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EU court finds Syria volte-face sanctions listing breaches multiple fundamental principles of EU law


The General Court gave judgment yesterday in a case in which the EU Council did an about-turn in a targeted sanctions case.  Having stated repeatedly for 10 years that the applicant was not listed on the EU’s Syria sanctions list (including in the European court), the Council then changed its mind and said he had been listed all along since 2011. The Court annulled the listing on the grounds that:

  1. The EU failed to have regard to the applicant’s legitimate expectations and breached the principle of legal certainty by adopting measures with retroactive effect, having confirmed over the previous 10 years that he was not the person listed.
  2. The Council also infringed principle of res judicata in respect of the 2011 measures by saying that the applicant was listed in 2011 when the Court had decided in 2012 (at the Council’s urging) that he was not the person listed.
  3. The EU erred in its assessment that the applicant fulfilled the criteria for listing on the EU’s Syria sanctions because it could not establish that he: (a) is a leading businessperson operating in Syria or has any commercial interests in Syria; (b) has ties to members of the Makhlouf or Assad family; or (c) is associated with the Syrian regime.

A copy of the judgment is available here.

Maya Lester KC and Malcolm Birdling acted for the applicant, instructed by Carter-Ruck.