Asset freezing

What you should know about asset freezing

Asset freezing refers to the blocking of bank accounts and other financial assets of persons listed in EU legal acts. Such persons may be associated with the Taliban, maybe responsible for serious violations of human rights or whose activities seriously undermine democracy or the rule of law. Asset freezing is thus a targeted sanction, for example, against individuals (data subjects) part of or affiliated to the governments of non-EU countries. There are approximately 20 such sanctions in place, targeting different countries and groups. Some of these sanctions implement decisions of the United Nations Security Council, while others are imposed by the EU autonomously. Most serve the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy, but some target individuals in the EU.

Review mechanisms allow listed persons to challenge their inclusion on the list.

The European Commission's Foreign Policy Instruments Service manages a publicly available, consolidated list of all persons subject to such sanctions.

What are the main data protection issues?

Data quality - Asset freezing has obvious implications for the livelihood of listed individuals, so it is important that the personal data (also referred to as personal information) gathered about those individuals are accurate, particularly as justification for listing them. How can this be ensured? By informing the individuals who are listed and allowing them to rectify any incorrect information about them, so they can defend themselves.

Right of information - Individuals whose assets are frozen should receive information on how and why their personal information will be processed as soon as practically possible, although this might be difficult, for instance, in the case of individuals associated with the Taliban. However, this notification can be postponed until after the initial listing in order to maintain the surprise effect. If it is not possible to inform a newly listed individual directly, then an information notice addressed to that individual is usually published in the Official Journal of the EU.

Right of access - Individuals whose assets are frozen should, as a rule, have a right to access the personal information being processed about them and to be informed about how they can do so. This allows them to challenge the reasons for listing them.

Right to rectify - Individuals whose assets are frozen have the right to rectify inaccurate or incomplete information about them. It is an opportunity for them to present their point of view but this will not necessarily mean that they will be delisted.

More information

The following non-exhaustive list is a selection of documents for further reading on asset freezing:

EDPS prior check Opinion regarding restrictive measures of the European External Action Service (EEAS) (case 2014-0926)

EDPS prior check Opinion on the processing of personal data with regard to the freezing of assets - Council (cases 2012-0724 to -0726)

EDPS prior check Opinion regarding the Processing of personal data in connection with regulations requiring asset freezing as CFSP related restrictive measures, European Commission (Case 2010-0426)

EDPS comments on various legislative proposals concerning certain restrictive measures with regard to Afghanistan, Syria and Burma/Myanmar

EDPS comments on various legislative proposals concerning certain restrictive measures, with regard to Iran, in the Republic of Guinea-Bissau, in Côte d'Ivoire, in Belarus, in Tunisia, in Libya and in Egypt

Judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union in joined cases C-584/10 P, C-593/10 P and C-595/10 P - "Kadi II" (18/07/2013)


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