Sanctions Upheld Against Syrian Dictator's Sister

     (CN) - Given her close family ties to Syria's brutal regime, the sister of dictator Bashar al-Assad cannot fight an EU asset freeze and blacklisting, the General Court ruled Wednesday.
     Bushra al-Assad fought her inclusion on the EU blacklist - which also includes travel restrictions through all member states - on grounds that her link to the al-Assad regime died with her husband, Assef Shawkat. Shawkat acted as al-Assad's deputy defense minister and was killed in a bomb attack in 2012.
     But the Luxembourg-based General Court held Wednesday that the al-Assads' brother-sister relationship, not Bushra's husband, justified the decision by EU lawmakers to blacklist her. The court added that the woman had been given months to challenge the European Council's decision but failed to do so.
     "The mere fact that Ms. al-Assad is the sister of the Syrian president is sufficient for the council to be able to regard her as being linked to the leaders of Syria, particularly since it is well known that power has traditionally been exercised on a family basis in Syria, which the council was entitled to take into account," the court said in a statement.
     While acknowledging that the blacklisting infringed the sister's freedoms, the court said that the "overriding importance of the protection of civilian populations in Syria" justified the lawmakers' decision.
     Al-Assad has two months to appeal the lower court's ruling - which was not made available in English - to the Court of Justice of the European Union.