Documents Considered by the Committee on 22 October 2014 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents


12 EU restrictive measures against the Syrian regime

Committee's assessment Legally and politically important
Committee's decisionCleared from scrutiny
Document detailsFurther amendments to EU restrictive measures against the Syrian regime
Legal baseArticle 29 TEU; unanimity

Article 214 TFEU; QMV

DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Document numbers(a) (36364), — (b) (36365), —

Summary and Committee's conclusions

12.1 Restrictive measures against the Syrian regime were first established in May 2011 by Council Decision 2011/273 and Council Regulation 442/2011, which imposed travel restrictions and asset freezes against "certain persons and entities responsible for the violent repression against the civilian population in Syria and persons associated with them". One Samir Hassan was added to the lists of those affected in August that year on the grounds of being a "close business associate of Maher Al-Assad and being known for supporting the Syrian regime financially".

12.2 On the 16 July 2014 the General Court annulled the listings as they appeared in the then current relevant legislation on the grounds that there was insufficient indication of the link between Hassan and Al-Assad in the legislation and that as a consequence the Council had not discharged the burden of proof of it for the purposes of Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which concern the rights to an effective remedy and to a fair trial. However the Court maintained the effect of the restrictive legislation against Hassan for the period allowed for an appeal against its decision, in the event of an appeal, until its conclusion.

12.3 In fact the Council did not appeal, but used that first period, which expired on 26 September to draft replacement legislation which fleshes out the reasons for the restrictive measures, from publicly available material. It now reads "Samir Hassan is a prominent businessman, close to key figures of the Syrian regime, such as Rami Makhlouf and Issam Anbouba; since March 2014, he has held the position of Vice Chairman for Russia of the Bilateral Business Councils following his appointment by Minister of Economy, Khodr Orfali. Additionally, he supports the regime's war effort with cash donations. Accordingly, Samir Hassan is associated with persons benefitting from or supporting the regime and provides support to and benefits from the Syrian regime".

12.4 In addition to providing an Explanatory Memorandum, the Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) has written to express his regret that due to time constraints he found himself in the position of having to agree to the adoption of the Council Decision and Regulation before this Committee had an opportunity to scrutinise the document.

12.5 The circumstances leading to this legislation illustrate the balance, which can be difficult to achieve, between ensuring that legislation imposing restrictive measures can withstand challenge, without compromising security. It remains to be seen whether the publically available information suffices in this case and other similar cases.

12.6 In the meantime we clear these documents and take no issue on the override of scrutiny.

Full details of the documents: (a) Council Implementing Decision 2014/678/CFSP of 26 September 2014 implementing Decision 2013/255/CFSP concerning restrictive measures against Syria: (36364), —; (b) Council Implementing Regulation (EU) No. 1013/2014 of 26 September 2014 implementing Regulation (EU) No. 36/2012 concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in Syria: (36365), —.

The Government View

12.7 In his Explanatory Memorandum and letter of 9 October 2012 the Minister emphasises that the situation in Syria remains a serious concern and that the imperative for restrictive measures against Samir Hassan remains strong:

    "he has substantial political and economic ties with the regime, and has close business links with key regime figures such as Rami Makhlouf and Issam Anbouba. Hassan's listing therefore falls under the relevant listing criteria as a person 'benefiting from or supporting the regime' and associated with 'persons or entities responsible for the violent repression against the civilian population in Syria'. If Hassan were de-listed, any of his funds that had been frozen by the EU because of the Syria sanctions would have been released to him. There was a high risk that his funds, once unfrozen, would be at the disposal of the regime for use in their repression of the civilian population. Therefore new grounds for re-listing Hassan were prepared, supported by evidence from open sources that the Council will be able to share with the Court."

12.8 The Minister further indicates:

    "Targeted, legally robust sanctions are one of the tools the EU can use to pressure the regime into reassessing its position and reengaging productively with peace talks with the opposition. It is necessary to designate those providing practical and financial support to the Syrian regime and its war effort in order to put pressure on the Syrian regime to enter into a political settlement to the conflict, and also to curtail the Syrian regime's ability to wage a brutal war against its own people. The UK remains firm in its belief that a negotiated political settlement is the only solution to conflict and Syria's worsening humanitarian crisis.

    "If the Syria Sanctions regime is to remain effective in the long term we have to be able to defend listings in court. We are working with the Council Legal Service (CLS) to identify current cases where insufficient open source evidence currently exists. This will inform our long term strategy to respond to these legal challenges, which includes: delisting entities and individuals that do not meet the listing criteria, relisting with statements of reason that can be more easily substantiated through open source evidence, and the introduction of status based listing criteria. We expect up to 5 further court judgments by the end of the year and continue to work up robust cases in the event the listings are annulled."

Previous Committee Reports

None, but see (36246 and 36247): Ninth Report HC 219-ix (2014-15) chapter 42 (3 September 2014); (35713), —: Thirty-first Report HC 83-xxviii (2013-14), chapter 16 (22 January 2014) and the earlier Reports referred to therein.


 
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