The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is an agency of the United States Treasury Department. Its primary interests are the national security, foreign policy, and economic stability of the United States. However, many sanctions programs involve a global effort. Therefore some OFAC programs are based upon United Nations policy, international agreements, and mandates when such items are deemed consistent with the policy of the United States.
Controlling terrorism, regulating the diamond trade, limiting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and stopping international narcotics trafficking are not beneficial to the United States alone. Rather, acts of terror, genocide, despotism, and international crime affect like-minded nations around the globe. Therefore, the United Nations Security Council and its committees impose economic sanctions against various actors in an attempt to preserve international security without resorting to military intervention.
International Trade Sanctions
OFAC sanctions programs involving targeted foreign nations, rough diamond trading, drug kingpins and narcotics traffickers, weapons of mass destruction, and global terrorism are created under the authority of economic and trade sanctions established by Executive Order pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and other laws enacted by the United State Congress. The legal authority for OFAC sanctions programs is not limited to the United States federal government. Many OFAC sanctions programs are based on international mandates, such as UN sanctions, and multilateral trade agreements. Multilateral trade agreements include the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and those involving the World Trade Organization (WTO).
OFAC sanctions programs involving international agreements and mandates include the following:
- Balkans-Related Sanctions – United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244, regarding violence in Kosovo;
- Counterterrorism Sanctions – United Nations Security Council Resolution 1526, to condemn the Taliban and Al-Qaida and to combat terrorism as a threat to international peace;
- Democratic Republic of the Congo – United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1698, 1649, and 1596, regarding illegal weapons trade and militia violence threatening the stability of the region;
- Iran Sanctions – United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1929, 1803, 1747, 1737, and 1696, all related to weapons of mass destruction and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons;
- Iraq-Related Sanctions – The UN Security Council has passed 16 resolutions involving Iraq, its invasion of Kuwait, petroleum, and weapons of mass destruction. You can find the full list here;
- The Former Liberian Regime of Charles Taylor – United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1521 and 1521 to prevent former Liberian president Charles Taylor and his allies and associates from using misappropriated funds and property;
- Non-Proliferation Sanctions – United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1540, 1696, 1737, 1747, 1803, and 1929, regarding the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and imposing sanctions on Iran, including arms embargoes and sanctions for Iran’s failure to halt Uranium enrichment;
- North Korea Sanctions – United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874, regarding concerns over nuclear testing and the pursuit of developing and proliferating weapons of mass destruction;
- Rough Diamond Trade Controls – Multilateral agreements, the United Nations Participation Act (UNPA), the Kimberly Process, and United Nations Security Council Resolution 1385, regarding blood diamonds and diamond mining in Sierra Leone;
- Somalia Sanctions – There are 11 UN Security Council Resolutions regarding the crisis in Somalia, which includes piracy, civilians and children in armed conflict, and instability and humanitarian issues. See the list of UN Resolutions here;
- Sudan Sanctions – United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1591 and 1672 regarding violence in Darfur;
- Syria Sanctions – United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1595 and 1693 regarding terrorism as a threat to international peace and security;
- Yemen-Related Sanctions – United Nations Security Council Resolution 2140 in support of Yemen’s independence and sovereignty;
International mandates, UN Resolutions, and multilateral agreements also provide legal authority for OFAC sanctions and trade controls pertaining to blood diamonds, the rough diamond trade, and the mining of diamonds in war-torn nations including Angola, Cote D’Ivoire (the Ivory Coast), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), the Republic of the Congo, and Zimbabwe. Diamond trade controls are supported by United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1173 and 1295, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme adopted by the World Diamond Congress, and other actions of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses, and the World Diamond Council.
OFAC Sanctions Program Compliance
Complying with OFAC regulations is not simply a matter of national security and economic policy, but also a matter of international security and peacekeeping efforts. Through international agreements, the United States government, the United Nations, and international business and humanitarian organizations attempt to create and maintain peace and stability across the globe. Violations of United States and international trade sanctions are considered to be a threat to international peace. An experienced OFAC sanctions lawyer can help companies and individuals maintain compliance and avoid civil and criminal penalties which may be associated with violations of sanctions programs.