How European courts are dismantling sanctions on Iran

  • Share via facebook
  • Tweet this
  • Bookmark and Share

In the years-long campaign to tie a web of sanctions around Iran and stall its nuclear programme, the European Union may just have met its biggest obstacle: its own law courts.

Fearing Tehran is seeking the means to make bombs, Europe's governments have been combing through Iran's political elites and businesses to find people and companies linked to the financing and technical aspects of its nuclear work.

They have frozen their assets, refused visas and banned companies in the European Union from doing business with them. But dozens of those targeted have challenged the restrictions in court and some are beginning to win, embarrassing Europe's policymakers and causing alarm in the United States.

None of the court judgments are yet final. But with Israel brandishing threats against a nuclear programme that Iran insists has no military purpose, Washington worries that any weakening of sanctions may raise the risk of war.

At the heart of the issue is the refusal by EU governments to disclose evidence linking their targets to Iran's nuclear work. Doing so in court, they say, may expose confidential intelligence, undermining efforts to combat the programme.

The courts have effectively rejected that argument, saying that if a case is to be made, evidence must be presented. Lawyers for the Iranians argue there simply is no evidence that proves any link to the nuclear programme - a view supported by British judges who did review some secret material this year.

"It is very clear there is no evidence," said Sarosh Zaiwalla, senior partner at Zaiwalla & Co, a London law firm which has successfully represented Iran's Bank Mellat in litigation against sanctions imposed by the EU.

The bank, one of the biggest private lenders in Iran, won a case in January in the European Union's Luxembourg-based second-highest court. It had challenged an EU move in 2010 to freeze its assets, saying the EU had failed to prove the bank provided banking services for the nuclear programme. The court agreed.

"The chairman of the court asked the EU lawyers, 'can you show me the evidence?'. And they said 'no, it's Iran, and you must presume there is evidence'," Zaiwalla said.

"The judge was very upset and said 'this is a court of law and you cannot assume things'."

In its January 29 judgment, using dense legal language, the General Court said the council of EU governments was "in breach of the obligation to state reasons and the obligation to disclose to the applicant ... the evidence adduced against it".

The lifting of sanctions against Bank Mellat is postponed for now, pending an appeal by EU governments to Europe's highest court. But the case illustrates the dilemma facing the European Union in its push to stop Iran from advancing the atom work.

Government lawyers are telling the courts to trust them and the courts are refusing. To safeguard its sanctions policy and its economic pressure on Iran, the EU may have to present evidence - including sensitive intelligence - in court.

But because of rules governing pan-European courts, all evidence would then become public which may damage clandestine operations and unravel the process of devising sanctions.

Article continued on next page...

Related:
Join the Discussion

Disclaimer:The view expressed here by our readers are not necessarily shared by Arabian Business, its employees, sponsors or its advertisers.

Please post responsibly. Commenter Rules

  • No comments yet, be the first!

Enter the words above: Enter the numbers you hear:

All comments are subject to approval before appearing

Further reading

Features & Analysis
Concerned for stability, Saudi Arabia tightens curbs on dissent

Concerned for stability, Saudi Arabia tightens curbs on dissent

Gulf kingdom intensifies crackdown on domestic dissent, raising...

Frustrated Kuwaitis ask, why is Kuwait falling behind?

Frustrated Kuwaitis ask, why is Kuwait falling behind?

Citizens wonder why oil producer Kuwait is not as dynamic a hub...

4
Saudi dynasty moves to forestall succession crisis

Saudi dynasty moves to forestall succession crisis

Appointment of Prince Muqrin as deputy crown prince is first...

Most Discussed
  • 54
    Three UAE women attacked with hammer at London hotel

    I really feel that Arabian Business.Com should now close this comments page. This should be all about sympathy for the families not what it is/has turned... more

    Wednesday, 16 April 2014 1:06 PM - Adrienne
  • 51
    Why Dubai isn't a plastic city

    What is definitely not a plastic city. The Arabs have a culture dating back to several centuries. 50 years back Dubai was just a fishing village. Today... more

    Tuesday, 8 April 2014 3:49 PM - P. MADHUSUDAN
  • 48
    DMCC boss Ahmed Bin Sulayem entertains Robert Mugabe in Dubai

    @fga ''However today, simply because he decided to dispossess a few white farmers of their land and redistribute to the poorer indigenous blacks'' more

    Sunday, 13 April 2014 3:02 PM - Matt Williams