June 22, 2011

U.S. Treasury Clarifies Sanctions Laws Regarding Food and Medicine to Iran


U.S. TreasuryWashington, DC – The U.S. Treasury issued guidance on Monday that donations of food and medicine for the relief of human suffering are exempt from U.S. export sanctions against Iran. The guidance does not represent a change in policy, but rather is a formal clarification of existing laws and regulations. It specifies that a license is not required for food and medicine donations to Iranians, but notes that “the donation of funds” for food and medicine or the commercial export of such goods to Iran requires a license from the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC).

NIAC has highlighted the chilling effect that ambiguities in Iran sanctions have had in blocking legal activities regarding Iran, such as blocking channels to send family remittances or preventing Iranians from accessing websites and communication tools. In addition to urging for general licenses to be issued and for statutory and regulatory fixes to eliminate certain unintended consequences, NIAC has also encouraged the issuance of clear guidance as an additional way to help reduce this chilling effect.

Last September, NIAC formally requested that OFAC issue a guidance to inform Americans with family in Iran what are the legal means by which family remittances may be sent to and from Iran. OFAC is still processing that request. An interpretive guidance issued by OFAC would help prevent banks from refusing to conduct legal family remittances by removing legal ambiguities surrounding the issue. Guidance from OFAC could also make explicit what is and is not permitted when family members send money to and from Iran and help prevent innocent Iranians and Iranian Americans from inadvertently running afoul of U.S. sanctions laws, which can bring severe penalties and even prison time.

One resource Iranian Americans currently available to Iranian Americans is a guide recently published by the Asian Law Caucus, a legal and civil rights organization. Their guide, The Impact of U.S. Sanctions Against Iran on You, lays out some of the effects of sanctions on ordinary Iranian Americans and provides guidance for how to navigate the maze of new and existing restrictions.




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