The Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) issued the first African sanctions under the United Kingdom’s new Global Human Rights regime. The three individuals concerned – Yahya Jammeh, Zineb Jammeh, and Yankuba Badjie – were designated on 10th December. All three are subject to an asset freeze and a travel ban.
Mr Jammeh – the former president of The Gambia – is accused of being responsible for “extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance” and other human rights violations during his rule between 1994 and 2016. Mrs Jammeh – the former first lady – is considered by OFSI to have been associated with her husband’s former regime and is accused of using a charitable foundation to “cover for the illicit transfer of funds” belonging to the couple. Badjie – the former director-general of the Gambia National Intelligence Agency (2013-2017) – is alleged to have been responsible for “extrajudicial killings, torture and other cruel inhuman and degrading treatment”.
On 10th December, to mark International Anti-Corruption Day and International Human Rights Day, the United States State Department placed sanctions on a number of individuals worldwide under its Global Magnitsky programme. One of the targets was Varney Sherman, a Liberian senator and chair of the senate’s judiciary committee. His assets have also been frozen by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
Sherman’s designation relates to allegations of corruption, including “the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery”. He is also accused of avoiding a conviction for bribery in 2019 due to a “conflict of interest” with the judge who presided over his case.
The US State Department took action against Ashraf al-Qizani, a Tunisian national who serves as the “emir” of Jund al-Khilafah in Tunisia; the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) local affiliate in the North African country. Having been designated as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist on 11th December, his assets were subsequently frozen by OFAC.
Al-Qizani has been the leader of the organisation since the demise of its former leader – Yunus Abu-Muslim – in 2019. According to the State Department, the group emerged in Tunisia in early 2014, before declaring its allegiance to ISIL later the same year. It is accused of being responsible for a number of attacks, including a knife attack which killed a National Guard officer in September 2020.
Separately, as part of its programme to designate violators of religious freedom, the State Department placed five African-based insurgent groups on its list of Entities of Particular Concern on 7th December. The groups – al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, Islamic State’s West Africa Province, and Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin – are affiliated with either ISIL or al-Qaida.
Three family members of the former Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi – his widow, Safia Farkash, his daughter, Ayesh Gaddafi, and his son, Muhammad Gaddafi – have been granted a humanitarian travel exemption by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The exemption, which was granted on 1st December, lasts until 31st May 2021.
All three have been under UN sanctions since 2011 due to their supposed closeness to the former ruler’s regime. During the exempted period, they are permitted to undertake “unlimited” travel for “humanitarian purposes”, so long as they notify the council’s committee on Libya.
Elsewhere, upon the UK’s exit from the European Union on 31st December, a number of listings were not carried over into OFSI’s new sanctions regime. This included two individuals – Abu Shaariya and Mohammed Boucharaya Farkash – who were previously designated under the Libyan regime but are now no longer subject to UK sanctions.
As part of its programme to designate violators of religious freedom, on 7th December the US State Department added Nigeria to its list of Countries of Particular Concern. Remarking on the designation, Sam Brownback – Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom – explained that the country found itself on the list for “tolerating egregious acts”. He also noted an increase in “religious-tinged violence taking place” in its territory and “the lack of adequate government response”.
Although the Religious Freedom Act requires presidential action in response to such a designation, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a waiver in Nigeria’s case, having determined that there are “important national interests” that override the need to issue sanctions on the matter. However, a White House statement added that the designation “calls out the Nigerian government’s inexcusable lack of action to end faith-based violence”.
On 3rd December, the European Court of Justice annulled EU sanctions against members of the family of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. The court ruled that in issuing the designations, the Council of the EU had relied on documents sent to it by the Egyptian authorities as its basis for the sanctions, without conducting its own verification into the allegations and whether the accused’s judicial rights had been observed.
The individuals – Hosni Mubarak, who died in February 2020, his widow, Suzanne Mubarak, his sons, Alaa and Gamal Mubarak, and his daughters-in-law, Heddy Rasekh and Khadiga El-Gammal – were initially sanctioned by the EU in 2011, having been deemed responsible for the misappropriation of Egyptian state funds. Their listings had previously been upheld by lower court rulings but are now expected to be delisted shortly.
Similarly, upon leaving the EU on 31st December, the UK did not carry over the EU’s misappropriation sanctions with regards to Egypt. Instead, OFSI has a new single Misappropriation of State Funds regime, which is now in force but does not have any designations. Consequently, at the time of writing, nine individuals associated with the former Mubarak regime are no longer subject to UK sanctions.
Sudan’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism was officially rescinded on 14th December. The process has now been completed, after President Donald Trump notified Congress in October 2020 of his intent to rescind formally the designation, following a period of improved relations with the transitional government in Khartoum.
