April 6, 2021

OFAC issues two frequently asked questions to address humanitarian aid in Syria

On April 5, 2021, the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control published frequently asked questions 884 and 885 to address whether non-US persons, including nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and foreign financial institutions, are at risk for secondary US sanctions under the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019 (Caesar Act) for transactions authorized under the Syrian Sanctions Regulations (SySR).  The Caesar Act establishes financial and travel-related sanctions for any foreign person or entity that knowingly provides significant support to the Government of Syria and its supporters, responsible for war crimes against the Syrian people.

According to FAQ 884, OFAC will not consider transactions by non-US persons or entities to be “significant” under the Caesar Act if a US person would be able to engage in the same transaction without obtaining a specific license from OFAC.  OFAC also encouraged humanitarian groups interested in providing aid to Syria to review OFAC’s Fact Sheet: Provision of Humanitarian Assistance and Trade to Combat COVID-19 for a list of GLs related to humanitarian aid, section 7425 of the Caesar Act that authorizes certain services in support of NGOs and section 7432 of the Caesar Act that includes a humanitarian waiver for certain activities.

In FAQ 885, OFAC indicates that US persons and entities are able to provide humanitarian assistance to Syria such as food and most medications without the risk of sanctions and without a Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) or OFAC license; therefore, non-US persons engaged in similar activities would also not be exposed to sanctions.  US persons are also authorized to provide services related to the export or re-export of certain non-US food and medications to Syria without acquiring an OFAC specific license; therefore, non-US persons would be allowed to do the same without the risk of exposure to sanctions.  Finally, OFAC reiterated its commitment to support the Syrian people and maintain policies favoring the provision of humanitarian aid to Syria.

Department of Treasury Press Release | FAQ 884 | FAQ 885 | Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act