EU Imposes Restrictive Measures On Venezuela
On November 14, 2017, the Council of the European Union (the “EU Council”) imposed a number of restrictive measures against Venezuela in view of the continuing deterioration of democracy, the rule of law and human rights in the country. These restrictions include an arms embargo, as well as a prohibition on the export of equipment that can be used for internal repression, and items intended primarily for use in monitoring or interception of internet or telephone communications.
The measures specifically prohibit the sale, supply, transfer or export of the following items to any person, entity or body in Venezuela or for use in Venezuela, unless one of the limited licensing options can be invoked:
- items listed in the EU Common Military List (or equivalent EU Member State list).
- equipment and technology that can be used for internal repression purposes; This list inter alia includes certain night vision and thermal imaging equipment, explosives, etc.
- equipment, technology and software intended primarily for use in the monitoring and interception of internet or telephone communications, such as inter alia, certain tactical SMS, GSM, and UMTS interception and monitoring equipment not subject to an export license under the EU Dual Use Regulation; while EU Member State authorities can issue discretionary licenses for such items to be supplied to, or for use in, Venezuela, they cannot do so if there are “reasonable grounds to determine” that the items will be used for internal repression.
Besides the restrictions on the supply of these items, there are associated restrictions on the provision of related financing, financial assistance, technical assistance, and brokering services. The EU Council has also introduced a separate prohibition on the provision of telecommunication or internet monitoring or interception services of any kind to, or for the direct or indirect benefit of, Venezuela's government, public bodies, corporations and agencies, or any person or entity acting on their behalf or at their direction.
Separately, the EU Council has also introduced the legal framework necessary to impose travel bans and asset freezes on certain individuals within the Maduro government. With respect to travel bans, all 28 EU ministers have said in a joint statement that the legal basis for individual travel bans to the EU and the freezing of any Venezuelan assets in the bloc “will be used in a gradual and flexible manner and can be expanded.”
The EU Council’s actions are largely in response to a Report published in August 2017 by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights with respect to the increasing oppression of people perceived as opposing President Maduro’s regime. In particular, the Report found that “security forces systematically used excessive force and arbitrarily detained protesters. Patterns of ill-treatment, in some cases amounting to torture, and serious violations of due process rights of persons detained in connection with the protests by Venezuelan authorities.” More broadly, the EU Council’s decision results in the first substantive package of restrictive measures introduced at an EU-level against a country located in South America. This reveals a significant change in the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy, which–to date–mainly focused its restrictive measures on jurisdictions located in Africa and the Middle East.
Given that all these measures entered into force today, companies involved in the supply of controlled items, controlled services, and/or the provision of related financing or assistance in respect of Venezuela should review their activities immediately to determine whether a license may need to obtained for these activities to be continued in a legitimate manner.
If you have any questions concerning this alert, please contact the lawyers listed below or any of Akin Gump’s Export Controls and Economic Sanctions partners.
|Wynn H. Segall