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President Biden Declares National Emergency to Address Threat Posed by the Humanitarian Crisis in Ethiopia

In an Executive Order ("EO") signed on September 17, 2021, President Joseph R. Biden declared a state of national emergency to address the threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the "widespread violence, atrocities, and serious human rights abuses" in northern Ethiopia and the greater Horn of Africa region. The new EO authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to sanction certain foreign persons, including individuals and entities who:

  • are responsible for (i) threatening the "peace, security, or stability" of Ethiopia, (ii) corruption or serious human rights abuse, (iii) obstruction of humanitarian assistance, (iv) the violent targeting of civilians, (v) an attack against the United Nations or African Union or (vi) actions that undermine the democratic processes or territorial integrity of Ethiopia;

  • are military or security forces operating in Northern Ethiopia;

  • obstruct a ceasefire or peace process in the country;

  • are political subdivisions, agencies, or instrumentalities of the Government of Ethiopia, the Government of Eritrea or its ruling People's Front for Democracy and Justice, or certain other military and political groups; or

  • are the spouse or adult child of any individual sanctioned under the EO.

Once a determination is made, the EO authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to select one or more of the following sanctions to impose on the sanctioned person (including the leaders of sanctioned entities):

  • blocking all property and interests in property of the person within the United States; and

  • prohibiting, insofar as the action would benefit the sanctioned individual or entity:

    • U.S. persons from investing in equity or debt instruments of the sanctioned person;

    • U.S. financial institutions from providing loans or extending credit to the sanctioned person; and

    • U.S. persons from engaging in transactions in foreign exchange in which the sanctioned person has any interest.

The EO also authorizes the denial of entry into the United States and the denial of export licenses.

In connection with the new EO, and to ensure that humanitarian assistance can continue to flow to Ethiopia through authorized channels, OFAC issued General License ("GL") Nos. 1, 2 and 3 to authorize, respectively, the official business of certain international organizations, activities in support of certain nongovernmental organizations, and transactions necessary for the exportation of agricultural commodities, medicine and medical devices.

Further, OFAC issued six new FAQs related to the new EO and GLs, including:

  • FAQ 923, which clarifies that an entity 50 percent or more owned by a sanctioned individual is not automatically blocked by the new EO, and must itself be listed on OFAC's Specially Designated Nationals ("SDN") and Blocked Persons List to be subject to blocking sanctions; and

  • FAQ 924, which clarifies that an entity owned by an individual listed on OFAC's Non-SDN Menu-Based Sanctions List is not automatically subject to those same non-blocking sanctions unless that entity appears separately on the list.

To date, no sanctions have been imposed under the new EO.

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