Sanctions Round-Up: July 2020
On 15th July, the United States’ Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) took further action against designated Russian financier Yevgeniy Prigozhin by targeting three individuals and five entities accused of “directly facilitating” his “ability to evade sanctions”.
Prigozhin himself was first designated by OFAC in December 2016. His activities in Sudan are alleged to have been closely aligned with the former regime of Omar al-Bashir. He is also accused of being “the financier behind” the Russian Private Military Company (PMC) Wagner, which has been active in Sudan.
OFAC’s recent action centred around M Invest, a Russia based entity “owned or controlled” by Prigozhin that allegedly “serves as a cover for PMC Wagner forces operating in Sudan”. In 2017, it was awarded a gold exploration concession by the Sudanese government, the operations for which are carried out by its subsidiary Meroe Gold. Both entities have now been placed under sanctions, alongside Andrei Mandel – M Invest’s director-general – and Mikhail Potepkin – the company’s Sudan-based regional director.
Another individual – Igor Lavrenkov – and three entities based in Thailand and Hong Kong were also designated for their alleged role in “[facilitating] over 100 transactions exceeding [USD 7.5m] that were sent in the interest of Prigozhin”.
Discussing OFAC’s action, Steven Mnuchin – the Secretary to the Treasury – claimed that Prigozhin’s network was “exploiting Sudan’s natural resources for personal gain” and that the US “remains committed to holding him and other bad actors accountable”.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
This month, the United Kingdom’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) removed Roger Kibelisa and Lambert Mende from its Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) sanctions list. This announcement, on 10th July, follows the same European Union action carried out in December 2019.
Kibelisa was initially sanctioned by the EU in December 2016. At the time, in his role as Interior Director of the National Intelligence Service (ANR), he was alleged to be “involved in the intimidation campaign carried out by ANR officials towards opposition members, including arbitrary arrests and detention”. In March 2019, DRC President Félix Tshisekedi removed Kibelisa from his role at the ANR and appointed him as an assistant to François Beya Kasongo, the newly appointed special advisor on security.
Mende, on the other hand, was sanctioned by the EU in May 2017. As the communications and media minister and government spokesman under the government of former president Joseph Kabila, he was accused of holding responsibility for the government’s crackdown during 2016, including the targeting of journalists.
The removal of these individuals likely came as a result of President Tshisekedi’s plea for a reduction in sanctions on Kabila’s inner circle during his visit to Brussels in September 2019.
Central African Republic
On 28th July, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) extended its sanctions regime against the Central African Republic (CAR) for an additional 12 months, as well as its Panel of Experts’ mandate for an additional 13 months. The regime calls on Member States to “continue to prevent the supply, sale or transfer of arms” to the country, with exemptions for certain arms and ammunition supplied to the state security forces.
The embargo was initially imposed in December 2013, after the Séléka rebel coalition overthrew President François Bozizé during CAR’s civil war.
On the same day, the UNSC amended the list entries of six designated individuals, including Bozizé and Martin Koumtamadji, the latter of whom was designated in April 2020. The concerned individuals are still subject to sanctions and the amendments have not materially altered their designations.
Earlier in the month, the council warned that its CAR sanctions regime could be widened to those “who commit acts of incitement to violence and then engage in or provide support for acts that undermine the peace, stability or security of the Central African Republic”.
OFSI followed the EU’s August 2015 action and belatedly removed Colonel Mas’ud Abdulhafiz from its Libya sanctions list. Abdulhafiz was initially designated in February 2011, on the basis that he was the third in command of the Gaddafi regime’s armed forces, as well as playing a “significant role” in the regime’s military intelligence apparatus. It is not clear on what basis he was removed, either by the EU in 2015, or by the UK on 10th July.
On 14th July, OFSI amended 49 of its Libya listings. All of the amended entries remain subjected to an asset freeze.
Elsewhere, the US expressed “regret” regarding “foreign interference against Libya’s economy” and warned that “those who undermine Libya’s economy and cling to military escalation will face isolation and risk of sanctions”. This was echoed by European leaders, who cautioned that the EU is “ready to consider the possible use of sanctions” to combat breaches of the UNSC embargo on Libya.
New UK Global Human Rights Regime
On 6th July, Dominic Raab – UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – announced the launch of the British government’s new global human rights regime. The new regime is designed to allow the UK Treasury to target “those who have been involved in some of the gravest human rights violations and abuses around the world”. The initial 49 designations included individuals from Russia, Saudi Arabia and Myanmar, as well as two North Korean entities. No African nationals have been included in the list thus far.
Nevertheless, the equivalent American programme – the Global Magnitsky regime – has previously been used to sanction a number of high-profile African nationals, including Yahya Jammeh, the former president of The Gambia. It is therefore likely that some of the continent’s figures will fall under the scope of the UK’s new regime in the future.
US President Donald Trump continued the national emergency with respect to Mali by an additional 12 months. Citing a number of factors behind the decision, including “the expansion of terrorist activities into southern and central Mali”, the White House gave notice on 23rd July that the emergency must remain in place beyond its expiry date later that month.
The emergency was declared under Executive Order 13882 by President Trump in July 2019 and this is its first extension.
On 10th July, Yemane Gebreab – the Head of Political Affairs for the People’s Front for Democracy party in Eritrea and an advisor to the president – was removed from OFAC’s SDN List.
Gebreab was first added in 2010, accused of involvement in the destabilisation of Somalia. He remains a close member of the inner circle of Isaias Afwerki – the President of Eritrea. It is not clear on what basis he has been removed from the list.