Sanctions Top-5 for the week ending 6 November 2020
- The European Union joined the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom in imposing a travel ban and asset freeze on Belarusian President Alexandr Lukashenko. In addition to Lukashenko, the EU sanctioned 14 other officials, including Lukashenko’s son, Viktor, who is also his father’s national security advisor. The sanctions follow a hotly disputed presidential election in August 2020.
- The US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) named Gibran Bassil, a prominent Lebanese politician, as a Specially Designated National (SDN) under the Global Magnitsky Sanctions program (Executive Order 13818). According to a US Treasury Department news release, Bassil has engaged in significant corruption as a government official.
- Germany’s ambassador to the United Nations delivered a statement on behalf of 74 states parties to the Rome Statute in support of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and opposing “[a]ny attempt to undermine the independence of the Court.” Meanwhile, several UN General Assembly members voiced their opposition to US sanctions targeting the ICC in conjunction with the ICC’s delivery of its annual report to the United Nations last week.
- The US State Department dropped its designation of the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) as a terrorist organization under Section 212(a)(3)(B)(vi)(II) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The State Department designated ETIM under Section 212 in 2004. The group, which seeks an independent state in China’s Xinjiang Province, is still sanctioned by OFAC under Executive Order 13224 and by the UN Security Council under Resolution 1390 (2002). A spokesperson for the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused the State Department of “whitewashing terrorist organizations.”
- UK Finance published its “UK Sanctions Statutory Instruments Review” giving a deep-dive on the UK’s legal framework for post-Brexit sanctions. Reports on the UK’s individual sanctions programs can be found here. Thanks to Neil Whiley, UK Finance’s Director of Sanctions, for the heads up. (For more on post-Brexit UK sanctions, see this blog post from my colleagues at Steptoe & Johnson.)
Well, it’s settled (almost). What will a Biden administration mean for US sanctions and export controls? The Washington Post is reporting that the president-elect intends to issue a “flurry of executive orders” to undo some Trump-era policies. No mention of sanctions in the article. Personally, I doubt we’ll see any immediate changes, although the consensus among prognosticators is that Biden will take a multilateral and more predictable approach to foreign affairs than his soon-to-be predecessor. One thing does seem certain: after the vote in Florida, the Cuba and Venezuela sanctions aren’t going anywhere soon.
A lot can happen between now and Inauguration Day on 20 January 2021. Expect the Trump administration to try to lock in some of its favorite sanctions and export controls changes. Speaking of, the State Department just announced sanctions against another four PRC and Hong Kong government officials under the Hong Kong-related sanctions program (Executive Order 13936). Meanwhile, The Financial Times reported that Hong Kong regulators are signaling that financial institutions will not face retaliation for complying with US sanctions. (Sound familiar?) More on this next week.
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(The views expressed are my own and do not constitute legal advice. Photo from Vladislav Reshetnyak.)