On September 17, 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order (EO), “Imposing Sanctions on Certain Persons with Respect to the Humanitarian and Human Rights Crisis in Ethiopia,” targeting persons responsible for the conflict in Ethiopia, obstructing humanitarian access and preventing a ceasefire. The White House issued a statement in connection with the new sanctions indicating they are directed at “the individuals and entities perpetrating the violence and driving a humanitarian disaster.” Along with the EO, OFAC also issued Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 922-927 and General Licenses 1, 2 and 3.

The EO authorizes the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to sanction persons determined to be:

  1. responsible for or engaged in (a) actions or policies that are adverse to democracy, peace and security; (b) corruption and human rights violations; (c) obstruction of humanitarian relief; (d) the targeting of civilians with acts of violence; or (e) attacks in northern Ethiopia;
  2. a military or security force operating in northern Ethiopia; or
  3. a political agent of the government of Ethiopia, government of Eritrea or its ruling People’s Front for Democracy and Justice, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the Amhara regional government, or the Amhara regional or irregular forces.

As noted in the EO and detailed in the FAQs, the EO authorizes blocking sanctions and other non-blocking menu-based sanctions. Persons engaging in sanctionable activity may be designated to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Entities (SDN) List or to the Non-SDN Menu-Based Sanctions (Non-SDN MBS) List. All property and interests in property of SDNs and entities owned 50% or greater by SDNs are blocked and cannot be dealt in by U.S. persons. Persons designated to the Non-SDN MBS List would be subject to menu-based sanctions set forth in the EO at Section 2(a)(i)(B)-(E) on a case-by-case basis including, but not limited to, the prohibition on new investments in debt or equity. The 50% rule does not apply to persons on the Non-SDN MBS List.

General Licenses 1, 2 and 3 authorize limited transactions that would otherwise be prohibited. GLs 1 and 2 authorize certain transactions and activities otherwise prohibited that are related to the official business of the U.S. government and official activities of certain international organizations, respectively. GL 3 authorizes the exportation or reexportation of agricultural commodities, medicine, medical devices, replacement parts and components for medical devices and software updates for medical devices, to Ethiopia or Eritrea, or to persons in third countries purchasing specifically for resale to Ethiopia or Eritrea.