On September 17, 2021, President Biden signed an Executive Order, “Imposing Sanctions on Certain Persons with Respect to the Humanitarian and Human Rights Crisis in Ethiopia” to address the famine-like conditions and the brutal murder, rape and acts of sexual violence committed against civilian populations in Ethiopia, Eritrea and in the Tigray region, in particular. The new EO enables the Department of the Treasury, after consulting with the Secretary of State, to impose targeted sanctions against persons and entities that commit serious human rights abuses in these regions or facilitate the ongoing crisis in Ethiopia. Treasury has not designated any individual or entity pursuant to the EO, meaning the EO doesn’t impose any actual prohibitions just yet.
According to the Department of the Treasury, the EO is not directed towards the people of Ethiopia, Eritrea, or the greater Horn of Africa region and is not intended to hamper humanitarian aid to these locations; therefore, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control issued three general licenses authorizing official activities related to certain international organizations (general license 1), transactions related to non-governmental organizations’ activities (general license 2), and certain transactions related to the export or re-export of agricultural goods, food and food-related items such as seeds and fertilizers, medicines and medical devices to the region (general license 3).
In addition, OFAC issued six frequently asked questions (FAQs 922, 923, 924, 925, 926, and 927) to provide a general overview of the new EO and additional clarity for its provisions, general licenses and the non-application of OFAC’s 50 percent rule that, according to FAQ 923, does not automatically apply to entities related to persons who are blocked solely under section 2(a)(i)(A) of the EO, unless the entity meets the EO’s definition of a sanctioned person or is listed on OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List.