US Sanctions Related to the Conflict in the Central African Republic

On May 12, 2014, President Barack Obama signed Executive Order 13667, ordering the imposition of economic sanctions on specific transactions carried out with parties linked to the ongoing conflict in the Central African Republic. In the Executive Order, Obama specifically mentions the destabilizing impact of the conflict and its increasingly destructive nature in declaring that the escalating conflict had reached a point where it posed an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”

In light of these conditions and under authority granted to the President by the International Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the National Emergencies Act (NEA) alongside other legislation, President Obama has moved to block transactions made between United States persons and parties determined to be detrimental to the stability and security of the Central African Republic. In addition to blocking US persons from interacting with specified individuals, the sanctions move to freeze the assets of these individuals and bar their entry into the United States.

Like numerous other sanctions programs enforced through the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the Central African Republic sanctions are centered primarily on interaction with certain individuals rather than broader institutions within the specified country. Pursuant with the language of the order, these individuals include both persons explicitly mentioned in the Order itself as well as persons that the Secretary of State has deemed responsible for the destabilization of the domestic political environment in the CAR.

These include actors who play a role in political and social destabilization, not only from an institutional perspective, but also with regards to human rights. Under the language of the Order, individuals who provide financial support to armed groups, openly violate or undermine transitional agreements, obstruct humanitarian aid, participate in the recruitment of child soldiers, and generally threaten the peace and stability of the transitional period open themselves up to being sanctioned through this program.

Once it is determined that an individual fits the criteria outlined by the Order’s language, all US persons and entities are forbidden from making any contribution of “funds, goods, or services, by, to, or for the benefit” of the listed individual. In addition to making contributions to a listed individual, the receipt of funds or services from this individual is also deemed unlawful. Any US person deemed in violation of these rules opens themselves up to potential legal action and penalties enforced via mechanisms of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Penalties can include civil fines and/or incarceration if the offense is prosecuted as a crime.

Any individual looking to invest in or deal with institutions of the Central African Republic should consult with an experienced OFAC attorney in order to assess the legality of financial transactions before undertaking any economic decisions. An OFAC attorney will be able to review the viability of such transactions and ensure that they are carried out within the legal constraints imposed by US laws.