Documents considered by the Committee on 27 April 2011 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents

13   Restrictive measures against Iran





Council Decision concerning restrictive measures directed against certain persons, entities and bodies in view of the situation in Iran

Council Regulation concerning restrictive measures directed against certain persons, entities and bodies in view of the situation in Iran

Legal base(a) Article 29 TEU; unanimity

(b) Article 215(2) TFEU; QMV

DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of considerationEMs and Minister's letter of 8 April 2011
Previous Committee ReportNone; but see (31937)—: HC 428-iii (2010-11), chapter 15 (13 October 2011); (31905) 13082/10: HC 428-ii (2010-11), chapter 24 (15 September 2010) and (31779) —: HC428-i (2010-11), chapter 61 (8 September 2010)
Discussed in Council12 April 2011 Foreign Affairs Council
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared


13.1  On 23 December 2006, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1737, which imposed a number of sanctions on Iran. In broad terms UNSCR 1737:

  • prohibited the sale/transfer to Iran — and also the export by Iran or export from Iran — of certain goods and technologies that could contribute to sensitive activities (enrichment related, reprocessing and heavy water activities and the development of nuclear weapons delivery systems);
  • prohibited technical or financial assistance related to these activities;
  • froze the assets of named individuals and entities involved in, associated with or providing support to Iran's sensitive nuclear and missile programmes;
  • called on signatory States to "exercise vigilance" about the travel to or through their territories of individuals involved in, associated with or providing support to Iran's sensitive nuclear and missile programmes and required them to inform the Security Council when named individuals do so; and
  • called on States to prevent Iranian nationals from studying sensitive subjects.

13.2  On 7 February 2007 the then Committee cleared Common Position 2007/140/CFSP, which enabled EU Member States to fulfil their obligation to implement these restrictions. It was subsequently adopted by the Council on 27 February 2007.

13.3  Most recently, on 9 June 2010, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1929 on Iran's nuclear programme and its failure to comply with its international obligations, which imposes a number of further restrictive measures against Iran. In broad terms it:

  • reaffirms that Iran shall cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency;
  • stops new Iranian nuclear facilities and bans Iranian nuclear investment in third countries;
  • imposes total bans on exports of several major categories of arms, and further restrictions on Iran's ballistic missile programme;
  • freezes the assets of 40 entities, including one bank subsidiary, several Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps companies, and three Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines subsidiaries, which have been involved in multiple sanctions violations cases;
  • freezes the assets of and bans travel on one senior nuclear scientist;
  • implements a regime for inspecting suspected illicit cargoes and authorising their seizure and disposal;
  • places restrictions on financial services, including insurance and reinsurance, where there is suspicion of a proliferation link;
  • bans existing and new correspondent banking relationships where there are proliferation concerns;
  • establishes a Panel of Experts to advise and assist on sanctions implementation; and
  • reaffirms the dual track strategy (of pressure and diplomacy).

13.4  EU Heads of Government welcomed the UN Resolution in a Council Declaration on 17 June 2010, which invited the EU Foreign Affairs Council to adopt a Council Decision at its next session, on 26 July, to implement the measures contained in UNSCR 1929, as well as additional EU sanctions in the following areas:

  • the energy sector, including the prohibition of investment, technical assistance and transfers of technologies, equipment and service;
  • the financial sector, including additional asset freezes against banks and restrictions on banking and insurance;
  • trade, including a broad ranging ban on dual use goods and trade insurance;
  • the Iranian transport sector in particular the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line (IRISL) and its subsidiaries and air cargo;
  • new visa bans and asset freezes, especially on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

13.5  The Committee was not formed at the time the Council Decision was adopted, and was not able to consider it until its first meeting on 8 September 2010.

13.6  In his accompanying Explanatory Memorandum of 9 July 2010, the Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) affirmed the Government's commitment to what he described as tough additional EU sanctions against Iran, aimed at halting its proliferation sensitive activity and making it comply with its international obligations, and explained the Government's position in detail.[49]

13.7  The European Council adopted Council Decision 2010/413/CFSP at the 26 July Foreign Affairs Council, together with a Regulation extending the list of entities and individuals subject to an assets freeze.[50]

The draft Council Decision

13.8  The 21 March 2011 Foreign Affairs Council adopted the following conclusions on the human rights situation in Iran:

"1. The European Union is deeply concerned that the human rights situation in Iran continues to deteriorate. The EU is alarmed by the dramatic increase in executions in recent months and the systematic repression of Iranian citizens, including human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, women's activists, bloggers, persons belonging to ethnic and religious minorities and members of the opposition, who face harassment and arrests for exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The EU reiterates its strong condemnation of the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

"2. The EU calls on the Iranian authorities to live up to the international human rights obligations that Iran has entered into, so as to protect and promote all human rights and fundamental freedoms to which the Iranian people are entitled. In particular it calls on Iran to release immediately all political prisoners and to halt executions.