Later in the month, the US also restored Sudan’s sovereign immunity after the passage of legislation in Congress on 21st December. The Sudan Claims Resolution Act follows its removal from the State Sponsor of Terrorism List. As part of the legislation, those with existing claims against Sudan for its alleged role in the September 11th terrorist attacks will still be able to pursue their litigation in US courts.
On 7th December, the State Department removed Sudan from its Special Watch List regarding violations of religious freedom, noting “significant, concrete progress” made by the government on the matter in the last year. In particular, the recent repealing of Sudan’s apostasy law was cited as one such measure that contributed to the decision.
Elsewhere, on 1st December, OFSI corrected the listings of four entries pursuant to its Sudan sanctions regime.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
On 11th December, the Council of the EU extended its sanctions regime on the DRC until 12th December 2021. The 11 individuals on the list remain subjected to an asset freeze and a travel ban. Since the sanctions were last renewed in December 2019, one entry has not been carried over.
The delisted individual is Delphin Kahimbi – the Congolese army’s head of intelligence – who was found dead at his home in Kinshasa in February 2020. On 14th December, OFSI updated the listings of the above 11 sanctioned persons and also removed Kahimbi’s designation.
Later in the month, on 18th December, OFSI also amended the listings of four individuals on its DRC sanctions list. On the same day, both OFSI and the EU amended the listing of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo to reflect amendments made by the UNSC in November 2020.
Elsewhere, President Trump reinstated the DRC’s eligibility for trade preferences under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The decision reflects steps taken by President Félix Tshisekedi’s government to meet the AGOA’s eligibility criteria. President Barack Obama had terminated the DRC’s status as a beneficiary sub-Saharan African country in December 2010.
Upon the UK’s exit from the EU on 31st December, the designations of eight individuals under the Guinea-Bissau sanctions list did not carry over into OFSI’s new regime. Consequently, Lassana Camara, Agostinho Sousa Cordeiro, Tomas Djassi, Samuel Fernandes, Julio Na Man, Bio Na Tchongo, Saya Braia Na Nhapka, and Paulo Sunsai are no longer subject to UK sanctions.
In addition, seven individuals from the Guinea-Bissau list – Ibrahima Camara, Cranha Danfa, Idrissa Djalo, Tchipa Na Bidon, Tcham Na Man, Estevao Na Mena, and Julio Nhate – are no longer subject to an asset freeze but remain listed with a travel ban.
After leaving the EU on 31st December, the UK did not carry over the EU’s misappropriation sanctions with regards to Tunisia. Instead, OFSI has a new single Misappropriation of State Funds regime, which is now in force but does not have any designations. Consequently, at the time of writing, 47 individuals associated with the former regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali are no longer subject to UK sanctions.
Upon the UK’s exit from the EU on 31st December, the designations of four individuals under the Burundi sanctions list did not carry over into OFSI’s new regime. Consequently, Godefroid Bizimana, Mathias-Joseph Niyonzima, Leonard Ngendakumana, and Gervais Ndirakobuca are no longer subject to UK sanctions.
On 23rd December, the Council of the EU extended the mandate of its naval mission off the coast of Somalia – Operation ATALANTA – until 31st December 2022. While the operation’s primary objective is to assist in maritime security in the region, its mandate has been expanded to implement the UN arms embargo on Somalia by countering trafficking of weapons and narcotic drugs in the area.
Operation ATALANTA was launched by the EU in December 2008 to improve maritime security off the coast of the Horn of Africa. The embargo that it will now help enforce was first imposed by the UNSC in January 1992. Meanwhile, the UNSC renewed its authorisation for state and regional organisations to fight piracy off the Somali coast by a year.
Elsewhere, OFSI amended the listings of four individuals on its Somalia sanctions list.
Global Human Rights
Ahead of Human Rights Day, the EU established a designated Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime on 7th December, which will target individuals and entities responsible for or involved in “serious human rights violations or abuses”. Restrictive measures under the new regime may include travel bans, freezing of funds, or forbidding individuals and entities in the EU from making funds available to sanctioned parties.
It follows an almost identical action by the UK in July 2020, which established its own Global Human Rights regime to compliment the pre-existing Global Magnitsky regime used by the US. No designations have yet been made to the new EU programme, but it is expected that African nationals may be added to the list in due course.
In the US, on 16th December President Trump continued the national emergency with respect to serious human rights abuse and corruption by an additional 12 months. The national emergency was first declared by Trump’s administration in December 2017, which allowed sanctions to be implemented pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. It is from this act that the Global Magnitsky sanctions regime derives its name.
As part of its action against violators of religious freedom, the US State Department retained Eritrea on its list of Countries of Particular Concern on 7th December.
Similarly, the US State Department retained Comoros on its Special Watch List for “governments that have engaged in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom”.
On 18th December, OFSI amended the listings of four individuals on its South Sudan sanctions list.