Sanctions Round-Up: September & October 2021
On 25th October, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) added Osama al-Kuni Ibrahim to its Libyan sanctions list. The individual is described as the “de facto manager” of the al-Nasr detention centre in the city of Zawiya. He is accused of participating in human rights abuses in connection with two other individuals allegedly linked to human trafficking activities in the area. He is now subject to a travel ban and asset freeze by the council.
In the following days, the United Kingdom’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) and the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) both mirrored the council’s action by adding Ibrahim to their respective sanction regimes. He was also designated by the United States’ Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), who reported him as being “responsible for the systematic exploitation of African migrants” at the al-Nasr facility.
Elsewhere, on 15th September the European Union General Court annulled the Council of the EU’s listing of Abdel Majid al-Qa’ud, a former Gaddafi-era minister initially sanctioned in 2011. The proceedings confirmed media reports from earlier this year that the applicant died in March 2021. Nevertheless, his family continued with his application to annul his re-listing as a target of EU sanctions in 2019 and 2020.
The court upheld the second complaint in al-Qa’ud’s application, that there was no factual basis for maintaining his name on the lists. In doing so, it found that the council erred in concluding that his former position as a minister in 2011 equated to him posing a continued threat to the peace, stability, or security of Libya in 2019 and 2020.
It is worth noting that al-Qa’ud’s original 2011 listing has not been annulled, but rather his maintenance on the subsequent listings of 2019 and 2020. This is not the first time that the court has found against the council in similar circumstances, after it annulled Aisha Gaddafi’s maintenance on the same sanctions list earlier this year.
On 22nd October, two US residents were convicted of violating export controls with regards to Libya in 2016. The goods in question were rebreather diving equipment, which has civilian and military dual-use capabilities and is therefore included on the US’s Commerce Control List. As Libya is deemed a country with national security concerns, such items require a licence for export, something the defendants reportedly failed to obtain.
As part of an action targeting an “al-Qaida financial network” in Turkey, OFAC sanctioned two Egyptian nationals on 16th September. The first, Majdi Salim, is accused of “acting as a financial courier” within the network. He is also described as being the “former emir” of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) group. The other individual, Muhammad Nasr al-Din al-Ghazlani, is labelled by OFAC as a “veteran al-Qaida facilitator”.
Elsewhere, on 15th September, President Emmanuel Macron announced that French forces had killed Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, the head of Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), in August. Islamic State confirmed his death in October. Al-Sahrawi was subject to numerous international sanctions at the time of his death, having been designated in 2018 by the US, UK, EU, and UNSC.
Then in October, Nigeria’s military announced that it had killed the leader of another IS affiliate, Abu Musab al-Barnawi of its West Africa Province (ISWAP). The group has yet to confirm its leader’s death and the US has urged caution regarding the claims. Al-Barnawi is currently subject to American sanctions, having been designated by OFAC in 2018.
On 5th September, Guinean special forces seized power from President Alpha Condé in a coup d’état. Days later, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) suspended Guinea from all its decision-making bodies. Following this, the African Union (AU) also suspended Guinea from participation in all of its activities, organs and institutions until “normal constitutional order” is restored in the country.
The dispute with ECOWAS escalated on 16th September, when the bloc imposed targeted measures against unnamed figures in the National Committee for Reconciliation and Development (CNRD), which is the military body established after the fall of Condé. Those unnamed figures and their families are now subject to a travel ban and asset freeze. ECOWAS called on the AU, UN, and other multilateral institutions to support the implementation of these measures.
In an unrelated action on 7th September, SECO amended the listings of four members of the former junta which ruled Guinea between 2008 and 2010. On 22nd October, the Council of the EU renewed its sanctions regime on Guinea, which was first implemented during the former junta’s rule in 2010. The restrictions are now set to expire on 27th October 2022.
US President Joe Biden issued Executive Order 14046 of 17th September, establishing a sanctions regime “with respect to the humanitarian and human rights crisis” in Ethiopia. In declaring the national emergency, the president referenced “activities that threaten the peace, security, and stability of Ethiopia and the greater Horn of Africa region”. Following the creation of the regime, OFAC issued three general licences and six frequently asked questions outlining the new regulations.
The new regime authorises the Treasury and State Department to impose sanctions on individuals considered to be contributing to the current conflict in Ethiopia, including those affiliated with the Government of Eritrea. Nobody was designated under this programme during September and October.
It should be recalled that in May 2021, the US introduced a visa restrictions policy to target those deemed responsible for undermining a resolution of the Tigray crisis. And in August 2021, it sanctioned General Filipos Woldeyohannes of the Eritrean Defence Forces (EDF) under the Global Magnitsky programme.
On 25th October, Sudan’s military launched a coup against the country’s transitional government by dissolving civilian rule and arresting its political leaders. The move was widely condemned across the international community.
In response, the AU suspended Sudan from all its activities until the civilian-led transitional authority is restored. In addition, the US paused the delivery of $700m in financial assistance to Sudan, which was intended to support its democratic transition. The World Bank also suspended its own financial aid to the country.
Later in the month, President Biden extended the US’s pre-existing national emergency with respect to Sudan by an additional 12 months. Noting the recent military takeover, the president decided to continue the programme – which was first declared in 1997 – beyond its expiry date of 3rd November 2021.
10 former officials of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) failed in applications to annul their 2019 sanctions re-listings by the Council of the EU. The EU General Court delivered its verdicts on 15th September, deciding that the individuals concerned could remain subject to EU sanctions.
The applications were made by Évariste Boshab, a former president of the DRC’s national assembly, and nine others. Each was rejected on the basis that the council had sufficiently demonstrated a justification for their continued designations.
Elsewhere, on 25th October President Biden continued the US’s national emergency with respect to the DRC for another year. The programme, which was first declared in 2006, was due to expire on 27th October but will remain in effect following the president’s action.
The US Department of Justice announced on 20th October that eight Nigerian individuals were charged with conspiring to engage in internet scams and money laundering. Seven of the accused are said to be leaders of the Cape Town Zone of the Neo Black Movement of Africa – also known as ‘Black Axe’ – whilst the other is alleged to be a co-conspirator.
A day earlier, the defendants were arrested by police in South Africa, where they are based. Their alleged crimes, which are said to have been committed between 2011 and 2021, involved romance and advance fee schemes. US authorities, who have applied for their extradition, accuse them of defrauding over 100 victims of almost $7m.
The Council of the EU removed Seychelles from its list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes on 5th October. The nation’s removal means it is now placed on the EU’s “state of play document”, which covers jurisdictions “that do not yet comply with all international tax standards but that have committed to implementing tax good governance principles”.
Nine jurisdictions remain on the core list, none of which are in Africa. Seychelles was first blacklisted by the EU in February 2020, due to its “harmful preferential tax regime”. Meanwhile, Eswatini has been omitted from the secondary list, having implemented the necessary tax reforms to qualify for removal.
Noting its dissatisfaction regarding the “slow pace” of Mali’s transition towards the restoration of civilian rule, ECOWAS decided on 16th September to impose targeted sanctions against those who it deems to be having a “negative impact” on the process. Accordingly, the President of the ECOWAS Commission has been tasked with compiling a list of targets, who could be subjected to travel bans and asset freezes.
On 7th October, the Council of the EU temporarily adopted visa restrictions against nationals of The Gambia. The decision, which applies to “certain provisions” of the visa code, was blamed on the country’s “lack of co-operation” in readmitting third-country nationals illegally staying in the EU.
The Council of the EU renewed its sanctions regime on Burundi by another year. The measures, which were first introduced in 2015, had been due to expire at the end of October but will now remain in place until 31st October 2022.