Chapter Six: Sanctions Lists

Sanction Lists

Sanctions screening is a crucial part of any export control compliance work. It consists in checking customers, end-users and other parties in a supply chain against various lists to ensure that they are not doing business with individuals, entities, or countries that are prohibited under international or national laws.

Understanding the purpose and scope of sanctions lists, and implementing an efficient screening process, is crucial for organizations to navigate the complex landscape of global compliance and avoid legal and financial penalties from non-compliance with export control regulations.

Where to find sanctions lists

Sanctions lists are an integral part of international or national regulations that impose restrictive measures of different types against persons and entities, but also aircraft, vessels, broadcasting companies and some more. As these lists are sometimes quite long, having hundreds of entries, they are most often found in Annexes to these regulations. The principal text then describes the restrictive measures and refers to an annex which is listing the persons and entities subject to those measures.

Very often, the main text foresees a flexible mean to update sanctions lists, e.g. by implementing regulations that do not need to pass the same legislative process than the main legal act. This flexibility is crucial if authorities want to be fast in reacting to geopolitical changes or specific events and include additional people or entities on their sanctions lists.

The compliance challenge

These sanctions lists are often changing, as the lawmakers decide on a regular basis to add new entries to the lists, remove existing entries from the lists and modify the identifying information or reasons of listing. As soon as these changes enter into force, often the same day when the publication is made in the official law journals, economic actors need to comply with the new rules. Sanctions screening is therefore a daily work and not being up-to-date is the worst that can happen.

How sanctions lists are structured

Sanctions lists have often different parts, titled e.g. “Persons”, “Entities” and so on. Within the frame of the different parts, the entries are (or are not always) numbered.

Often, but not always, the title reproduces the restrictive measures targeting these persons and entities. Mostly, this takes place by a reference to the legal text (e.g. “list of persons referred to in Article NN”). This requires to look into the main text I order to know what are the sanctions against a particular person or entity.

It is particularly important to know what is prohibited and what is still possible to do with the sanctioned people or entities. A travel ban, a freeze of funds, a trade embargo … are different measures, and their impact on the economic actors doing business is not the same. Even if a travel ban and financial limitations often go together, this does not mean that absolutely all business transactions are forbidden to do, even if a freeze of funds substantially limits the behavior and capacities of the sanctioned person.

Who is listed

Sanctions lists are often reproducing the reasons why these persons are listed. This may be done in the main text in a general way for all entries, or more specifically in the list at the place where the sanctioned person is identified.

People may appear on “country lists”, where sanctions are imposed because their implication in the country’s government or human right violations in a given country-specific situation. They may also appear on “topic-specific lists”, like terrorist groups, human traffickers, human right violators, art smugglers.

What information is displayed about a sanctioned person

Most typically, sanctions lists include detailed information about individuals, entities, or countries that are subject to sanctions. The specific details may vary depending on the issuing authority (such as the United Nations, the European Union, or individual countries). Here are some common types of information included on sanctions lists:

Name and Aliases: The legal names of individuals or entities subject to sanctions are usually listed. Aliases, pseudonyms, or variations of names that the sanctioned parties may use are also included.

Identification Numbers: Unique identifiers, such as passport numbers, national identification numbers, or registration numbers for entities, may be provided to help accurately identify and track the sanctioned entities.

Date of Birth (for Individuals) or Incorporation Date (for Entities): The birthdates of sanctioned individuals or the incorporation dates of sanctioned entities are often included to avoid confusion with others who may share similar names.

Nationality or Jurisdiction: Information about the nationality of individuals or the jurisdiction of entities may be specified. This helps in determining the legal context and the authority responsible for the sanctions.

Address and Location: The current or last known addresses of individuals or entities are typically provided to facilitate enforcement and compliance efforts.

Description of Designation: The reasons for the sanctions are detailed in the form of a narrative or a description. This may include information about the actions, behaviors, or policies that led to the imposition of sanctions.

Associated Individuals or Entities: Connections or affiliations with other sanctioned individuals or entities may be highlighted. This helps prevent circumvention of sanctions through indirect associations.

Legal Basis: The legal framework or authority under which the sanctions are imposed is often referenced. This includes the specific laws, regulations, or international resolutions that justify the sanctions.

Effective Date: The date on which the sanctions come into effect is clearly stated. This information is crucial for compliance purposes and to ensure that actions taken before the effective date are not subject to sanctions.

Let’s look at an example of an entry on various sanction lists & look at the range of information published by the competent authorities.

United Nations Sanction List


A.k.a.: a) Islamic State in Iraq and Syria – Greater Sahara (ISIS-GS) b) Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – Greater Sahara (ISIS-GS) c) Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Greater Sahara (ISIL-GS) d) Islamic State of the Greater Sahel e) ISIS in the Greater Sahel f) ISIS in the Greater Sahara g) ISIS in the Islamic Sahel

F.k.a.: na

Address: na

Listed on: ‪23 Feb. 2020

Other information: Formed in May 2015 by Adnan Abu

Walid al-Sahraoui (QDi.415). Associated with the Islamic State in Iraq and

the Levant (listed as Al-Qaida in Iraq (QDe.115)). Splinter group of

Al-Mourabitoun (QDe.141). Committed terrorist attacks in Mali, Niger and

Burkina Faso. INTERPOL-UN Security Council Special Notice web

link: click here

OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List





SAHEL; a.k.a. “ISGS”), Mali; Niger; Burkina Faso [SDGT].

EU Sanctions (EU Regulation 881/2002 – Annex I – Legal persons, groups and entities)

Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS)

(alias: (a) Islamic State in Iraq and Syria – Greater Sahara (ISIS-GS); (b) Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – Greater Sahara (ISIS-GS); (c) Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Greater Sahara (ISIL-GS); (d) Islamic State of the Greater Sahel; (e) ISIS in the Greater Sahel; (f) ISIS in the Greater Sahara; (g) ISIS in the Islamic Sahel). Other information: Formed in May 2015 by Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahraoui. Associated with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (listed as Al-Qaida in Iraq). Splinter group of Al-Mourabitoun. Committed terrorist attacks in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. Date of designation referred to in Article 7e(e): 23.02.2020.

As seen from above, primarily the full name is retained across all Sanction lists and the abbreviation could be included in A.k.a’s or added next to the name in brackets. The SDN list, here in this case leaves out the “Other information” field but does mention the list of countries where the terrorist attacks were committed.

The delisting process

Any sanctioned individual or entity has the right to request a delisting, meaning to be removed from a sanction list. This includes the right for legal action, and requesting a judicial review of the political designation decision.

In Europe, the European Court of Justice has often chosen to walk a fine line between protection designated persons and entities from arbitrary designation and overtly interfering the EU foreign and security policy. When they struck down a designation decision, the ECJ often based its decision on insufficient evidence to substantiate the reasons supporting the Council decision to place a particular person under sanctions. There were 204 ECJ court rulings between July 2009 and March 2017 for that topic. How detailed the statement of reasons must be, depends, according to the ECJ, on the particular circumstances of each case. It is not about being short or long. What matters if a demonstration that the listed person satisfies the listing criteria under the relevant sanctions measures.

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