On Friday, February 25, 2011, President Obama signed an Executive Order blocking property and prohibiting certain transactions relating to Libya, including some transactions previously licensed by the Department of State. These economic sanctions and trade restrictions were issued under the authority of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) (IEEPA), the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.) (NEA) and section 301 of title 3, United States Code, and come in response to the ongoing human rights violations committed by Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi and his inner circle in the violent crackdown against the Libyan people protesting his 41-year rule. These sanctions became effective at 8 p.m. eastern standard time on Friday night.

Actions & Scope


The sanctions authorized under the Executive Order issued Friday night block the property and interests in property that are currently in the United States or, in the future, come within the United States or any control or possession of any U.S. person.1 In addition to blocking property, these sanctions also prohibit the making of any “contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of” any blocked person.2 Similarly, the receipt of funds, goods or services from blocked persons is also prohibited.3

Persons Covered

The Executive Order goes on to specifically identify five members of the Qadhafi family to whom these sanctions apply.4 These sanctions also apply to any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, that meets any of the following criteria:

  • senior official of the government of Libya;
  • a child of Colonel Muammar Qadhafi;
  • a person responsible for or complicit in, or responsible for ordering, controlling or otherwise directing, or to have participated in, the commission of human rights abuses related to political repression in Libya;
  • a person that materially assisted, sponsored or provided financial, material, logistical or technical support for, or goods or services in support of, human rights abuses related to political repression, or any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order;
  • a person that acted or purported to act on behalf of (or was owned or controlled by) any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; or
  • a spouse or dependent child of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order.5

Moreover, these sanctions extend to the entire government of Libya, its agencies, instrumentalities, controlled entities and the Central Bank of Libya. In this regard, all property and interests in property by these entities are blocked and “may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in.6”

Additional Actions

The Executive Order was transmitted by President Obama to the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate on February 25, 2011. In the transmittal letter, President Obama noted that the Secretary of State was “suspending all existing [export] licenses and other approvals for the export of defense articles and services to Libya.7 The Department of State’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls implemented this measure via a notice to the trade community posted Monday, February 28.8

United Nations Sanctions

Following the lead of the U.S. unilateral sanctions, on Saturday, February 26, 2011, the U.N. Security Council voted 15-0 to impose an arms embargo on Libya. The U.N. Security Council also backed a travel ban on the Qadhafi family and Muammar Qadhafi’s inner circle, and encouraged U.N. member countries to freeze the assets of Muammar Qadhafi and his family. Finally, the U.N. Security Council agreed to refer human rights abuses of the Qadhafi regime to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, for an investigation into possible crimes against humanity.


In light of these new economic sanctions against Libya, U.S. companies (including their foreign branches) that have relationships with or export to Libyan persons or the government of Libya should carefully review these relationships and transactions to ensure compliance under the new sanctions against Libya.