On 8 July, US President Barack Obama issued a new EO amending and expanding US sanctions adopted in response to the on-going conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (“DRC”). Since the release of EO 13413 on 30 October 2006, which first authorised sanctions in response to the situation in the DRC in 2006, there have been multiple UN Security Council Resolutions (“UNSCR”) addressing the situation in the DRC, including UNSCR 2136 on 30 January 2014. The issuance of the new EO addresses the continuation of activities that threaten the peace, security or stability of the DRC and the surrounding region, including widespread atrocities, recruitment and use of child soldiers, attacks on peacekeepers, obstruction of humanitarian operations and the exploitation of natural resources to finance these activities.
Specifically, the new EO authorises the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of the State, to designate persons determined:
- To be a political or military leader of a Congolese or foreign armed group operating in the DRC that impedes the disarmament of combatants;
- To be responsible for or complicit in (i) actions that threaten the peace, security or stability of the DRC, (ii) actions that undermine democratic processes or institutions in the DRC, or (iii) the targeting of women, children or any civilians through the commission of acts of violence;
- To supply or receive in the DRC arms and related materiel or advice, training or assistance, including financing and financial assistance, related to military activities;
- To have materially assisted or supported any person determined to engage in the activities described above; or
- Any entity owned or controlled by a person designated pursuant to EO 13413.
Persons designated pursuant to the new EO will be subject to blocking sanctions, meaning that all property in the US or under the control of a US person will be frozen.
Separately, on 1 July, the US Treasury Department designated the Allied Democratic Forces (“ADF”) as a blocked person under the existing EO 13413, which authorises sanctions against persons engaging in activities connected with widespread violence and atrocities in the Congo. The designation was based on the Treasury Department’s determination that the ADF targets children in situations of armed conflict, including through killing, rape, abduction and forced displacement. According to the Treasury Department, the ADF comprises an estimated 1200-1500 armed fighters, some of whom are kidnapped and recruited child soldiers. OFAC’s designation was taken in support of the UN Security Council’s imposition of sanctions against the ADF.