European court annuls 2 more Syrian listings

The General Court of the European Union has just annulled the designation of 2 individuals on the European Union’s restrictive measures (sanctions) relating to Syria.  The EU measures (introduced in May 2011) list people and companies who are “responsible for the violent repression against the civilian population in Syria, and persons associated with them”. The 2 cases are Case T-329/12 and T-74/13 Mazen Al Tabbaa v Council (9th Chamber, 9 July 2014)and Case T-572/11 Samir Hassan v Council (7th Chamber, 16 July 2014), judgment only in French).

Like a large number of recent judgments of the European court, in particular concerning listings on EU Iranian and Syrian sanctions measures, the Court annulled the listings of both individuals because they had denied and refuted the reasons that had been given for including them, and the Council of the EU had no evidence to support its reasons. This is what the court terms a “manifest error of assessment”, and ordered the Council to pay the applicants’ costs. Mr Hassan had been included on the grounds that he was a close business associate of Maher Al-Assad.  Known for economic support he provides to the Syrian regime”. Mr Al Tabbaa had been included on the basis that he was the business partner of 2 other sanctioned people, and the co-owner with another of a currency exchange company which the Council alleged “supports the policy of the Central Bank of Syria”.

Like other recent judgments of this kind:

  1. The Court rejected challenges to the clarity of the Council’s reasons (as opposed to the evidential support for the correctness of the reasons) and to the Council’s compliance with rights of defence.
  2. The Court in both cases suspended the effects of the annulment (ie the measures now stay in force) until the time period for an appeal (2 months) has expired.

Also notable in the Tabbaa judgment is the Court’s comments on time limits. The Court made clear (for the first time?) that applicants can challenge decisions to re-list them, even if they have not challenged the first time they were listed in EU sanctions measures, because re-listings show an intention by the Council to maintain them on the list after a re-examination. And as in other recent judgments (see previous blog), the Court also clarified that time starts to run from publication of a measures in the Official Journal only where it was impossible for the Council to send a letter directly to an applicant; this is not a matter for the Council’s discretion.

Maya Lester appeared for Mr Al Tabbaa.

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About Maya Lester QC

Maya Lester QC

Maya Lester QC is a senior barrister (Queen’s Counsel) at Brick Court Chambers with a wide-ranging practice in public law, European law, competition law, international law, human rights & civil liberties. She has a particular expertise in sanctions. The legal directories say she is the...

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