EU Sanctions Against Cousin of Syria’s Al-Assad Upheld

(CN) – The European General Court refused Thursday to thaw the assets of the cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose government was reported this week to be secretly cremating the bodies of prisoners it executes — the latest in a host of atrocities linked to Syria.

The European Council, a body composed of EU member state executive governments, has included 47-year-old Rami Makhlouf on a list of persons facing sanctions because of Syria since 2011.

In addition to the asset freeze, inclusion on the list keeps Makhlouf from entering or traveling through the European Union.

Makhlouf had entered a challenge with the General Court after it decided to maintain his listing for the period from May 29, 2016, to May 31, 2017.

With just a few weeks left in that term, the General Court announced Thursday that it supports the decision. Though it has not released an English translation of the order, the General Court did release a statement on the case.

Makhlouf failed to sway the court, among other things, that the council had infringed his right to a fair hearing and that his genetic relationship to al-Assad should not merit sanctions.

As to the second point, the General Court noted “that being a member of the Makhlouf or al- Assad families constitutes one of the listing criteria laid down by EU law, unless it is established that the members of the families concerned are not, or are no longer, associated with the Syrian regime.”

With respect to this cousin, the court said, “there is nothing in the case file to indicate that Mr Makhlouf is no longer associated with the regime in power in Syria, that he exercises no influence on that regime, or that he has distanced himself from the other members of the Makhlouf or Assad families.”

The European Council defended its sanctions against Makhlouf on the basis “that he furnishes financing and support to the Syrian regime through his business interests,” according to the press release.

Unraveling his claim of having retired from the business world, focusing on charitable works instead, the General Court noted that “Makhlouf is still president of Syriatel, the leading mobile telephone operator in Syria, and that, therefore, he is a prominent businessman.”

The court also called it “common knowledge that Mr Makhlouf is associated with the Syrian regime and provides it with support.”

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