Documents considered by the Committee on 18 March 2015 - European Scrutiny Contents

29 Restrictive measures against Syria

Committee's assessment Legally and politically important
Committee's decisionCleared from scrutiny (decision reported on 21 January 2015)
Document details(a) Council Implementing Decision implementing Decision 2013/255/CFSP concerning restrictive measures against Syria (b) Council Implementing Regulation implementing Regulation (EU) No. 36/2012 concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in Syria
Legal base(a) Article 29 TEU; unanimity; (b) Article 32(1) of Regulation 36/2012; QMV

Document numbers

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

(a) (36603),— (b) (36604),—

Summary and Committee's conclusions

29.1 These proposals will re-impose travel restrictions and asset freezes against three individuals associated with the Assad regime in Syria, Ayman Jabir, Khalid Qaddur and Mohamed Hamcho, and one entity, Hamcho International. The original restrictions were annulled by the General Court. It is apparent from the judgement in respect of Jabir that evidence relied on originally against him included Wikipedia. The re-listing is based on new statements of reason.

29.2 At our meeting of 21 January 2015 we cleared these documents but sought the confirmation from the Minister (Mr David Lidington) that he considers the reasons given for the restrictive measures are sufficiently robust to either deter or withstand further legal challenge. We also asked him to provide the open source evidence.

29.3 Consideration of this matter has been held back in order to report it in conjunction with the Iranian nuclear issues in chapter 14.

29.4 We note that the Minister confirms that these relistings are legally robust.

29.5 He sets out the same objections to disclosing to Parliament the open source evidence supporting the listings as for Iranian restrictive measures reported at chapter 14 i.e. it would be contrary to the Council Rules of Procedure preventing disclosure of the "deliberations of the Council". We re-iterate that our request did not seek information as to which Member State proposed restricted measures, nor the deliberations of the Council in respect such information. It lacks credibility that information available to the public should become clothed in confidentiality simply because it is included in a document considered by the Council. We strongly doubt that the Council or the Government will be able to enforce the confidentiality of open source material or sustain it if challenged.

Full details of the documents: (a) Council Implementing Decision implementing Decision 2013/255/CFSP concerning restrictive measures against Syria: (36603), —; (b) Council Implementing Regulation implementing Regulation (EU) No. 36/2012 concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in Syria: (36604), —.


29.6 On 13 November 2014, the General Court of the European Union annulled the designations of Khalid Qaddur, Ayman Jabir, Mohamed Hamcho and Hamcho International under the EU Syria sanctions regime in Cases T-653/11 Ayman Jabir v Council, T-654/11 Khalid Qaddur vs. Council and T-43/12 Mohamed Hamcho and Hamcho International vs Council. The Court's main reason for annulment in each case was that the EU Council was unable to provide the Court with sufficient evidence to back up the assertions made in the statement of reasons. The Court suspended the effects of the annulment until 28 January 2015.

The Minister's letter of 4 February 2015

29.7 The Minister's responds to the request for confirmation as to the robustness of these relistings:

    "It is our view that the evidential basis of the Council's decision to relist the three individuals and one entity is legally robust and that in the event of challenge, the Council should be in a position to successfully defend the cases."

29.8 In respect of these disclosure of open source information to Parliament he indicates:

    "The Committee further requested that the evidence supporting the listings of these individuals and entity be presented to them. It is with regret that I must decline this request. As I have explained to the Committees before, when an individual/entity is relisted, they are pre-notified by the EU Council of the listing decision and are given an opportunity to seek further detail on why they are being relisted and make observations to the Council.

    "The Government adopts a consistent policy of declining to provide the evidence which supports listing, or relisting, proposals to the Parliamentary Scrutiny Committees. The reasons for this I set out below.

    "The listing proposals which the Parliamentary Scrutiny Committees scrutinise may be put forward by the UK or one of the other EU Member States, or the EEAS. The underlying evidence is made available to the Council and held on file. Information that forms part of the Council's internal decision making can be shared between Member States, however the Council decides collectively on the sharing of information externally.

    "Member States are bound by a duty of professional secrecy with respect to Council documents unless they have been made publicly available, as set out in the Council's Rules of Procedure. Article 6 (1) states '...the deliberations of the Council shall be covered by the obligation of professional secrecy, except in so far as the Council decides otherwise'. Professional secrecy maintains non-disclosure of the identity of the proposing Member State, and limits the scope for third countries to play divide and rule with the EU's sanctions policy.

    "There are specific procedures for sharing information with the designated individual or entity. All open-source evidence is disclosed to them, upon their request, by the Council. They may share this information with their legal representatives in preparing their defence.

    "The sharing of information externally with other actors is a collective decision for the Council. The Council Secretariat holds the responsibility to disclose such documents, or not, in accordance with applicable EU law."

Previous Committee Reports

Thirtieth Report HC 219-xxix (2014-15), chapter 13, (21 January 2015).

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