In response to recent violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the United States has taken steps to expand the sanctions that were initially imposed against targeted persons in the DRC in October 2006. While these sanctions do not target the geographic territory (i.e., the DRC as a whole is not subject to sanctions), they do prohibit transactions with certain designated persons. These actions reflect the continued trend of the U.S. government to utilize such measures to penalize actors contributing to severe instability and violence. 

On 8 July 2014, President Obama issued Executive Order 13761 (the Order). The Order amends Executive Order 13413, issued on 27 October 2006, which declared a national emergency to deal with the threat to the United States posed by the violence in the DRC and related regional instability, and imposed blocking requirements with respect to property and property interests of certain designated persons. In response to violence that continues to threaten the peace, security, and stability of the DRC and the surrounding region, as well as to address additional related United Nations Security Council Resolutions, the United States has taken additional steps to expand the legal authority for future designations of persons who engage in certain sanctionable activities. 

The Order, together with the Democratic Republic of the Congo Sanctions Regulations, continues to require U.S. persons to block property and property interests of individuals or entities that have been designated as a Specially Designated National (SDN) when such property is within the U.S. or within the possession or control of U.S. persons or entities. Companies doing business in this region should review their business activities to confirm that transactions do not involve persons or entities designated as SDNs. An entity in which a SDN has a 50% or greater interest is also blocked, regardless of whether it appears on an annex to an executive order or on the SDN list maintained by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). OFAC also advises U.S. persons to act with caution when considering a transaction with a non-blocked entity in which a blocked person has a significant ownership interest, even though it is less than 50%.

In addition, the Order grants the Department of the Treasury the authority to designate persons determined to be responsible for or complicit in, or who have engaged in, directly or indirectly, any of the following in or in relation to the DRC:

  • actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, or stability of the DRC;
  • actions or policies that threaten transitional agreements or undermine democratic processes or institutions in the DRC;
  • the targeting of women, children, or any civilians through the commission of acts of violence (including killing, maiming, torture, rape, or other sexual violence), abduction, forced displacement, or attacks on schools, hospitals, religious sites, or locations where civilians are seeking refuge, or through conduct that would constitute a serious abuse or violation of human rights or a violation of international humanitarian law;
  • the use or recruitment of children by armed groups or armed forces in the context of the conflict in the DRC;
  • the obstruction of the delivery or distribution of, or access to, humanitarian assistance;
  • attacks against United Nations missions, international security presences, or other peacekeeping operations; or
  • support to persons, including armed groups, involved in activities that threaten the peace, security, or stability of the DRC or that undermine democratic processes or institutions in the DRC, through the illicit trade in natural resources of the DRC.

The Department of the Treasury is also authorized 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, demobilization, voluntary repatriation, resettlement, or reintegration of combatants;
  • to be a leader of an entity, including a government, militia, or rebel group, that has, or whose members have, engaged in any of the activities above, or of an entity that is designated pursuant to the Order;
  • to have transferred, supplied, or sold, directly or indirectly, to the DRC, or have been the recipient in the DRC of, arms and related materiel, including military aircraft and equipment, or advice, training, or assistance (including financing and financial assistance) related to military activities, with certain exceptions for transfers for the authorized support of humanitarian activities or peacekeeping, international, or government forces; 
  • to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, logistical, or technological support for, or goods or services in support of, any of the activities described above or to any person designated pursuant to the Order; or
  • to be owned or controlled by, or to have acted on behalf of, any party designated pursuant to the Order.

On 1 July 2014, OFAC added to the SDN list five entities targeted under Executive Order 13413 (OFAC has not yet designated any individuals or entities under the Order):

  1. Allied Democratic Forces (a.k.a. Forces Democratiques Alliees-Armee Nationale de Liberation de L'Ouganda; a.k.a. Islamic Alliance of Democratic Forces; a.k.a. ADF; a.k.a. ADF/NALU);
  2. Forces Democratiques Alliees-Armee Nationale de Liberation de L'Ouganda (a.k.a. Allied Democratic Forces; a.k.a. Islamic Alliance of Democratic Forces; a.k.a. ADF; a.k.a. ADF/NALU);
  3. Islamic Alliance of Democratic Forces (a.k.a. Allied Democratic Forces; a.k.a. Forces Democratiques Alliees-Armee Nationale de Liberation de L'Ouganda; a.k.a. ADF; a.k.a. ADF/NALU);
  4. ADF (a.k.a. Allied Democratic Forces; a.k.a. Forces Democratiques Alliees-Armee Nationale de Liberation de L'Ouganda; a.k.a. Islamic Alliance of Democratic Forces; a.k.a. ADF/NALU); and
  5. ADF/NALU (a.k.a. Allied Democratic Forces; a.k.a. Forces Democratiques Alliees-Armee Nationale de Liberation de L'Ouganda; a.k.a. Islamic Alliance of Democratic Forces; a.k.a. ADF).