"3. The European Union attaches great importance to the improvement of the human rights situation in Iran and will increase its efforts to that end. The European Union will also continue to speak out in support of individuals and civil society organizations which stand up for the human rights which all Iranians should enjoy.

"4. The EU is ready to discuss human rights issues with the Iranian authorities and to keep channels of communication open to that end.

"5. The European Union will continue to address human rights abuses in Iran, including by swiftly introducing restrictive measures targeted against those responsible for grave human rights violations."[51]

13.9  This further Council Decision accordingly provides the basis for restrictive measures targeted against "persons complicit in or responsible for directing or implementing grave human rights violations in the repression of peaceful demonstrators, journalists, human rights defenders, students or other persons who speak up in defence of their legitimate rights, including freedom of expression, as well as persons complicit in or responsible for directing or implementing grave violations of the right to due process, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, or the indiscriminate, excessive and increasing application of the death penalty, including public executions, stoning, hangings or executions of juvenile offenders in contravention of Iran's international human rights obligations."

13.10  In his Explanatory Memoranda of 8 April 2011, the Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) notes that, with regard to:

  • Impact on UK law: It will be necessary to adopt a Council Regulation (EU) in order to give effect to the asset freeze: the Regulation will be directly applicable in UK law, although domestic legislation is required for enforcement measures, and to create penalties, in each EU Member State;
  • Fundamental rights analysis:
    • the procedures for designating individuals as subject to asset freezes are compliant with fundamental rights. Provision is made for competent authorities of Member States to authorise the release of frozen funds where necessary in certain circumstances, for example, to satisfy the basic needs of listed persons or their dependents and where necessary for extraordinary expenses. Decisions by competent authorities of Member States in this regard would be subject to challenge in Member State's courts. Prohibitions on transfer of funds and financial services are exempted where necessary for humanitarian purposes, or where necessary for supply of foodstuffs, medical equipment or provision of health care;
    • the Regulation respects the fundamental rights and observes the principles recognised in particular by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and notably the right to an effective remedy and to a fair trial and the right to the protection of personal data;
    • the Regulation says that the Council shall provide designated persons and entities an opportunity to present observations on the reasons for their listing. Where observations are submitted, the Council will review its decision in the light of those observations and inform the person or entity concerned accordingly.

The Government's view

13.11  The Minister comments as follows:

"The human rights situation in Iran is deteriorating from an already awful situation. Iran has executed over 160 people this year, keeps more journalists in prison than any other country, has brutally suppressed recent protests arresting hundreds, and continues to keep key opposition leaders under house arrest and incommunicado. We feel it important that the international community and EU exert pressure on Iran to improve the human rights situation and to ensure that the perpetrators of violations do not continue to act with impunity.

"While tough UN, EU and US measures are now in place in response to the nuclear issue, there has been a limited international response to human rights violations and there are regular calls from a variety of directions including human rights defenders and NGOs to impose sanctions. UK and international activity on human rights in recent years has been limited to public statements to highlight the worst abuses and Iran's overall record. These measures would represent concrete action by the EU to improve human rights in Iran for the first time in a number of years.

"We believe that further sanctions on Iran linked to human rights violations would strengthen our overall policy on Iran by: supporting our objective of behavioural change in Iran by actively targeting those most guilty of violating human rights; increasing pressure on the Iranian regime by taking very visible steps to respond to violations; and providing moral support to human rights defenders both inside and outside Iran, by demonstrating concrete action, not just words."

The Council Regulation

13.12  This Council Regulation provides for the adoption of restrictive measures against persons responsible for serious human rights violations in Iran and consists of a freezing of funds and economic resources of those persons listed in the annex to the Council Decision.

13.13  The Minister concludes his Explanatory Memoranda by noting that the Council Decision and Council Regulation are scheduled to be adopted at the Foreign Affairs Council on 12 April 2011 and will be in force, following publication in the Official Journal of the European Union, the following day.

The Minister's letter of 8 April 2011

13.14  The Minister refers to his letter to the Committee of 4 April, noting the decisions taken by the Foreign Affairs Council on 21 March to impose restrictive measures against human rights violators in Iran and alerting the Committee to the likelihood that action would take place during Easter recess; expresses regret that it has been necessary to pursue such action while the Committee is not sitting; and expresses the hope that the Committee will appreciate that it was necessary to adopt these measures without delay.


13.15  We acknowledge the Minister's endeavours to keep the Committee informed ahead of these measures, and do not, on this occasion and in these circumstances, object to his having agreed to them ahead of scrutiny.

13.16  We now clear the documents.

49   See (31779) -: HC428-i (2010-11), chapter 61 (8 September 2010). Back

50   The Iran conclusions are at pages 10 and 11 of the Conclusions of the 26 July 2010 Foreign Affairs Council, available at Back

51   These further Iran conclusions are available at Back

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Prepared 10 May 2011