JUDGMENT OF THE GENERAL COURT (First Chamber)

8 July 2020 (*)

(Common foreign and security policy — Restrictive measures against Iran — Freezing of funds — List of persons and entities to whom those measures apply — Inclusion of the applicants’ names)

In Case T-332/15,

Ocean Capital Administration GmbH, established in Hamburg (Germany), and the other applicants whose names are set out in the annex, (1) represented by P. Moser QC, E. Metcalfe, Barrister, and M. Taher, Solicitor,

applicants,

v

Council of the European Union, represented by M. Bishop and V. Piessevaux, acting as Agents,

defendant,

APPLICATION, first, based on Article 263 TFEU for the annulment of Council Decision (CFSP) 2015/556 of 7 April 2015 amending Council Decision 2010/413/CFSP concerning restrictive measures against Iran (OJ 2015 L 92, p. 101), and Council Implementing Regulation (EU) 2015/549 of 7 April 2015 implementing Regulation (EU) No 267/2012 concerning restrictive measures against Iran (OJ 2015 L 92, p. 12), in so far as those acts concern the applicants, and, second, an application based on Article 277 TFEU for a declaration of the inapplicability of Council Decision 2013/497/CFSP of 10 October 2013 amending Decision 2010/413/CFSP concerning restrictive measures against Iran (OJ 2013 L 272, p. 46), and of Council Regulation (EU) No 971/2013 of 10 October 2013 amending Regulation (EU) No 267/2012 concerning restrictive measures against Iran (OJ 2013 L 272, p. 1).

THE GENERAL COURT (First Chamber),

composed P. Nihoul (Rapporteur), acting as President, J. Svenningsen and U. Öberg, Judges,

Registrar: S. Bukšek Tomac, administrator,

having regard to the written part of the procedure and further to the hearing on 29 November 2019,

gives the following

Judgment

I.      Background to the dispute

1        The present case has been brought in the context of the restrictive measures introduced in order to apply pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran to end proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities and the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems.

2        Ocean Capital Administration GmbH and the other applicants, whose names are set out in the annex, are 32 undertakings active in the maritime transport sector.

3        On 26 July 2010, the name of the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (‘IRISL’) was included in the list set out in Annex II to Council Decision 2010/413/CFSP concerning restrictive measures against Iran and repealing Common Position 2007/140/CFSP (OJ 2010 L 195, p. 39).

4        That inclusion was made pursuant to Article 20(1)(b) of Decision 2010/413, which provided for the freezing of the funds and economic resources of ‘persons and entities … that are engaged in, directly associated with, or providing support for, Iran’s nuclear activities …, or persons and entities that have assisted designated persons or entities in evading or violating the provisions of [Security Council Resolutions 1737 (2006), 1747 (2007), 1803 (2008) and 1929 (2010)] or this Decision as well as other senior members and entities … of [IRISL] and entities owned or controlled by [it] or acting on [its] behalf, as listed in Annex II’.

5        Among the UN resolutions cited in Article 20(1)(b) of Decision 2010/413, paragraph 5 of Resolution 1747 (2007) prohibits the Islamic Republic of Iran from supplying, selling or transferring, directly or indirectly, from its territory or through its nationals or using its flag vessels or aircraft, arms or related materiel.

6        In Annex II to Decision 2010/413, the inclusion of the name of IRISL was justified, inter alia, in the following terms:

‘IRISL has been involved in the shipment of military-related cargo, including proscribed cargo from Iran. Three such incidents involved clear violations that were reported to the UN Security Council Iran Sanctions Committee …’

7        On, in essence, identical grounds, the name of IRISL was also included in the list in Annex V to Council Regulation (EC) No 423/2007 of 19 April 2007 concerning restrictive measures against Iran (OJ 2007 L 103, p. 1), by Council implementing Regulation (EU) No 668/2010 of 26 July 2010 implementing Article 7(2) of Regulation No 423/2007 (OJ 2010 L 195, p. 25).

8        On 25 October 2010, Regulation No 423/2007 was replaced by Council Regulation (EU) No 961/2010 on restrictive measures against Iran and repealing Regulation No 423/2007 (OJ 2010 L 281, p. 1), which, in Annex VIII maintained the inclusion of the name of IRISL on grounds identical to those set out in paragraph 6 above.

9        According to Article 16(2) of Regulation No 961/2010, the persons and entities referred to in Annex VIII were those not referred to in Annex VII that had been recognised in accordance with Article 20(1)(b) of Decision 2010/413 as:

‘(a)      being engaged in, directly associated with, or providing support for Iran's proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities or the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems by Iran …, or being owned or controlled by such a person, entity or body, including through illicit means, or acting on their behalf or at their direction;

(b)      being a natural or legal person, entity or body that has assisted a listed person, entity or body to evade or violate the provisions of this Regulation, Council Decision 2010/413/CFSP or UNSCR 1737 (2006), UNSCR 1747 (2007), UNSCR 1803 (2008) and UNSCR 1929 (2010);

(c)      …

(d)      being a legal person, entity or body owned or controlled by the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL).

…’

10      On 23 May 2011, the names of the first 29 applicants were included in the list set out in Annex II to Decision 2010/413 by Council Decision 2011/299/CFSP of 23 May 2011 amending Decision 2010/413 (OJ 2011 L 136, p. 65) and in Annex VIII to Regulation No 961/2010 by Council Implementing Regulation (EU) No 503/2011 implementing Regulation No 961/2010 (OJ 2011 L 136, p. 26).

11      On 1 December 2011, the names of the first three applicants were added to the list in Annex II to Decision 2010/413 by Council Decision 2011/783/CFSP amending Decision 2010/413 (OJ 2011 L 319, p. 71) and in the list in Annex VIII to Regulation No 961/2010 by Council Implementing Regulation (EU) No 1245/2011 implementing Regulation No 961/2010 (OJ 2011 L 319, p. 11).

12      The inclusion of the applicants’ names was justified on the following grounds:

–        for Ocean Capital Administration: ‘Shareholding of IRISL, established in Germany, which holds, with IRISL Europe Nari Shipping and Chartering GmbH & Co. KG. Ocean Capital Administration and Nari Shipping and Chartering also have the same address in Germany as IRISL Europe GmbH’;

–        for First Ocean Administration GmbH, First Ocean GmbH & Co. KG, Second Ocean Administration GmbH, Second Ocean GmbH & Co. KG, Third Ocean Administration GmbH, Third Ocean GmbH & Co. KG, Fourth Ocean Administration GmbH, Fourth Ocean GmbH & Co. KG, Fifth Ocean Administration GmbH, Fifth Ocean GmbH & Co. KG, Sixth Ocean Administration GmbH, Sixth Ocean GmbH & Co. KG, Seventh Ocean Administration GmbH, Seventh Ocean GmbH & Co. KG, Eighth Ocean Administration GmbH, Eighth Ocean GmbH & Co. KG, Ninth Ocean Administration GmbH, Ninth Ocean GmbH & Co. KG, Tenth Ocean Administration GmbH, Tenth Ocean GmbH & Co. KG, Eleventh Ocean Administration GmbH, Eleventh Ocean GmbH & Co. KG, Twelfth Ocean Administration GmbH, Twelfth Ocean GmbH & Co. KG, Thirteenth Ocean Administration GmbH, Fourteenth Ocean Administration GmbH, Fifteenth Ocean Administration GmbH and Sixteenth Ocean Administration GmbH: ‘Owned or controlled by IRISL’;

–        for IRISL Maritime Training Institute: ‘Owned or controlled by IRISL’;

–        for Kheibar Co.: ‘IRISL subsidiary which provides spare parts for shipping vessels’;

–        for Kish Shipping Line Manning Co.: ‘IRISL subsidiary, in charge of crew recruitment and personnel management.’

13      On 23 March 2012, Regulation No 961/2010 was replaced by Council Regulation (EU) No 267/2012 concerning restrictive measures against Iran (OJ 2012 L 88, p. 1), which maintained, in Annex IX, the inclusion of the names of IRISL and the applicants on grounds in essence identical to those set out in paragraphs 6 and 12 above.

14      According to Article 23(2)(a), (b) and (e) of Regulation No 267/2012, the persons and entities referred to in Annex IX were, inter alia, those which, in accordance with Article 20(1)(b) and (c) of Decision 2010/413, had been recognised as:

‘(a)      being engaged in, directly associated with, or providing support for Iran’s proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities or the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems by Iran, including through involvement in the procurement of prohibited goods and technology, or being owned or controlled by such a person, entity or body, including through illicit means, or acting on their behalf or at their direction;

(b)      being a natural or legal person, entity or body that has assisted a listed person, entity or body to evade or violate the provisions of this Regulation, Council Decision 2010/413/CFSP or UNSCR 1737 (2006), UNSCR 1747 (2007), UNSCR 1803 (2008) and UNSCR 1929 (2010);

(e)      being a legal person, entity or body owned or controlled by the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), or acting on their behalf.’

15      By judgment of 16 September 2013, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council (T‑489/10, EU:T:2013:453), the Court annulled, inter alia, Annex II to Decision 2010/413, the Annex to Implementing Regulation No 668/2010, Annex VIII to Regulation No 961/2010 and Annex IX to Regulation No 267/2012, in so far as those measures concerned IRISL.

16      First, in paragraphs 38 and 39 of the judgment of 16 September 2013, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council (T‑489/10, EU:T:2013:453), the Court held that the Council of the European Union had failed to state to the requisite legal standard its claim that, by the conduct of which it was accused, IRISL had assisted a designated person, an entity or body to contravene relevant resolutions of the United Nations Security Council (‘the Security Council’), within the meaning of Article 20(1)(b) of Decision 2010/413, of Article 16(2)(b) of Regulation No 961/2010 and of Article 23(2)(b) of Regulation No 267/2012. Second, in paragraphs 58 and 66 of that judgment, the Court took the view that the Council had not established that, by having transported — on three occasions — military materiel originating from Iran in breach of the prohibition laid down in paragraph 5 of Security Council Resolution 1747 (2007), IRISL had in fact provided support for nuclear proliferation within the meaning of Article 20(1)(b) of Decision 2010/413, of Article 16(2)(a) of Regulation No 961/2010 and of Article 23(2)(a) of Regulation No 267/2012.

