The General Court of the EU has annulled the listings of three Syrian businessmen, and one company, from sanctions the EU imposed against them under its Syrian sanctions regime. In doing so the Court relied on the European Court of Justice (ECJ) July 2013 decision in what has become known as Kadi II , the decision whereby the ECJ upheld the successful challenge by Carter-Ruck client Sheikh Yassin Kadi  to EU sanctions that were imposed on him.   Kadi II has become a leading authority in the field of challenges to targeted sanctions.

In its judgment in Kadi II  the ECJ stated that in proceedings relating to listing or maintaining the listing of the name of an individual the competent European Union authority must disclose to the individual concerned the evidence underpinning its decision. Further, that authority must ensure that that individual is placed in a position in which he may effectively make known his views on the grounds relied on against him and must examine, in the light of comments made by the individual concerned, whether those reasons are well founded.

The General Court applied these principles earlier this month when considering three cases concerning the EU’s Syrian sanctions regime.  The EU Council had alleged that Mohamed Hamcho, his company Hamcho International, Khalid Khaddour and Aiman Jabar were associated with Maher Al-Assad who is the brother of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad and a general and commander of the Republican Guard. The EU Council claimed it had included these businessmen in its Syrian sanctions regime because it believed they were financing the Syrian regime through Mr Al-Assad and were contributing to the repression of the civilian population.

The Council tried to justify these measures by arguing that Mr Hamcho, Mr Khaddour and Mr Jabar were members of Syria’s “business elite” and that their relationships with Maher Al-Assaad were a matter of public knowledge. The Council relied on open source information against these individuals including, tellingly, various news articles and press reports about the three men to demonstrate their alleged links with the Syrian regime.

In three separate judgments the Court ruled that, regardless of whether the news articles and other documents were reliable, none of them demonstrated any links between the three businessmen and Mr Al-Assad. The Court asked the Council if it had any other evidence that these individuals were linked with the Syrian regime  however the Council’s lawyers admitted at the hearing that they had no further proof.

The Court held that the Council failed to provide the evidence needed to meet the standards of Kadi II and has ordered the annulment of all three listings.

Carter-Ruck has also successfully challenged EU Syrian sanctions in two cases won before the General Court, including  most recently in joined cases T-329/12 and T-74/13.

For further information on Syrian sanctions please contact Guy Martin.

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