The cost of sanctions
EU must pay legal costs of Mubarak family’s London lawyers
The announcement yesterday of new sanctions by the UK, EU and US against Russian banks and individuals came on the same day as an EU court ruled against sanctions from a very different era. It is, perhaps, a cautionary tale.
The EU General Court ruled in favour of the former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and his family. Mubarak, who stood down in 2011 after nearly 30 years as president, died in 2020 at the age of 91.
Shortly after the Egyptian uprising of 2011, the Council of the European Union imposed “restrictive measures” on “persons having been identified as responsible for misappropriation of Egyptian state funds and who are thus depriving the Egyptian people of the benefits of the sustainable development of their economy and society and undermining the development of democracy in the country”.
Funds held in the EU by Mubarak, his two sons and their wives were frozen. They instructed London-based solicitors and barristers to challenge these decisions and clocked up a series of successes. Yesterday, the court ruled against the EU Council and ordered it to pay the Mubarak family’s legal costs.
The EU General Court has provided further unequivocal judicial acknowledgement that restrictive measures imposed on the Mubarak family by the EU Council were unlawful from the outset, ending a decade-long legal battle.
The EU Council has consistently failed to uphold cardinal principles of EU law that prohibit imposing sanctions based on proceedings that do not respect the fundamental rights enshrined in the European convention on human rights and the EU charter.
The EU Council’s failure to uphold these principles of EU law has resulted in:
a previous (and separate) decision of the EU Court of Justice on 3 December 2020 annulling sanctions imposed in 2016, 2017 and 2018;
the EU Council deciding to discontinue its unlawful sanctions against the Mubarak family in March 2021; and
the Mubarak family, despite the full lifting of sanctions, continuing to pursue their remaining legal challenges in the General Court in relation to EU sanctions imposed on them in subsequent years, resulting in today’s judgment annulling sanctions imposed in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
Moreover, on 1 January 2021 the United Kingdom, and based on the same Egyptian judicial proceedings against the Mubarak family that were relied upon by the EU Council, decided not to include the late former president and his family members in its autonomous, post-Brexit UK sanctions list, confirming in the UK parliament that they did not meet the legal test for designation under UK law.
Gamal Mubarak, one of the late president’s sons, said yesterday:
It is now confirmed beyond any doubt that the EU sanctions imposed against my family for over the past ten years were unlawful. My family has suffered enormous reputational harm because of these wholly unlawful designations. We have already received a substantial payment from the EU Council to refund our legal costs as ordered by the Court of Justice. We expect to receive more funds from the EU Council as ordered by the General Court today. Moreover, I have also asked our EU lawyers to explore every possible legal avenue to seek damages from the EU Council as a result of its unlawful measures against my family.
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