17      On 10 October 2013, the Council adopted Decision 2013/497/CFSP amending Decision 2010/413 (OJ 2013 L 272, p. 46). According to recital 2 of that decision, the criteria for designation with regard to the freezing of funds, which covered persons and entities that had assisted designated persons or entities in evading or violating the provisions of the relevant Security Council resolutions or of Decision 2010/413, should have been adjusted in order to include persons and entities that had themselves evaded or violated those provisions.

18      That decision amended Article 20(1)(b) of Decision 2010/413 so that funds and economic resources should be frozen of:

‘persons and entities … that are engaged in, directly associated with, or providing support for, Iran’s [nuclear activities] …, or persons and entities that have evaded or violated, or assisted designated persons or entities in evading or violating, the provisions of [Security Council Resolutions 1737 (2006), 1747 (2007), 1803 (2008) and 1929 (2010)] or of this Decision, as well as other members and entities of [IRISL] and entities owned or controlled by [it] or persons and entities acting on [its] behalf or persons and entities providing insurance or other essential services to [IRISL], or to entities owned or controlled by [it] or acting on [its] behalf, as listed in Annex II.’

19      On the same date, by Regulation (EU) No 971/2013 amending Regulation No 267/2012 (OJ 2013 L 272, p. 1), the Council amended the wording of Article 23(2)(b) and (e), of Regulation No 267/2012 as follows:

‘… Annex IX shall include the natural and legal persons, entities and bodies who have been identified as:

(b)      being a natural or legal person, entity or body that has evaded or violated, or assisted a listed person, entity or body to evade or violate, the provisions of this Regulation, Decision [2010/413] or [Security Council] Resolutions 1737 (2006), 1747 (2007), 1803 (2008) and 1929 (2010);

(e)      being a legal person, entity or body owned or controlled by [IRISL], or a natural or legal person, entity or body acting on its behalf, or a natural or legal person, entity or body providing insurance or other essential services to IRISL, or to entities owned or controlled by it or acting on its behalf.’

20      On 26 November 2013, the name of IRISL was re-included in the lists in Annex II to Decision 2010/413 by Council Decision 2013/685/CFSP amending Decision 2010/413 (OJ 2013 L 316, p. 46), and in Annex IX to Regulation No 267/2012 by Council Implementing Regulation (EU) No 1203/2013 implementing Regulation No 267/2012 (OJ 2013 L 316, p. 1).

21      The re-inclusion of IRISL on those lists was based on the following grounds:

‘IRISL has been involved in the shipment of arms-related materiel from Iran in violation of paragraph 5 of UN [Security Council] Resolution 1747(2007). Three clear violations were reported to the UN Security Council Iran Sanctions Committee in 2009.’

22      By judgment of 22 January 2015, Ocean Capital Administration and Others v Council (T‑420/11 and T‑56/12, not published, EU:T:2015:42), the Court drew the inferences from the annulment of the restrictive measures against IRISL pronounced by the judgment of 16 September 2013, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council (T‑489/10, EU:T:2013:453), and held that the inclusion of the applicants’ names on the lists referred to in paragraphs 10 and 11 above was vitiated by the fact that, at the time of that inclusion, IRISL had not been validly recognised as providing support for nuclear proliferation (judgment of 22 January 2015, Ocean Capital Administration and Others v Council, T‑420/11 and T‑56/12, not published, EU:T:2015:42, paragraph 68). Therefore, the Court annulled, first, Decision 2011/299, Implementing Regulation No 503/2011 and Regulation No 267/2012, in so far as they concerned the 29 first applicants, and second, Decision 2011/783, Implementing Regulation No 1245/2011 and Regulation No 267/2012, in so far as they concerned the last three applicants.

23      By letters of 12 March 2015, forwarded to the applicants’ lawyer, the Council informed the applicants that, in so far as it had amended the criteria for inclusion by means of Decision 2013/497 and Regulation No 971/2013 and re-included IRISL’s name on the lists referred to in paragraph 20 above on new grounds, it intended to re-include their names, on the ground that they were owned and controlled by IRISL or provided essential services to that entity. The Council also provided them with the documents on which it based its decision to re-include.

24      By letter of 24 March 2015, the applicants replied to the Council indicating the reasons why they considered that a re-including of their names would be unlawful.

25      On 7 April 2015, the applicants’ names were re-included in Annex II to Decision 2010/413 by Council Decision (CFSP) 2015/556, amending Decision 2010/413 (OJ 2015 L 92, p. 101), and on the list contained in Annex IX to Regulation No 267/2012 by Council Implementing Regulation (EU) 2015/549 of 7 April 2015 implementing Regulation No 267/2012 (OJ 2015 L 92, p. 12) (‘the disputed lists’).

26      The re-including of IRISL was based on the following grounds:

–        for Ocean Capital Administration: ‘A German-based IRISL holding company that is owned and controlled by IRISL’;

–        for First Ocean Administration, First Ocean, Second Ocean Administration, Second Ocean, Third Ocean Administration, Third Ocean, Fourth Ocean Administration, Fourth Ocean, Fifth Ocean Administration, Fifth Ocean, Sixth Ocean Administration, Sixth Ocean, Seventh Ocean Administration, Seventh Ocean, Eighth Ocean Administration, Eighth Ocean, Ninth Ocean Administration, Ninth Ocean, Tenth Ocean Administration, Tenth Ocean, Eleventh Ocean Administration, Eleventh Ocean, Twelfth Ocean Administration, Twelfth Ocean, Thirteenth Ocean Administration, Fourteenth Ocean Administration, Fifteenth Ocean Administration and Sixteenth Ocean Administration; ‘Owned by IRISL through Ocean Capital Administration GmbH which is an IRISL holding;

–        for IRISL Maritime Training Institute: IRISL Maritime Training Institute is owned and controlled by IRISL which holds 90% of the company’s shares and whose representative is the Vice-President of its Board of Directors. It is involved in the training of IRISL employees;

–        For Kheibar: Kheibar Co. is owned and controlled by IRISL which holds 81% of the company’s shares and whose representative is a member of its Board of Directors. It provides spare parts for shipping vessels’;

–        for Kish Shipping Line Manning: ‘Kish Shipping Line Manning Co. is owned and controlled by IRISL. It is involved in the recruitment and personnel management of IRISL’.

27      By letter of 8 April 2015, forwarded to the applicants’ lawyer, the Council contested the observations made by the applicants in their letter of 24 March 2015 and informed them of the adoption of the decision to reinstate their names on the disputed lists.

28      Subsequent to the present action being brought, by judgment of 17 February 2017, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council (T‑14/14 and T‑87/14, EU:T:2017:102), the Court dismissed the actions brought by IRISL and other Iranian companies, in particular against Decision 2013/497, Regulation No 971/2013, Decision 2013/685 and Implementing Regulation No 1203/2013. Those actions were based on Articles 263 and 277 TFEU. The appeal brought against that judgment was dismissed by judgment of 31 January 2019, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council (C‑225/17 P, EU:C:2019:82).

II.    Procedure and forms of order sought

29      By application lodged at the Court Registry on 16 June 2015, the applicants brought the present action.

30      By decision of 24 May 2017, the President of the First Chamber decided, pursuant to Article 69(d) of the Rules of Procedure of the General Court, to stay the proceedings pending the final decision of the Court of Justice in Case C‑225/17 P, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council.

31      By letter of 7 February 2019, the parties were invited to submit their comments on the inferences to be drawn from the judgment of 31 January 2019, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council (C‑225/17 P, EU:C:2019:82), in the present case.

32      By letters dated 22 February 2019, the parties replied to that request.

33      On 28 May 2019, pursuant to Article 27(1) of the Rules of Procedure, the President of the General Court reallocated the case to another Judge-Rapporteur.

34      By way of measures of organisation of procedure pursuant to Article 89 of the Rules of Procedure, the Court invited the parties to lodge certain documents and put written questions to the parties. The parties replied to those requests within the prescribed period.

35      The Council presented oral argument and answered the oral questions put to it by the Court at the hearing on 29 November 2019, at which the applicants’ representatives, who were duly invited to attend, did not attend. At that hearing, the Council submitted that the action should be declared inadmissible on the ground that the applicants were no longer represented by their representatives.

36      The applicants claim that the Court should:

–        declare Decision 2013/497 and Regulation No 971/2013 inapplicable, on the basis of Article 277 TFEU;

–        annul Decision 2015/556 and Implementing Regulation 2015/549 in so far as those measures apply to them;

–        order the Council to pay the costs.

37      The Council contends that the Court should:

–        declare the action inadmissible;

–        reject the application as unfounded;

–        order the applicants to pay the costs.

III. Law

A.      Admissibility of the action

38      As stated in paragraph 35 above, at the hearing, the Council submitted that the action should be declared inadmissible on the ground that the applicants were no longer represented by their lawyers

39      On 15 July 2019, the Court informed the parties that the hearing would take place on 13 September 2019.

40      By letter of 4 September 2019, the applicants’ lawyers requested that the hearing be postponed on the ground that they and the counsel who had to advise them were not remunerated by their clients.

41      By order of 6 September 2019, the Acting President of the First Chamber refused to grant that request.

42      By letter of 9 September 2019, the applicants’ lawyers reiterated their request on the same ground.

43      On 12 September 2019, the Acting President of the First Chamber granted that request. On 16 September 2019, the Court asked the applicants’ lawyers, in the context of a measure of organisation of procedure, whether they still represented the applicants.

