inquiry, the EU Parliament’s Special Committee on Foreign Interference has concluded that the EU is vulnerable to disinformation, as well as foreign interference. In light of this conclusion, it has issued a recommendation for the establishment of an EU sanctions regime to target disinformation and foreign interference campaigns. The Committee’s report determined that Member States and their officials are “overwhelmingly” unaware of the threat a number of foreign regimes pose to democracies across the Union. Other recommendations issued by the Committee include a ban on foreign funding of European political parties, support for pluralistic media and fact-checking organisations, and the designation of surveillance software such as Pegasus as illegal.

The Committee’s conclusions and recommendation are representative of a growing trend, namely the growth of sanctions regimes that are thematic in nature, targeting issues such as human rights abuse, disinformation and corruption. In September 2018, the US established a sanctions regime designed to target foreign interference in elections, along with those who order, fund or participate in it, as well as a requirement for a number of US intelligence agencies to report on the extent of foreign interference (if any) following every US election.

The EU Committee’s proposals are expected to be voted on in March of this year.

The European Parliament’s press release on the Committee’s recommendation can be found here.

Humanitarian exemptions to Afghanistan sanctions adopted

The EU has amended its Afghanistan sanctions regulations to include a new humanitarian exemption. Council Regulation (EU) 2022/148 and Council Decision (CFSP) 2022/153 disapply asset freezes where making funds available and processing them is “necessary to ensure the timely delivery of humanitarian assistance and other activities that support basic human needs in Afghanistan or to support such activities”. The Regulation and the Decision can be viewed here and here.

The UK has adopted a similar humanitarian exemption to the same effect. The exemption can be viewed here. The exemption forms a wider part of the UK government’s strategy to uphold its diplomatic obligations in Afghanistan, whilst simultaneously not disrupting legitimate humanitarian action.

The exemptions follow a UN Security Council resolution which was adopted unanimously in December 2021, which establishes an exemption for humanitarian assistance, as well as other activities in Afghanistan. The Resolution can be viewed here.

Iran imposes counter-terrorism sanctions on 51 US nationals

The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has designated 51 US citizens in response to the alleged role they played in the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani in 2020, as well as alleged human rights abuses. National security advisors to the US government, former and current CIA officials, private business owners and US military officials are among those who have been newly designated by Iran.

Whilst the list of those sanctioned by Iran includes US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, as well as a number of Pentagon officials, the sanctions imposed are widely believed to have no practical effect. This is due to the fact that the sanctioned US individuals are not believed to hold any assets capable of being seized by the Iranian authorities.

Iran has also called on the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council to take formal action against the US, stating that those responsible for Soleimani’s death must be tried in a “fair court.”

UN calls for contributions to sanctions reports

The UN Special Rapporteur “on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights” has invited submissions for two reports that will be presented to the UN’s General Assembly and Human Rights Council.

The first report relates to secondary sanctions, as well as the current penalties for circumventing sanctions regimes, and so-called “over-compliance” with sanctions. The second report relates to unilateral sanctions and cyber.

The call for contributions follows the Special Rapporteur’s call for a detailed assessment of the global humanitarian impact of sanctions. The UN itself has also expressed concern about a number of factors that are expected to be addressed in the two reports. These include the “dubious legality under international law” of unilateral sanctions, the extraterritorial application of unilateral sanctions, as well as the growing role cyber activities play in the enforcement of unilateral sanctions.

The UN has also published more detailed calls for contributions to the reports aimed at arbitration and compliance bodies, businesses, intergovernmental organisations, non-governmental organisations, banks and banking agencies. It is particularly keen to receive contributions that articulate the concerns of stakeholders in these industries, with particular regards to the impact over-compliance with sanctions (and unilateral sanctions) have on their ability to carry on certain activities in their sectors.

The call for contributions has been published here. The deadline for contributions is 15 March 2022.