On January 19, 2021, the US State Department designated Ansarallah, a political movement and militia group in Yemen also known as the Houthis, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (“FTO”) and Specially Designated Global Terrorist (“SDGT”), and also designated three of its leaders as SDGTs. OFAC designated Ansarallah on the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (“SDN List”) and updated the entries for the same individuals on the SDN List who had already been designated under other sanctions programs. Concurrently, OFAC issued four general licenses (“GLs”) to help facilitate the flow of humanitarian assistance to Yemen that would otherwise be prohibited as a result of the designations and published three FAQs. After President Biden was inaugurated, OFAC issued an additional GL on January 25, 2021 that temporarily authorizes most otherwise prohibited transactions involving Ansarallah or any entity in which Ansarallah directly or indirectly owns a 50% or greater interest (hereinafter, “Ansarallah”) until 12:01 AM EST on February 26, 2021.
The five GLs related to Ansarallah are the following:
- GL No. 9 authorizes transactions and activities involving Ansarallah that are for the conduct of the official business of the US government.
- GL No. 10 authorizes transactions and activities involving Ansarallah that are for the conduct of the official business of the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The GL also says that it does not authorize transactions or activities involving the Iranian Red Crescent Society.
- GL No. 11 authorizes NGOs to engage in transactions and activities involving Ansarallah that are ordinarily incident and necessary to activities in support of a range of humanitarian, democracy building, educational, non-commercial development, and environmental protection activities in Yemen. The authorized transactions include the processing and transfer of funds, the payment of taxes, fees, and import duties, and the purchase or receipt of permits, licenses, or public utility services.
- GL No. 12 authorizes transactions and activities involving Ansarallah that are ordinarily incident and necessary to the export or reexport of agricultural commodities, medicine, medical devices, replacement parts and components for medical devices, or software updates for medical devices to Yemen, or to persons in third countries purchasing specifically for resale to Yemen. The GL also says that it does not relieve exporters from compliance with US export control laws.
- GL No. 13 temporarily authorizes all transactions and activities involving Ansarallah that would otherwise be prohibited in connection with its designation as an SDGT and FTO until 12:01 AM EST on February 26, 2021. The GL also indicates that it does not authorize the unblocking of any funds in Ansarallah accounts that were blocked as of 12:01 AM EST on January 25, 2021 or authorize any transactions or activities with any other SDNs, including the three designated Ansarallah leaders.
The following points in OFAC’s FAQs concerning the implications of the Ansarallah designations and the scope of the GLs are noteworthy:
- FAQ 875 indicates that GLs Nos. 9-12 are intended to facilitate the “uninterrupted flow of humanitarian assistance and certain other critical commodities to the people of Yemen.”
- FAQ 876 indicates that non-US persons may engage in or facilitate transactions involving Ansarallah without risking exposure to secondary sanctions under the counter-terrorism-related Executive Order 13224 (“EO 13224”) provided that such activities would be authorized under GLs Nos. 9-13 if engaged in by a US person. It also indicates that non-US financial institutions do not risk exposure to correspondent and payable-through account sanctions under EO 13224 if they knowingly conduct or facilitate a transaction on behalf of Ansarallah that would be authorized under GLs Nos. 9-13 if engaged in by a US person.
- FAQ 877 indicates that US and non-US persons may provide COVID-19-related humanitarian assistance in Yemen according to the terms of GLs Nos. 9-12. In particular, it indicates that GL No. 12’s authorizations extend to the export and reexport of items that may be used against COVID-19, including personal protective equipment, respirators and masks, ventilators, and a variety of other related items.
Please see also our prior blog post on additional Yemen-related export control restrictions that were implemented early last year.