44      By letter of 25 September 2019, the applicants’ lawyers replied in two stages to the question put by the Court. Initially, they indicated that they continued to represent the applicants. Second, they affirmed that they would continue to provide such representation in the future, provided that the payment difficulties encountered were resolved. As regards that second point, they stated that they would not fail to inform the Court of developments in the situation.

45      On 10 October 2019, the Court scheduled the hearing for 5 November 2019.

46      By letter of 17 October 2019, the applicants’ lawyers again requested that the hearing be postponed on the ground that, first, the period between then and the hearing was too short and, second, they continued to face the same difficulties in receiving payment from their clients. In the same letter, the applicants’ lawyers proposed to postpone the hearing to between 29 November and 12 December 2019 or between 27 January and 4 February 2020.

47      On 21 October 2019, the Court decided to postpone the hearing until 29 November 2019.

48      By letter of 21 November 2019, the applicants’ lawyers again requested the postponement of the hearing on the grounds that they had still not been paid by their clients, as banks in the United Kingdom were hindering payment, and that the Iranian Government had suspended internet connections because of demonstrations following the rise in the price of oil in that country.

49      On 26 November 2019, in view of the fact that the applicants’ lawyers had had a period of more than two and a half months in which to resolve their payment difficulties with their clients and that, during that period, the suspension of internet connections by the Iranian authorities had lasted only a short time, the Acting President of the First Chamber of the General Court decided to maintain the hearing of 29 November 2019. The Court further asked the applicants, by way of a measure of organisation of procedure, whether, in their view, under European Union law, the course of proceedings should be affected by incidents arising in the relationship between an applicant and its lawyer, in particular the non-payment of fees or the lawyer’s wish to be advised by counsel.

50      By letter of 27 November 2019, the applicants’ lawyers recalled the content of Article 61(1) and Article 107(1) and (2) of the Rules of Procedure, while indicating that they would be absent from the hearing on 29 November 2019.

51      In view of those circumstances, the Council, the only party present at the hearing on 29 November 2019, asked the Court to declare the action inadmissible under Article 51(1) of the Rules of Procedure on the ground that, contrary to the requirements of that provision, the applicants were no longer represented in the present proceedings.

52      In that regard, it should be noted that, as the Council points out, Article 19 of the Statute of the Court of Justice of the European Union and Article 51(1) of the Rules of Procedure require that, in order to present their position to the General Court, the parties must be represented by an agent or by a lawyer.

53      On that point, it should be recalled that, as indicated in paragraph 44 above, the formal reply received by the Court following the question put specifically on that point to the applicants’ lawyers indicated that the representation relationship had not come to an end but continued to exist. At the same time, those lawyers undertook to keep the Court informed of developments in the situation. Since the Court was not informed of any change in that relationship, it must be considered that that relationship has continued.

54      In those circumstances, the argument relating to the inadmissibility of the action raised by the Council must be rejected.

B.      Substance

55      By their first head of claim, the applicants raise, on the basis of Article 277 TFEU, a plea of illegality in respect of Decision 2013/497 and Regulation No 971/2013 (‘the 2013 measures’) and, by their second head of claim, they seek, on the basis of Article 263 TFEU, the annulment of Decision 2015/556 and Implementing Regulation 2015/549, in so far as those measures concern them (‘the 2015 measures’).

1.      On the plea of illegality of the 2013 measures

56      The applicants submit that the 2013 measures, which, following the judgment of 16 September 2013, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council (T‑489/10, EU:T:2013:453), amended the criteria provided for in Article 20(1)(b) of Decision 2010/413 and in Article 23(2)(b) and (e) of Regulation No 267/2012, on the basis of which the names of IRISL and the applicants were included in the fund-freezing lists by the 2015 measures, are unlawful and, therefore, must be declared inapplicable on the basis of Article 277 TFEU.

57      In support of their plea of illegality, the applicants put forward, in essence, seven pleas in law. The first plea alleges lack of an adequate legal basis. The second plea is based on the lack of an adequate factual basis. The third plea alleges infringement of the principles of non-retroactivity, res judicata, ne bis in idem and the right to effective judicial protection. The fourth plea claims unjustified and disproportionate discrimination against entities owned or controlled by IRISL. The fifth plea concerns infringement of the applicants’ right of defence. The sixth plea alleges disproportionate infringement of the applicants’ fundamental rights, in particular their right to property, their freedom to conduct a business and the right to respect for their reputation. The seventh plea alleges abuse of power by the Council.

58      In addition, the applicants state that they rely mutatis mutandis on the same arguments as those raised in the cases which gave rise to the judgment of 17 February 2017, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council (T‑14/14 and T‑87/14, EU:T:2017:102), and refer to the applications in those cases set out in the annex to the application. In Case T‑87/14, IRISL and 10 other companies which were owned or controlled by it or acting on its behalf had also raised a plea of illegality in respect of the 2013 measures.

(a)    The pleas in law and arguments developed in the cases which gave rise to the judgment of 17 February 2017, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council (T14/14 and T87/14)

59      The Council submits that the applicants cannot merely rely on arguments developed in other applications by annexing them to their pleadings and that, in so far as they make use of that procedure, the action is inadmissible under Article 76(d) of the Rules of Procedure.

60      In that regard, it should be noted that, in the present case, the applicants, in their pleadings, confine themselves, with regard to certain pleas in law and arguments raised in support of their plea of illegality, to making an overall reference to applications brought in other cases by annexing those documents to their own submissions.

61      Under Article 21 of the Statute of the Court of Justice of the European Union and Article 76 of the Rules of Procedure, an application must contain the subject matter of the proceedings, the pleas in law and arguments relied on and a summary of those pleas. That statement must be sufficiently clear and precise to enable the defendant to prepare its defence and the Court to rule on the action, if necessary, without any further information. In order to guarantee legal certainty and the sound administration of justice it is necessary, in order for an action to be admissible, that the essential matters of law and fact relied on should be stated, at least in summary form, coherently and intelligibly in the application itself (judgments of 29 March 2012, Commission v Estonia, C‑505/09 P, EU:C:2012:179, paragraph 34, and of 3 February 2005, Chiquita Brands and Others v Commission, T‑19/01, EU:T:2005:31, paragraph 64).

62      More specifically, it has been held that, whilst the body of the application may be supported and supplemented on specific points by references to extracts from documents annexed thereto, a general reference to other documents, even those annexed to the application, cannot make up for the absence of the essential arguments in law which, in accordance with the abovementioned provisions, must appear in the application (see judgment of 11 September 2014, MasterCard and Others v Commission, C‑382/12 P, EU:C:2014:2201, paragraph 40 and the case-law cited; judgment of 13 September 2013, Anbouba v Council, T‑592/11, not published, EU:T:2013:427, paragraph 72).

63      Furthermore, it has been held that it is not for the Court to seek and identify in the annexes the pleas and arguments on which it may consider the action to be based, since the annexes have a purely evidential and instrumental function (judgments of 17 September 2007, Microsoft v Commission, T‑201/04, EU:T:2007:289, paragraph 94, and of 13 September 2013, Anbouba v Council, T‑592/11, not published, EU:T:2013:427, paragraph 72).

64      It follows from that case-law that it is not necessary to take account, in the present case, of the applications lodged in the cases which gave rise to the judgment of 17 February 2017, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council (T‑14/14 and T‑87/14, EU:T:2017:102), annexed to the application relating to the present case, in order to supplement the pleas raised in the present plea of illegality.

65      However, the applicants submit that, in the order of 3 April 2000, Germany v Parliament and Council (C‑376/98, EU:C:2000:181), the Court of Justice rejected an application for the withdrawal of three applications annexed to the reply and relating to other cases on the ground that ‘there was nothing to prevent the German Government from including in its reply all the material featuring in the annexes concerned’.

66      In that regard, it should be noted that the order of 3 April 2000, Germany v Parliament and Council (C‑376/98, EU:C:2000:181) cannot be taken into account in the present case because, unlike in the present case, the essential elements of fact and law in the case which gave rise to that order were formulated in the application itself, so that the reference to other written pleadings, in the annexes to the reply, served only to support what had been raised in that fundamental document.

67      Consequently, solely the pleas in law raised in the application in the present case will be taken into consideration when examining the plea of illegality relied on by the applicants.

(b)    The pleas in law raised in the application in the present case

(1)    The first plea in law, alleging a lack of adequate legal basis

68      In the first plea in law, the applicants submit that the criterion introduced by the 2013 measures, targeting persons or entities that have evaded or infringed the restrictive measures of the United Nations or the Union, cannot find its legal basis in Article 215 TFEU because it is not linked to the objective of combating nuclear proliferation in Iran and is disproportionate to that objective.

69      The Council disputes the plea.

70      First of all, it should be noted that Decision 2013/497 and Regulation No 971/2013 have Article 29 TEU and Article 215 TFEU as their legal basis respectively.

71      It appears from the pleadings in the proceedings that, by this first plea in law, the applicants claim that the amendments introduced by the 2013 measures infringe the principle of proportionality.

72      In that regard, it must be borne in mind that, according to settled case-law, the principle of proportionality is one of the general principles of EU law and requires that measures implemented through provisions of EU law be appropriate for attaining the legitimate objectives pursued by the legislation at issue and must not go beyond what is necessary to achieve them (judgments of 15 November 2012, Al-Aqsa v Council and Netherlands v Al-Aqsa, C‑539/10 P and C‑550/10 P, EU:C:2012:711, paragraph 122, and of 25 June 2015, Iranian Offshore Engineering & Construction v Council, T‑95/14, EU:T:2015:433, paragraph 60 (not published)).

73      With regard to judicial review of compliance with the principle of proportionality, the Court of Justice has held that the EU legislature must be allowed a broad discretion in areas which involve political, economic and social choices on its part, and in which it is called upon to undertake complex assessments. It concluded from this that the legality of a measure adopted in those fields can be affected only if the measure is manifestly inappropriate having regard to the objective which the competent institution is seeking to pursue (see judgment of 31 January 2019, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council, C‑225/17 P, EU:C:2019:82, paragraph 103 and the case-law cited).

