In a judgement of 7 April 2020 (ECLI:NL:HR:2020:623), the Dutch Supreme Court confirmed that the EU Blocking Regulation (“EUBR”) does not prevent extradition of an Iranian national to the United States for their alleged involvement in US export controls and sanctions violations. With this judgement, the Supreme Court upheld the judgement of the District Court of Rotterdam of 5 July 2019 (ECLI:NL:RBROT:2019:5338).
This case was triggered by an extradition request for an Iranian national (the “Individual”) following an indictment of a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia, in the United States. The Individual was alleged to have facilitated unlicensed transfers of US-origin dual-use items (A/D converters) from the US to Iran between November 2011 and September 2018, among others resulting in violations of US export controls and sanctions, as well as fraud and forgery.
The Individual argued that the EUBR would prevent execution of the extradition request. In particular, Article 4 provides, in short, that no judgement of a court or tribunal outside the EU giving effect to a blocked measure shall be recognized or be enforceable within the European Union. Moreover, although the Individual is not an EU resident or national, they would be eligible to benefit from the EUBR as they acted in a professional capacity within the European Union.
In first instance, the District Court of Rotterdam considered, among others, that the EUBR (i) seeks to provide protection against extraterritorial application of US sanctions for acts that are not punishable within the European Union; and (ii) does not provide protection against individuals and companies whose trade activities may contribute to Iran’s military capabilities, as such activities had also been made illegal within the European Union. In particular, the District Court found that the unlicensed exports of the relevant dual-use items would also have been a criminal offence under EU/Dutch sanction laws, if these were made from the Netherlands at the relevant time. Therefore, it rejected the related arguments of the Individual. By effect, it did not have to consider whether the Individual would indeed be within the scope of the EUBR.
On appeal, the Supreme Court found that the District Court did not err in law and, hence, confirmed the judgement of the District Court in first instance. As the Supreme Court is the highest competent court for relevant proceedings, the judgement cannot be appealed in the Netherlands. However, the competent Minister may decide to nullify the extradition request based on non-legal grounds (e.g., potential human rights concerns).