19th Feb 2020

Arab Spring villains bombard EU with lawsuits

  • Gaddafi: laughed out of court as 'manifestly inadmissable' (Photo: Martin Beek)

The year of the Arab Spring has seen an extraordinary number of anti-EU lawsuits, including by the late Colonel Gaddafi, who lost.

Eighty two people, entities or groups of entities hit by EU visa bans and asset freezes took the EU to court in 2011.

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The number is a staggering increase compared to previous years: there were just seven cases in the whole period from 1999 (the first-ever case) to 2009 and 15 cases in 2010.

The bulk (37) of the 2011 lawsuits come from the circle of ex-Cote-d'Ivoire leader Laurent Gbago. One of them is by his wife, Simone, who said she should get off because the war was a "force majeure."

Iranian banks and shipping firms lodged 14 cases.

Most of the rest came from Arab Spring countries Syria (11), Libya (6), Tunisia (6) and Egypt (3).

Gaddafi had the chutzpah to try to stop France from giving €259 million of his loot to the Transitional National Council in Benghazi. The EU court rubbished his appeal as being "manifestly inadmissable."

Businessmen and companies were more litigious than politicians.

The first ever case was filed by Serbian supermarket baron Miroslav Miskovic, an associate of the late dictator Slobodan Milosevic, in 1999.

Syrian billionaire Rami Makhlouf and members of his family filed five cases. In one of them he wants €50,000 damages and €7,500 in legal costs. He said the EU ban does not promote "peace and security" and that it endangers his "means of support and right to life."

One interesting case concerns Syrian tycoon Tarif Akhras.

Akhras said that after the EU put him on its blacklist Syrian rebels made death threats against him and his son, that "an armed man" tried to murder him and that someone else tried to kill his son-in-law. He fled Homs for Damascus in October and then left Syria for a place which he is keeping secret "for security reasons."

He lost his case. The tribunal said he is a natural target because he is related to Assad's wife. It added that the EU is not responsible for things that happen in a situation "approaching civil war and anarchy."

Meanwhile, Belarusian arms trader Vladimir Peftiev has brought four cases.

He said the EU failed to prove that he is funding President Alexander Lukashenko and wants protection under the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Sorry, but ...

Just three plaintiffs won in 2011 - Cote D'Ivoire oil baron Kadio Morokro, its former foreign minister Youssoufou Bamba and an Iranian firm, Hanseatic Trade Trust & Shipping.

The EU has not paid anyone a cent in damages in the past 12 years, however.

The above list of cases does not include people on a separate EU register of terrorist entities.

But a case brought by Philippino intellectual Jose Maria Sison in 2007 set an important precedent. Sison got off the terrorist register. But the court ruled the EU is liable for damages only if there is a "sufficiently serious" breach of law and an "inexcusable or intentional" error, taking into account "the complexity of the situations to be regulated."

Judges in Luxembourg have ever since said the EU can be forgiven if it makes a slip when dealing with "complex" regimes.

This article was corrected on 2 January 2012. The original said Rami Makhlouf filed five cases. In fact he filed one case, while the other four were brought by relatives


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