74      Thus, in order to examine the plea alleging failure to comply with the principle of proportionality, it is necessary to determine, first, whether the objective pursued by the 2013 measures is legitimate, second, whether the criteria introduced by those measures are suitable for achieving that objective and, third, whether they are necessary for that objective.

75      In the first place, the Court of Justice held that the objective pursued by the Council in adopting the 2013 measures was to prevent nuclear proliferation and thus to bring pressure to bear on the Islamic Republic of Iran to end the activities concerned. According to the Court of Justice, that objective, which forms part of a more general framework of endeavours linked to the maintenance of international peace and security, is legitimate (see judgment of 31 January 2019, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council, C‑225/17 P, EU:C:2019:82, paragraph 104 and the case-law cited).

76      In the second place, the Court of Justice states that, in Resolution 1747(2007), the Security Council had considered that the prohibition on the transfer of arms to Iran laid down in paragraph 5, responded to the objective to ensure that the Iranian nuclear programme served exclusively peaceful purposes and constrained the Islamic Republic of Iran’s development of sensitive technologies in support of its nuclear and missile programme. (see judgment of 31 January 2019, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council, C‑225/17 P, EU:C:2019:82, paragraph 105 and the case-law cited).

77      As the Court of Justice has observed, the proceeds of the trade in arms can directly or indirectly provide the Iranian Government with resources or facilities of various nature allowing it to pursue nuclear proliferation activities and may be diverted for that purpose. (judgment of 31 January 2019, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council, C‑225/17 P, EU:C:2019:82, paragraph 106).

78      In those circumstances, the criterion relating to the infringement of Resolution 1747 (2007) enables the conduct of persons and entities likely to encourage nuclear proliferation activities in Iran to be targeted, even though those persons and entities have no direct or indirect link with nuclear proliferation and are not involved in those activities, so that that criterion appears appropriate to achieve the objective mentioned in paragraph 75 above (see judgment of 31 January 2019, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council, C‑225/17 P, EU:C:2019:82, paragraph 107 and the case-law cited).

79      In the third place, the fact that it enables fund freezing measures to be adopted in the absence of a link between the persons or entities concerned and nuclear proliferation cannot lead to the conclusion that those measures go beyond the limits of what is necessary to achieve that objective, as the Court of Justice has held that a listing criterion, such as that for support to the Iranian Government, which enables the relevant person or entity’s own activities which, even if having no actual direct or indirect connection with nuclear proliferation, are nonetheless capable of encouraging it, to be targeted, did not appear to go beyond the limits of what is necessary to achieve that objective (see judgment of 31 January 2019, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council, C‑225/17 P, EU:C:2019:82, paragraph 108 and the case-law cited).

80      It should also be stated that the large number of Security Council resolutions and the various Union measures progressively adopted reflect the need to broaden the range of restrictive measures designed to achieve that same objective (judgment of 31 January 2019, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council, C‑225/17 P, EU:C:2019:82, paragraph 108).

81      As regards the criterion relating to the link with IRISL, it is important to note, to all intents and purposes, as the Court of Justice has done, that it is part of a legal framework clearly delimited by the objectives pursued by the legislation governing restrictive measures against the Islamic Republic of Iran (judgment of 31 January 2019, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council, C‑225/17 P, EU:C:2019:82, paragraph 109).

82      In that regard, the Court of Justice has already held that, where the funds of an entity providing support to the Iranian Government are frozen, there is a not insignificant danger that that entity may exert pressure on the entities it owns or controls in order to circumvent the effect of the measures applying to it, so that the freezing of the funds of those entities is necessary and appropriate in order to ensure the effectiveness of the measures adopted and to ensure that those measures are not circumvented (see judgment of 31 January 2019, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council, C‑225/17 P, EU:C:2019:82, paragraph 110 and the case-law cited).

83      This criterion thus objectively defines a limited category of persons and entities which, because of their links to IRISL, could facilitate circumvention of the restrictive measures imposed on IRISL and consequently undermine the objective set out in paragraph 75 above, to prevent nuclear proliferation and thereby exert pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran, irrespective of the possible involvement of such persons and entities in nuclear proliferation activities, and therefore does not appear to be manifestly exceeding the limits of what is necessary to achieve this objective (judgment of 31 January 2019, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council, C‑225/17 P, EU:C:2019:82, paragraph 111).

84      For all these reasons, the criterion relating to the infringement of Resolution 1747 (2007) and the criterion relating to the link with IRISL comply with the principle of proportionality.

85      Therefore, the present plea in law must be rejected as unfounded.

(2)    The second plea in law, alleging a lack of an adequate factual basis

86      In the second plea, the applicants rely on the fact that, in its judgment of 16 September 2013, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council (T‑489/10, EU:T:2013:453), the Court annulled the inclusion of IRISL’s name in Annex II to Decision 2010/413 and Annex IX to Regulation No 267/2012 on the ground that the Council had failed to adduce evidence that IRISL had contributed to nuclear proliferation. In their view, that annulment precluded the Council from amending, in the 2013 measures, the criterion used to include the name of that entity on the disputed lists in the absence of any change in circumstances between the date of that judgment and the adoption of the 2013 measures.

87      The Council disputes the plea.

88      In that regard, it should be borne in mind that, in the judgment of 16 September 2013, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council (T‑489/10, EU:T:2013:453), the Court annulled IRISL’s initial listing after finding, first, in paragraphs 38 and 39 of that judgment, that the statement of reasons for that listing concerning the aid provided to a person or entity designated as having infringed the Security Council’s resolutions was insufficient and, second, in paragraphs 58 and 66 of that judgment, that the Council had not established that by having transported — on three occasions — military materiel in breach of the prohibition laid down in paragraph 5 of Resolution 1747 (2007), IRISL had provided support for nuclear proliferation.

89      In doing so, however, the Court did not question the accuracy of the three incidents used to register IRISL’s name or the evidence used to establish those incidents (see, to that effect, judgment of 31 January 2019, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council, C‑225/17 P, EU:C:2019:82, paragraph 48).

90      In that judgment, the Court has also not ruled either on the validity of the listing criteria underlying IRISL’s initial listing, alleging support for nuclear proliferation and the provision of assistance to a designated person or entity in infringing Security Council resolutions or, necessarily, on whether IRISL’s listing was justified on the basis of the criterion relating the infringement of Resolution 1747 (2007) (judgment of 31 January 2019, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping and Others v Council, C‑225/17 P, EU:C:2019:82, paragraph 49).

91      Accordingly, it does not follow from the findings of the Court in the judgment of 16 September 2013, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council (T‑489/10, EU:T:2013:453), that the Council could not, in the context of the measures taken in order to comply with that judgment, maintain the listing criteria underlying the initial listing or adapt them, in its role as legislator, in order to pursue, by adopting the relevant legal means at its disposal, the objective of putting pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran to bring that State to end its nuclear proliferation programme (judgment of 31 January 2019, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council, C‑225/17 P, EU:C:2019:82, paragraph 51).

92      In paragraph 64 of the judgment of 16 September 2013, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council (T‑489/10, EU:T:2013:453), the Court further stated that, if the Council was of the opinion that the applicable legislation did not enable it to intervene in a sufficiently effective manner in order to combat nuclear proliferation, it was open to the Council to amend it in its role as legislator, so as to extend the situations in which restrictive measures may be adopted, subject to a review of lawfulness by the Courts of the European Union.

93      Accordingly, annulment by the Court of the inclusion of the name of IRISL in Annex II to Decision 2010/413 and Annex IX to Regulation No 267/2012, resulting from the judgment of 16 September 2013, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council (T‑489/10, EU:T:2013:453), did not prohibit the Council from amending, in the 2013 measures, the criteria on which that listing was based, even if there had been no change in circumstances between the date of that judgment and the adoption of the 2013 measures.

94      The second plea must therefore be rejected as unfounded.

(3)    Third plea in law, alleging infringement of the principles of non-retroactivity, res judicata, ne bis in idem and the right to effective judicial protection

95      In the third plea, the applicants claim that the Council infringed the principles of non-retroactivity, res judicata, ne bis in idem and the right to effective judicial protection, by altering the criteria initially laid down, whereas the initial inclusion of their names on the fund-freezing lists was annulled by the judgment of 22 January 2015, Ocean Capital Administration and Others v Council (T‑420/11 and T‑56/12, not published, EU:T:2015:42).

96      The Council disputes the plea.

97      In that regard, it should be noted that, as it is submitted, the third plea in law does not satisfy the requirements laid down in Article 76(d) of the Rules of Procedure for it to be considered admissible.

98      In that plea in law, the applicants merely allege infringement of those principles without indicating how and to what extent the adoption of the 2013 measures infringes them.

99      In any event, it appears from the examination of the plea in law that it must be rejected on its merits.

100    First, as regards the principle of non-retroactivity, it is sufficient to note that the 2013 measures entered into force on the day of their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union, that is to say on 12 October 2013. Any listing on the basis of the criteria contained in those measures may be made only from that date. Thus, the re-inclusion of the applicants’ names on the disputed lists, carried out by the 2015 measures, entered into force on 8 April 2015.

101    It is therefore not clear how the 2013 measures could have had retroactive effect.

102    In the second place, as regards the principles of res judicata and ne bis in idem, the applicants cite two judgments in support of their arguments.

103    The first is the judgment of 16 September 2013, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council (T‑489/10, EU:T:2013:453), in which the Court found that IRISL had not been validly recognised as having provided support for nuclear proliferation at the time of that listing.

104    The second is the judgment of 22 January 2015, Ocean Capital Administration and Others v Council (T‑420/11 and T‑56/12, not published, EU:T:2015:42), which annulled the inclusion of the applicants’ names on the basis of the findings in the first judgment.

