Yesterday President Obama issued an Executive Order removing the U.S. sanctions program on Côte d’Ivoire. As we stated in a previous post, this move has been anticipated since April, when the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2283 terminating the UN arms embargo and travel and financial sanctions on Côte d’Ivoire based on improvements in the political and security situation. The U.S. followed in May by only lifting the arms embargo and leaving the targeted sanctions in place.

The Côte d’Ivoire sanctions program was a limited set of targeted sanctions, so its termination will not have a major impact on trade or investment. But this action will unblock the property of several specific individuals that were included under the identifier “[COTED]” on the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List maintained by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). These sanctions were based on Executive Order 13396 (Feb. 10, 2006), which was issued to address “the massacre of large numbers of civilians, widespread human rights abuses, significant political violence and unrest, and attacks against international peacekeeping forces leading to fatalities.” In yesterday’s order, the President found that this situation “has been significantly altered by the progress achieved in the stabilization of Côte d’Ivoire, including the successful conduct of the October 2015 presidential election, progress on the management of arms and related materiel, and the combating of illicit trafficking of natural resources.” National Security Council Spokesperson Ned Price added that Côte d’Ivoire has made “extraordinary progress” in these areas since the end of its civil war in 2011. A State Department press release contains similar statements.

This new Executive Order states that the termination of the sanctions program “shall not affect any action taken or proceeding pending not finally concluded or determined as of the date that this order is effective, any action or proceeding based on any act committed prior to such date, or any rights or duties that matured or penalties that were incurred prior to such date.” That is the standard language the U.S. government uses when it terminates a sanctions program, meaning that any conduct that occurred before yesterday that was inconsistent with the sanctions is still subject to possible enforcement action. In addition, any ongoing enforcement actions and past penalties are not invalidated. We anticipate that OFAC will soon remove the Côte d’Ivoire Sanctions Regulations at 31 C.F.R. Part 543 to implement the President’s order.