Five years after the Arab Spring – an open call to the European Union to keep the assets frozen
The European Council decided on 18 March 2016 (Decision 2016/411) to extend the sanctions against individuals from former Egypt regime until 22 March 2017.
Similarly, on 28 January 2016 the European Council (Decision 2016/119) extended the sanctions against individuals of former Tunisia regime until 31 January 2017.
During the protests in Egypt and Tunisia, which led to the removal of longtime dictators Hosni Mubarak and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the European Union did something remarkable and, at the time, relatively unprecedented – it issued an order which pre-emptively froze the assets held by the deposed dictators and their immediate collaborators and families across the EU.
In the intervening years, the EU has annually extended this freeze for both countries to give the authorities more time to work on the recovery of those assets. In January and March 2016, the Council of the European Union will once again consider whether to continue or end the freeze of those assets.
As civil society organisations engaged in preventing the theft of state assets through corruption, we are calling on the European Institutions to keep the assets frozen for the following reasons:
- Releasing illicit assets would undermine ongoing recovery and restoration efforts. Despite legal and political difficulties inherent to any complex, multi-jurisdiction case involving former high level officials, steps are being taken to recover the assets. Investigations have been underway in both Tunisia and Egypt, while France, Germany, Italy and the UK have committed support to both countries on recovering assets held in their jurisdictions. Middle East, North African and European countries, along with the US and Canada, have engaged in annual meetings to discuss progress in the cases, the latest of which will took place in December 2015.
- Unfreezing these assets now would ultimately be a sign from Europe to the people of North Africa that its support for their peaceful revolutions is over, that European countries will continue to be a haven for the laundering of public money by corrupt public officials, and ultimately that those who abuse their positions and steal from the people can sleep safe in the knowledge that they can enjoy a comfortable retirement in their mansions in London and on their yachts in Spain.
- All EU member states are parties to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, which obliges countries to take a number of public and private anti-corruption measures. Article 51 of the UNCAC states that asset recovery is a fundamental principle of the convention and Article 43 requires member states to provide the widest possible cooperation in the recovery of stolen assets. Unfreezing the assets would be a move against the EU member states’ international obligations.
The theft of public assets by state officials is a crime. The European Union has a duty to both the citizens of Egypt and Tunisia, as well as citizens of each European country, to punish corrupt officials and their networks. We encourage the European Union to not accept the theft of state assets and in 2016, to keep Mubarak and Ben Ali´s assets frozen.
External Relations and Global Campaigns
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