105    In the judgment of 31 January 2019, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council (C‑225/17 P, EU:C:2019:82), the Court of Justice held that the principles of res judicata and ne bis in idem, relied on in relation to the first of those two judgments, had not been infringed by the 2013 measures.

106    Since the second judgment is based on the first, it must be considered that those principles have not been infringed in relation to that second judgment either.

107    The following observations should be made in that regard.

108    First, on the authority of res judicata, it should be pointed out that although, in the judgment of 22 January 2015, Ocean Capital Administration and Others v Council (T‑420/11 and T‑56/12, not published, EU:T:2015:42), the Court annulled the inclusion of the applicants’ names, it was not for reasons relating to the link between IRISL and the applicants, but because IRISL, which owned or controlled them, did not satisfy the criterion laid down by Decision 2010/413 and Regulation No 267/2012, as provided for at the time of the facts at issue in that case.

109    The judgment of 22 January 2015, Ocean Capital Administration and Others v Council (T‑420/11 and T‑56/12, not published, EU:T:2015:42), therefore did not prevent the Council from adapting, in its role as legislator, the criteria underlying the initial inclusion of the applicants’ names, in order to pursue, by strengthening the legal means at its disposal for that purpose, the objective of exerting pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran to oblige it to put an end to its nuclear proliferation programme.

110    Second, on the principle ne bis in idem, suffice it to recall that the restrictive measures are of a preventative nature (see, to that effect, judgments of 21 December 2011, Afrasiabi and Others, C‑72/11, EU:C:2011:874, paragraph 44, and of 18 July 2013, Commission and Others v Kadi, C‑584/10 P, C‑593/10 P and C‑595/10 P, EU:C:2013:518, paragraph 132), so that that principle, which relates to proceedings and penalties concerning an offence in respect of which a person has already been finally acquitted or convicted, cannot be relied upon in order to challenge the validity of such measures (see, to that effect, judgment of 31 January 2019, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council, C‑225/17 P, EU:C:2019:82, paragraph 59).

111    In the third place, as regards the right to effective judicial protection, it should be recalled that that principle seeks to ensure that a harmful measure may be challenged before the courts and not to prevent the amendment of the act which served as the basis for that act adversely affecting the person concerned (see, to that effect, judgment of 29 November 2018, National Iranian Tanker Company v Council, C‑600/16 P, EU:C:2018:966, paragraphs 53 and 54).

112    In those circumstances, it cannot be maintained that, by adopting the new inclusion criteria in the 2013 measures, the Council, as regards the judgment of 22 January 2015, Ocean Capital Administration and Others v Council (T‑420/11 and T‑56/12, not published, EU:T:2015:42), infringed the principles of effective judicial protection, ne bis in idem or res judicata.

113    For all those reasons, the third plea in law should be dismissed as inadmissible and, moreover, unfounded.

(4)    The fourth plea, alleging unjustified and disproportionate discrimination against entities owned or controlled by IRISL

114    In the fourth plea in law, the applicants assert, without giving much explanation for their claim, that the criteria introduced by the 2013 measures unjustifiably and disproportionately discriminate against entities owned or controlled by IRISL.

115    The Council disputes the plea.

116    In that regard, it is sufficient to note that that plea also lacks sufficient clarity in the light of the requirements of Article 76(d) of the Rules of Procedure, since the applicants do not explain what the discrimination consists of.

117    The fourth plea must therefore be rejected as inadmissible.

(5)    The fifth plea, alleging breach of the applicants’ rights of defence

118    In the fifth plea, the applicants submit that the Council infringed their rights of defence on the ground that it did not inform them of its intention to adopt the new criteria contained in the 2013 measures and did not provide them with any evidence justifying that adoption.

119    The Council disputes the plea.

120    In that regard, it is sufficient to note that the right to be heard in an administrative procedure taken against a specific person, which must be observed, even in the absence of any rules governing the procedure in question, cannot be transposed to the procedure provided for in Article 29 TEU and that provided for in Article 215 TFEU leading, as in the present case, to the adoption of measures of general application (see judgment of 7 February 2017, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council, T‑14/14 and T‑87/14, EU:T:2017:102, paragraph 97 and the case-law cited).

121    There is no provision that requires the Council to inform any person potentially affected by a new criterion of general application of the adoption of that criterion. (see judgment of 7 February 2017, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council, T‑14/14 and T‑87/14, EU:T:2017:102, paragraph 98 and the case-law cited).

122    Consequently, the applicants cannot plead infringement of their rights of defence by reason of the adoption of the 2013 measures and the fifth plea must be rejected as unfounded.

(6)    The sixth plea in law, alleging disproportionate infringement of the applicants’ fundamental rights

123    In the sixth plea in law, the applicants submit that the criteria introduced by the 2013 measures infringe their right to property, their freedom to conduct a business and the right to respect for their reputation because they suggest that they provide support or are linked to nuclear proliferation.

124    The Council disputes the plea.

125    In that regard, it should be recalled that, according to settled case-law, the fundamental rights relied on by the applicants, namely the right to property, the freedom to conduct a business and the right to respect for reputation, do not enjoy absolute protection under EU law (see, to that effect, judgments of 15 November 2012, Al-Aqsa v Council and Netherlands v Al-Aqsa, C‑539/10 P and C‑550/10 P, EU:C:2012:711, paragraph 121; of 25 June 2015, Iranian Offshore Engineering & Construction v Council, T‑95/14, EU:T:2015:433, paragraph 59 (not published); and of 14 March 2017, Bank Tejarat v Council, T‑346/15, not published, EU:T:2017:164, paragraph 148).

126    According to the case-law, the exercise of those rights may be restricted, provided that the restrictions in fact correspond to objectives of public interest pursued by the Union and do not constitute, in relation to the aim pursued, a disproportionate and intolerable interference, impairing the very substance of the rights guaranteed (see, to that effect, judgments of 15 November 2012, Al-Aqsa v Council and Netherlands v Al-Aqsa, C‑539/10 P and C‑550/10 P, EU:C:2012:711, paragraph 121, and of 25 June 2015, Iranian Offshore Engineering & Construction v Council, T‑95/14, EU:T:2015:433, paragraph 59 (not published)).

127    In the present case, it follows from paragraphs 75 to 84 above that the criteria laid down in the 2013 measures ensure the fulfilment of a legitimate objective, namely to prevent nuclear proliferation and thus to put pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran to cease the activities concerned, and that they are proportionate and necessary for the achievement of that objective.

128    As regards, in particular, the argument alleging damage to the applicants' reputation, it should be noted that the criteria allow the names of entities to be included on the disputed lists independently of any link, direct or indirect, between, on the one hand, the activities of the person or entity concerned and, on the other hand, nuclear proliferation (see, to that effect, judgments of 31 January 2019, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council, C‑225/17 P, EU:C:2019:82, paragraph 113, and of 17 February 2017, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council, T‑14/14 and T‑87/14, EU:T:2017:102, paragraph 102).

129    As for the criterion relating to the link with IRISL, it does not imply that IRISL is personally involved in nuclear proliferation (see, to that effect, judgments of 31 January 2019, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council, C‑225/17 P, EU:C:2019:82, paragraph 113, and of 17 February 2017, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council, T‑14/14 and T‑87/14, EU:T:2017:102, paragraph 102).

130    Accordingly, the modification of the listing criteria by the 2013 measures does not mean that the applicants are personally associated with conduct posing a risk to international peace and security (see, to that effect, judgments of 31 January 2019, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council, C‑225/17 P, EU:C:2019:82, paragraph 113, and of 17 February 2017, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council, T‑14/14 and T‑87/14, EU:T:2017:102, paragraph 102).

131    It follows that that harm does not appear manifestly to go beyond what is necessary in the light of the primary importance of the objective referred to in paragraph 75 above (see, to that effect, judgments of 31 January 2019, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council, C‑225/17 P, EU:C:2019:82, paragraph 113, and of 17 February 2017, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council, T‑14/14 and T‑87/14, EU:T:2017:102, paragraph 102).

132    Consequently, the sixth plea must be dismissed as unfounded.

(7)    Seventh plea in law, alleging abuse of power by the Council

133    The applicants submit that the Council committed an abuse of power since, by re-including their names on the disputed lists on the basis of the same alleged infringements committed by IRISL, and thus in the absence of any evidence of IRISL’s involvement in nuclear proliferation, it circumvented the judgment of 22 January 2015, Ocean Capital Administration and Others v Council (T‑420/11 and T‑56/12, not published, EU:T:2015:42).

134    The Council disputes the plea.

135    In that regard, it is sufficient to note that the plea in law does not seek to challenge the criteria for re-inclusion on the disputed lists laid down by the 2013 measures, but the decision on re-inclusion itself carried out by the 2015 measures.

136    That plea therefore falls under the second head of claim and will be dealt with in that context.

(8)    Conclusion on the plea of illegality

137    It therefore follows from all the above that the plea of illegality raised against the 2013 measures should be rejected.

2.      The application for annulment of the 2015 measures

138    In support of their application for annulment of the 2015 measures, the applicants rely on five pleas in law, alleging, first, a lack of legal basis, second, manifest errors of assessment by the Council, third, an insufficient factual basis, fourth, infringement of the rights of the defence and of the obligation to state reasons, fifth, infringement of the right to an effective remedy and of the principles of ne bis in idem, non-retroactivity, the protection of legitimate expectations and abuse of power, sixth, infringement of their fundamental rights and of the principle of proportionality.

139    In addition, in the context of the seventh plea relating to the plea of illegality, the applicants claim that the re-inclusion of their names involved an abuse of power by the Council. That argument will be examined in the context of the fifth plea.

140    The Court considers that the fourth plea in law should be examined before the third.

(a)    First plea in law, alleging lack of legal basis

141    The applicants maintain that, since they were adopted pursuant to the 2013 measures, which they have shown to be unlawful for the reasons set out in support of the plea of illegality, the 2015 measures have no legal basis.

142    In that regard, it is sufficient to note that the plea of illegality of the 2013 measures was rejected for the reasons set out above.

143    In those circumstances, the 2015 measures cannot be annulled on the grounds that they were adopted as a result of unlawful acts.

144    The first plea must therefore be rejected as unfounded.

(b)    The second plea in law, alleging manifest errors of assessment by the Council

145    The applicants claim that, since the inclusion of IRISL’s name on the disputed lists is unlawful due to an erroneous factual basis, the re-inclusion of their own names on those same lists, on the ground that they are owned or controlled by IRISL, is also unlawful.

146    In particular, the applicants submit that, in order to reinstate IRISL’s name on the disputed lists, the Council relied again on the Security Council’s report that IRISL had on three occasions infringed the embargo on the export of arms and equipment, whereas, in paragraph 53 of the judgment of 16 September 2013, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council (T‑489/10, EU:T:2013:453), the Court found that the evidence had not shown that the transport of prohibited military equipment carried out by IRISL served to finance nuclear proliferation.

147    The Council disputes the plea.

148    In that regard, it should be recalled that, according to the criteria laid down in Article 20(1)(b) of Decision 2010/413 and Article 23(2)(b) and (e) of Regulation No 267/2012 before the entry into force of the 2013 measures, the names of persons and entities who had provided support for Iran’s activities posing a risk of nuclear proliferation, or who had assisted a listed person or entity which had been engaged in infringing the provisions of Resolution 1747 (2007), paragraph 5 of which prohibits the Islamic Republic of Iran from supplying, selling or transferring, directly or indirectly, from its territory or through its nationals or using its flag vessels or aircraft, arms or related materiel, were included in the list of freezing of funds.

149    As follows from paragraphs 3, 6 and 7 above, purporting to rely on these criteria, on 26 July 2010, the Council included IRISL’s name in the lists in Annex II to Decision 2010/413 and in Annex V to Regulation No 423/2007 on the grounds that ‘IRISL had been involved in the shipment of military-related cargo, including proscribed cargo from Iran’, as indicated in a report prepared by the Security Council.

150    As appears from paragraphs 15 and 16 above, in the judgment of 16 September 2013, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council (T‑489/10, EU:T:2013:453), the Court annulled that listing and subsequent listings in later regulations on the ground that the Council had failed to give adequate reasons in law for its claim that IRISL had assisted a designated person or entity in contravening Security Council resolutions and had failed to establish that, by having transported military equipment in infringement of the arms embargo on three occasions, it had provided support for nuclear proliferation in accordance with the criteria then in force.

151    Following the judgment of 16 September 2013, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council (T‑489/10, EU:T:2013:453), the Council, in the 2013 measures, extended the criteria laid down in Decision 2010/413 and Regulation No 267/2012 by providing that not only the names of persons and entities who had helped to infringe UN resolutions, including Resolution 1747 (2007), but also the names of those who had directly infringed the provisions could also be included on the disputed lists. As is clear from the first part of the present judgment, those criteria are legitimate.

152    As follows from paragraph 20 above, on 26 November 2013, on the basis of those new criteria, the Council re-included IRISLs name on the fund-freezing lists in Annex II to Decision 2010/413 and in Annex IX to Regulation No 267/2012, relying on the report referred to in paragraph 149 above that IRISL had infringed the embargo on the export of arms and materiel on three occasions.

153    In the context of the action that gave rise to the judgment of 17 February 2017, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council (T‑14/14 and T‑87/14, EU:T:2017:102), and subsequently to the judgment of 31 January 2019, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council (C‑225/17 P, EU:C:2019:82), IRISL and other undertakings which were controlled or owned by it or acting on its behalf challenged that re-including on the ground, inter alia, that the statement of reasons for the re-including was vitiated by manifest errors of assessment.

154    In the judgment of 17 February 2017, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council (T‑14/14 and T‑87/14, EU:T:2017:102, paragraphs 116 to 132), the Court dismissed the plea, holding that the inclusion of the name of IRISL was not vitiated by such errors.

155    In the context of the appeal, the Court of Justice dismissed the plea in law relating to that aspect on the essential ground that the General Court had sole jurisdiction to find and assess the facts and, in principle, to examine the evidence in support of those facts (judgment of 31 January 2019, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council, C‑225/17 P, EU:C:2019:82, paragraphs 121 and 122).

156    In the context of the present plea, the applicants do not put forward any evidence capable of calling into question the assessment in the judgment of 17 February 2017, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council (T‑14/14 and T‑87/14, EU:T:2017:102, paragraphs 116 to 132).

157    In any event, the application for annulment does not concern the measures by which IRISL’s name was re-included on the fund-freezing lists, namely Decision 2013/685 and Implementing Regulation No 1203/2013.

158    In those circumstances, it must be held that the 2015 measures cannot be annulled on the ground that the inclusion of IRISL’s name was based on an erroneous factual basis.

159    The second plea must therefore be rejected as unfounded.

(c)    The fourth plea in law, alleging infringement of the rights of the defence and of the obligation to state reasons

(1)    The obligation to state reasons

160    The applicants claim that, in the 2015 measures, the Council did not satisfy its obligation to state reasons by merely providing a general explanation without identifying the specific and concrete reasons justifying the re-inclusion of each of their names.

161    The Council disputes that argument.

162    In that regard, it should be borne in mind that, according to settled case-law, the purpose of the obligation to state the reasons on which a measure adversely affecting an individual is based, such as that which is laid down in the second paragraph of Article 296 TFEU, is, first, to provide the person concerned with sufficient information to make it possible to ascertain whether the measure is well founded or whether it is vitiated by a defect which may permit its legality to be contested before the Courts of the European Union and, second, to enable the latter to review the legality of that measure (judgment of 7 December 2011, HTTS v Council, T‑562/10, EU:T:2011:716, paragraph 32).

163    As regards restrictive measures, without going so far as to require a detailed response to all of the comments made by the person concerned, the obligation to state reasons laid down in Article 296 TFEU entails in all circumstances, not least when the reasons stated represent reasons stated by an international body, that that statement of reasons identifies the individual, specific and concrete reasons why the competent authorities consider that the person concerned must be subject to such restrictive measures (see judgment of 18 February 2016, Council v Bank Mellat, C‑176/13 P, EU:C:2016:96, paragraph 76 and the case-law cited; judgment of 8 September 2016, Iranian Offshore Engineering & Construction v Council, C‑459/15 P, not published, EU:C:2016:646, paragraph 25).

164    In the present case, it should be noted that the applicants’ names were re-included on the disputed lists pursuant to Article 20(1)(b) of Decision 2010/413, as amended by Decision 2013/497, and Article 23(2)(e) of Regulation No 267/2012, as amended by Regulation No 971/2013, which allow the Council to adopt restrictive measures against persons and entities on the grounds that they are owned or controlled by, or are acting on behalf of, IRISL, or that they provide insurance or other essential services to IRISL, or entities owned or controlled by it or acting on its behalf.

165    In the 2015 measures, the Council stated that the re-inclusion of the applicants’ names had been carried out on the basis of the following grounds:

–        owned or controlled by IRISL: Ocean Capital Administration, holding company of IRISL;

–        Owned by IRISL through Ocean Capital Administration which is an IRISL holding company: First Ocean Administration, First Ocean, Second Ocean Administration, Second Ocean, Third Ocean Administration, Third Ocean, Fourth Ocean Administration, Fourth Ocean, Fifth Ocean Administration, Fifth Ocean, Sixth Ocean Administration, Sixth Ocean, Seventh Ocean Administration, Seventh Ocean, Eighth Ocean Administration, Eighth Ocean, Ninth Ocean Administration, Ninth Ocean, Tenth Ocean Administration, Tenth Ocean, Eleventh Ocean Administration, Eleventh Ocean, Eleventh Ocean, Twelfth Ocean Administration, Twelfth Ocean, Thirteenth Ocean Administration, Fourteenth Ocean Administration, Fifteenth Ocean Administration and Sixteenth Ocean Administration;

–        owned and controlled by IRISL up to 90%, 81% and 100% of their shares, respectively: IRISL Maritime Training Institute, Kheibar and Kish Shipping Line Manning.

166    Thus, the statement of reasons for the 2015 measures indicated to the applicants, and thus enabled them to understand, that it was because of the capital and control links which existed between them and IRISL that restrictive measures had been adopted against them, those links being direct or indirect depending on the category to which they belonged.

167    In those circumstances, it must therefore be held that, in the light of the case-law, the reasons given in the 2015 measures were sufficiently precise and concrete, in that they enabled the applicants to understand the reasons why the Council had decided to reinstate their names on the disputed lists on the basis of the criteria referred to in Article 20(1)(b) of Decision 2010/413 and Article 23(2)(e) of Regulation No 267/2012.

168    Thus, the Council was not required, contrary to the applicants’ contention, to provide further explanations in this regard.

169    It must therefore be considered that the 2015 measures do not infringe the obligation to state reasons.

(2)    As regards the rights of the defence

170    The applicants consider that the Council infringed the principle of the rights of the defence.

171    The Council disputes that argument.

172    In that regard, it should be borne in mind that, according to settled case-law, observance of the rights of the defence, especially the right to be heard, in all proceedings initiated against an entity which may lead to a measure adversely affecting that entity, is a fundamental principle of European Union law which must be guaranteed, even when there are no rules governing the procedure in question (see judgment of 14 October 2009, Bank Melli Iran v Council, T‑390/08, EU:T:2009:401, paragraph 91 and the case-law cited).

173    The principle of respect for the rights of defence requires, first, that the person or entity concerned must be informed of the evidence against it to justify the measure adversely affecting it and, second, that the person or entity concerned must be afforded the opportunity effectively to make known its view on that evidence (see judgment of 25 March 2015, Central Bank of Iran v Council, T‑563/12, EU:T:2015:187, paragraph 93 and the case-law cited).

174    In the context of the adoption of a decision to maintain the name of a person or an entity on a list of persons or entities subject to restrictive measures, the Council must respect the right of that person or entity to be heard beforehand where that institution is including in that decision new evidence against that person or entity, namely evidence which was not included in the initial listing decision (judgment of 18 June 2015, Ipatau v Council, C‑535/14 P, EU:C:2015:407, paragraph 26).

175    In the present case, by letters of 12 March 2015, the Council communicated to the applicants the reasons why it intended to reinstate their names on the disputed lists and the documents justifying that, in its view, they were owned or controlled by IRISL. The Council was thus referring to the 2013 measures.

176    By letter of 24 March 2015, the applicants submitted detailed observations on the reasons which, in the Council’s view, justified the re-inclusion of their names.

177    By letter of 8 April 2015, the Council replied to that letter and rejected the applicants’ claims, stating, inter alia, for Ocean Capital Administration, First Ocean Administration and their subsidiaries, that, in its view, the subsidiaries of IRISL companies were owned and controlled by IRISL.

178    The applicants consider that, for three reasons, that procedure did not respect their rights of defence.

179    First of all, the applicants complain that the Council did not communicate to them, before the adoption of the contested measures, all the evidence on the basis of which it intended, by the 2015 measures, to re-include their names on the fund-freezing lists.

180    In that regard, it should be noted that, by letters of 12 March 2015, and therefore prior to the adoption of the 2015 measures, the Council communicated to the applicants the evidence justifying the re-inclusion of their names.

181    The applicants submit, however, that no evidence was provided for two of them, namely Second Ocean and Eleventh Ocean, even though the Council stated in one of those letters that those undertakings belonged to IRISL through Ocean Capital Administration.

182    In that regard, it should be noted that the applicants’ criticism concerns the failure to provide documents relating to the composition of the shareholding of two entities which, like any company or business, are deemed to know who their shareholders are.

183    Furthermore, it is important to note that, at no time did the applicants in any way contest the reality of the statement which they considered insufficiently substantiated, although they could easily have done so by submitting documents attesting to the true identity of their shareholders.

184    In those circumstances, it cannot be considered that the applicants’ rights of defence were infringed on the ground that the Council did not establish that Second Ocean and Eleventh Ocean belonged to IRISL through Ocean Capital Administration.

185    In the second place, the Council did not give them sufficient time to submit their observations before the adoption of the 2015 measures.

186    In that regard, it should be noted that, in the letters of 12 March 2015, the Council asked the applicants to submit their observations by the following 24 March on the information which it had forwarded to them. On the same day, the applicants requested an extension of the deadline until 24 April 2015, given that the period from 12 to 24 March 2015 included the Iranian New Year and that they represented 32 companies. By email of 13 March 2015, the Council rejected that request.

187    As indicated by the Council in its reply letter of 13 March 2015, and as reiterated at the hearing, this decision to deny the request for an extension of time was made in the following context.

188    In its judgment of 22 January 2015, Ocean Capital Administration and Others v Council (T‑420/11 and T‑56/12, not published, EU:T:2015:42, paragraphs 74 to 77), the Court annulled Regulation No 267/2012 and Decisions 2011/299 and 2011/783 by which the applicants’ names were included in the fund-freezing lists, that annulment becoming final, by reason of the expiry of the period for appeal, ‘at the beginning of April 2015’.

189    Since IRISL’s name had been re-included on the fund-freezing lists by Decision 2013/685 and Implementing Regulation No 1203/2013, and since Article 20(1)(b) of Decision 2010/413 and Article 23(2)(e) of Regulation No 267/2012, as amended by the 2013 measures, obliged the Council to include the names of the entities dependent on IRISL, the Council had to act before ‘the beginning of April 2015’ to include the applicants’ names on the disputed lists.

190    When, in those circumstances, it fixed the period within which the observations were to be submitted to it by the applicants, the Council was further required to take into account the period of time it would need to consider those observations.

191    Consequently, the Council was legitimately able to consider, on the basis of the information available to it, that a period of 12 days would be sufficient for the applicants to submit their observations to it.

192    That conclusion cannot be called into question on the ground that, as argued by the applicants, that period included the Iranian New Year and that, given their number, coordination between them had to take place.

193    In that regard, it should be borne in mind that, in Regulation No 267/2012 and Decision 2011/299 and 2011/783, the names of the applicants had been included in the fund-freezing list on grounds similar to those which had been communicated to them by letters of 12 March 2015 (see paragraph 12 and 26 above). By the time they received the request for observations, the applicants had therefore already had to consider the reasons why the Council considered that they had links with IRISL. In those circumstances, the Council could legitimately consider that a period of 12 days would be sufficient, even if it coincided with a particular time in the country concerned, in particular as the applicants were represented by lawyers residing in another part of the world.

194    As regards the coordination to be carried out between the applicants, it should be recalled that their names were re-included on the basis of the capitalisation ties existing between them and IRISL. As those companies are directly or indirectly controlled by a single company, it appeared to the Council that coordination between them would be easy to achieve.

195    In those circumstances, it may be considered that, by giving them 12 days to submit their observations on the information which it had provided to them by letters of 12 March 2015, the Council did not infringe the applicants' rights of defence.

196    In the third place, the applicants criticise the Council for not responding specifically to the arguments which they had submitted in respect of six of them, namely Thirteenth Ocean Administration, Fourteenth Ocean Administration, Fifteenth Ocean Administration, Sixteenth Ocean Administration, Second Ocean and Eleventh Ocean.

197    As regards the first four applicants cited in paragraph 196 above, the applicants point out that, in their observations of 24 March 2015, they had claimed that, contrary to what the Council had stated in its letters of 12 March, their shareholder was Darya Capital Administration GmbH and not Ocean Capital Administration. Despite those observations, the Council maintained, as the reason for the inclusion of their names in the disputed lists in the 2015 measures, the fact that those four applicants were owned by IRISL through Ocean Capital Administration.

198    In that respect, it should be recalled that, according to the case-law, the Council is not required to reply, prior to the adoption of restrictive measures envisaged, to the observations submitted by the person or entity concerned. The sending of such a reply, once the interested parties have been heard, relates to the reasoning of the act by which those measures are adopted rather than to the observance of the rights of the defence. (judgment of 31 January 2019, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council, C‑225/17 P, EU:C:2019:82, paragraph 92).

199    However, in the present case, it follows from paragraphs 162 to 169 above that the 2015 measures satisfy the obligation to state reasons: on reading the contested measures, the applicants were able to understand that the names of those undertakings had to be written on the disputed lists due to the capitalisation links and the control which existed between them and IRISL, in applying the criteria laid down in Article 20(1)(b) of Decision 2010/413 and in Article 23(2)(e) of Regulation No 267/2012.

200    Moreover, in view of the evidence provided by the Council with the letters of 12 March 2015, the applicants were able to understand that the names of those undertakings had to be included in those lists inasmuch as they were owned by Darya Capital Administration, even though the reasons for inclusion referred to Ocean Capital Administration.

201    Moreover, it should be recalled that the name of Darya Capital Administration was included in the fund-freezing lists by Decision 2011/299 and Regulation No 267/2012 on the ground, inter alia, that that entity was 100% owned by IRISL Europe, the name of which was included in those lists by Decision 2013/685 and Implementing Regulation No 1203/2013 because it was itself 100% owned by IRISL.

202    While the applicants noted that the first four applicants mentioned in paragraph 196 above were not owned by Ocean Capital Administration, they did not contest that these four applicants were owned by Darya Capital Administration, nor that the latter was ultimately owned by IRISL.

203    Accordingly, they did not dispute that the Council could include the names of the four applicants on the disputed lists, in accordance with the criteria laid down in Article 20(1)(b) of Decision 2010/413 and Article 23(2)(e) of Regulation No 267/2012.

204    Consequently, notwithstanding the fact that the Council should have, in the grounds for listing the names of the four applicants referred to in paragraph 196 above, referred to Darya Capital Administration rather than Ocean Capital Administration, the applicants’ arguments must be rejected.

205    As to the last two applicants cited in paragraph 196 above, the applicants submit that, in their observations of 24 March 2015, they had pointed out that the Council had not provided any evidence concerning those two undertakings and IRISL Multimodal Transport, but that, unlike the latter, the names of the two applicants were entered on the disputed lists without the Council giving any explanation for that difference in treatment.

206    For the reasons set out in paragraph 198 above, the applicants’ rights of defence cannot be considered to have been infringed on the ground that the Council did not reply to their observations concerning those two undertakings.

207    In particular, the applicants were able to understand that the names of those undertakings had to be included in the disputed lists due to the capitalisation and the control links which existed between them and IRISL, in applying the criteria laid down in Article 20(1)(b) of Decision 2010/413 and in Article 23(2)(e) of Regulation No 267/2012.

208    Furthermore, it is important to note that, although the applicants have pointed out the lack of evidence concerning them, they have at no time in the proceedings before the Council or the Court disputed the reality of Ocean Capital Administration’s ownership of those two companies. They also did not submit any documents relating to the composition of their shareholding that contradicted the Council’s assertions regarding that ownership

209    Therefore, the applicants’ rights of defence cannot be considered to have been infringed by the Council’s failure to respond to their observations concerning the last two applicants mentioned in paragraph 196 above.

210    In those circumstances, the argument, and thus, the fourth plea in law must be rejected.

(d)    The third plea in law, alleging insufficient factual basis

211    The applicants submit that the Council's decision to reinstate their names on the disputed lists does not have a sufficient factual basis in that it did not show that each of them was actually owned or controlled by IRISL. They consider that the right to effective judicial protection means that the Court must verify the facts alleged in the statement of reasons underlying the decision to re-include them, in order to ascertain whether those reasons are substantiated. It would therefore be for the Council to establish that the grounds on which it relied to re-include their names are well founded and not for the applicants to show that they are not. It maintains that that proof has not, however, been furnished in the present case by the Council.

212    The Council disputes the plea.

213    In that regard, it must be stated that, according to the case-law of the Court, it is for the competent European Union authority, in the event of a dispute brought by an applicant before the Union Courts, to establish that the reasons relied on against the person concerned are well founded, without the burden of negative proof of the lack of merit of those grounds having to be borne by that party (see, to that effect, judgment of 18 July 2013, Commission and Others v Kadi, C‑584/10 P, C‑593/10 P and C‑595/10 P, EU:C:2013:518, paragraph 121).

214    Thus, the Courts of the European Union must carry out a factual verification of the reasons relied on by the competent EU authority, according to the case-law of the Court of Justice, if the applicant disputes before it the merits of those reasons.

215    Determining the conditions which must be fulfilled by that dispute in order to be effective, the Court considered, first, that it had to be made in the application and, second, that it had to be formulated in a specific and detailed manner (see, to that effect, judgment of 6 March 2019, Hamas v Council, T‑289/15, under appeal, EU:T:2019:138, paragraphs 151 and 152).

216    In the present case, it should be noted that, in the application, the applicants have, in general terms, requested the Council to provide evidence of the elements put forward by it to justify maintaining their names on the disputed lists, but have not made any criticism in support of their application which would make it possible to identify, in concrete terms, the facts in respect of which evidence should be adduced or the reasons enabling them to consider that the assertions made by the Council might lack, in whole or in part, a factual basis.

217    Thus, it must be held that, by confining themselves to making such a general criticism, without giving their challenge the concrete and detailed form required by the case-law, the applicants have failed to satisfy the conditions to be met in order to enable the Courts of the European Union to annul the contested measure on the ground that the requisite evidence was not provided by the Council.

218    In any event, contrary to what the applicants appear to maintain, the Council did not make a ‘mere systematic reference’ to ownership or control of them by IRISL but, as recalled in paragraph 175 above, communicated to them by letters of 12 March 2015, documents demonstrating that, in its view, they were owned or controlled by IRISL, and by which it justified the application to them of the criteria laid down in Article 20(1)(b) of Decision 2010/413 and in Article 23(2)(e) of Regulation No 267/2012.

219    It follows that the plea must be rejected as being ineffective.

(e)    The fifth plea in law, alleging infringement of the right to an effective remedy, of the principles of ne bis in idem, of non-retroactivity and of the protection of legitimate expectations and of abuse of power

220    The applicants submit that, by re-including their names on the disputed lists in the absence of new circumstances or justification despite the judgment of 22 January 2015, Ocean Capital Administration and Others v Council (T‑420/11 and T‑56/12, not published, EU:T:2015:42), the Council infringed the following rules: res judicata, effective judicial protection, the principle ne bis in idem, non-retroactivity of acts, legitimate expectations, legal certainty and abuse of power.

221    The Council disputes the plea.

222    As regards the principle of res judicata, it must be borne in mind that annulment judgments given by the European Union Courts have the force of res judicata as soon as they become final. The force of res judicata applies not only to the operative part of a judgment annulling a decision but also to the grounds which are its essential basis and are inseparable from it (see judgment of 31 January 2019, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council, C‑225/17 P, EU:C:2019:82, paragraph 46 and the case-law cited).

223    Furthermore, it is settled case-law that res judicata attaches only to matters of fact and law actually or necessarily settled by a judicial decision (see judgment of 31 January 2019, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council, C‑225/17 P, EU:C:2019:82, paragraph 47 and the case-law cited).

224    In the present case, it does not follow from the Court’s findings in the judgment of 22 January 2015, Ocean Capital Administration and Others v Council (T‑420/11 and T‑56/12, not published, EU:T:2015:42), that the Council, in its role as legislator, could not, in the context of the measures taken to comply with the judgment of 16 September 2013, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council (T‑489/10, EU:T:2013:453), decide to amend the listing criteria which formed the basis for the initial inclusion of IRISL’s name, and therefore of those of the applicants, in order to pursue, by strengthening the legal means at its disposal for that purpose, the objective of exerting pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran to oblige it to put an end to its nuclear proliferation programme.

225    The complaint alleging breach of res judicata of the judgment of 22 January 2015, Ocean Capital Administration and Others v Council (T‑420/11 and T‑56/12, not published, EU:T:2015:42) must therefore be rejected.

226    On the right to effective judicial protection, enshrined in Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, it must be borne in mind that it states that everyone whose rights and freedoms guaranteed by the law of the Union are violated has the right to an effective remedy before a tribunal in compliance with the conditions laid down in that article. However, the principle of effective judicial protection does not prevent the Council from re-including the name of a person or entity on the lists of persons and entities whose assets are frozen, on the basis of information already existing or available, if, between the initial listing and the re-inclusion, the criteria leading to the listing have changed. The purpose of that principle is to ensure that an act adversely affecting an entity may be challenged before the courts, and not to prevent the adoption of a new act adversely affecting that entity, based on different reasons (see, to that effect, judgment of 31 January 2019, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council, C‑225/17 P, EU:C:2019:82, paragraphs 53, 54 and 62).

227    Accordingly, the complaint alleging infringement of the applicants’ right to effective judicial protection must be rejected.

228    As regards the principle ne bis in idem, it should be recalled, as was done in paragraph 110 above, that it does not apply to restrictive measures, as those do not constitute criminal sanctions.

229    Consequently, the plea of infringement of the principle ne bis in idem must be rejected.

230    As regards the principle of non-retroactivity, it is sufficient to state that the re-inclusion of the applicants’ names on the disputed lists, carried out by the 2015 measures, entered into force on 8 April 2015. The applicants do not explain why such re-inclusion would be retroactive.

231    Accordingly, the plea of infringement of the principle of non-retroactivity must be rejected.

232    On the principle of protection of legitimate expectations, it should be recalled that, in accordance with the settled case-law of the Court of Justice, the right to rely on that principle applies to any individual in a situation in which an institution of the European Union, by giving that person precise assurances, has led him to entertain well-founded expectations. By contrast, a person may not plead breach of that principle unless he has been given those assurances (see judgment of 31 January 2019, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council, C‑225/17 P, EU:C:2019:82, paragraph 57 and the case-law cited).

233    However, contrary to what the applicants maintain, the judgment of 22 January 2015, Ocean Capital Administration and Others v Council (T‑420/11 and T‑56/12, not published, EU:T:2015:42), could not give rise to a legitimate expectation on their part that the Council could not, following that judgment, amend the applicable criteria for inclusion, or take, in compliance with that judgment and that of 16 September 2013, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council (T‑489/10, EU:T:2013:453), a decision to re-include them on the funds-freezing lists for the future. That was all the less possible since the Court had stated, in paragraphs 64 and 82 of the latter judgment, that it was open to the Council to adapt the applicable rules, in its role as legislator, in order to broaden the circumstances in which restrictive measures may be adopted, and that it had a period of two months and 10 days in which to remedy the infringements found by adopting, where appropriate, new restrictive measures in respect of the applicants. In those circumstances, since the applicants do not adduce, in their action, any specific additional argument concerning an alleged infringement by the Court of the principle of the protection of legitimate expectations, such an infringement cannot be established either.

234    The applicants are therefore wrong to claim that they could have had a legitimate expectation that their names would not be re-included on the fund-freezing lists because of a lack of significant change in circumstances.

235    For the same reasons, it should be considered that, by adopting the 2015 measures, the Council also did not infringe the principle of legal certainty, which, according to established case-law, requires European Union legislation to be certain and its application foreseeable by those subject to it (see judgment of 17 February 2017, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Others v Council (T‑14/14 and T‑87/14, EU:T:2017:102, paragraph 192 and the case-law cited).

236    As to the applicants’ argument that, by adopting the 2015 measures, the Council abused its power, it must be rejected for the same reasons as those set out above.

237    In that regard, it is sufficient to note that it is apparent from the examination of the plea of inadmissibility that, by the 2013 measures, the Council was able legitimately to change the criteria for inclusion in the fund-freezing lists.

238    Since the applicants’ names were re-included in accordance with those criteria, it cannot be considered that the Council abused that power by adopting the 2015 measures.

239    It follows from the foregoing that the fifth plea in law must be rejected.

(f)    The sixth plea in law, alleging infringement of the applicant’s fundamental rights and of the principle of proportionality

240    The applicants claim that the re-inclusion of their names disproportionately infringes their fundamental rights, in particular their right to property, freedom to conduct a business and to respect for their reputation. In addition to the freezing of funds that would disrupt their activities, that re-inclusion would damage their reputation by publicly naming them as being linked to nuclear proliferation and, in the alternative, to the infringement of Security Council resolutions.

241    They argue that since the Council has not provided any new justification for the re-inclusion of the applicants’ names on the disputed lists and no evidence to justify IRISL’s involvement in nuclear proliferation, the restrictive measures taken against the applicants are neither justified nor proportionate in relation to the legitimate aim pursued, namely the fight against nuclear proliferation.

242    The Council disputes the plea.

243    In that regard, it already follows from paragraphs 125 to 132 above that the criteria used for the re-inclusion of the names of IRISL and the applicants, contained in the 2013 measures, do not infringe the applicants’ fundamental rights.

244    Since, in the 2015 measures, the Council merely applied those criteria, the 2015 measures cannot be regarded as infringing those principles.

245    In particular, the grounds for the re-inclusion of the applicants’ names do not constitute a disproportionate attack on their reputation. Indeed, in the 2015 measures, the Council solely establishes a link between them and IRISL, but does not claim that they themselves are involved in nuclear proliferation. Hence, since they are not personally associated with conduct posing a risk to international peace and security, the degree of mistrust towards them is therefore lower.

246    It follows from this that the applicants’ re-inclusion on the disputed lists does not disproportionately infringe their right to property, their freedom to conduct a business or their right to respect for their reputation.

247    Accordingly, the sixth plea in law must be rejected and, consequently, the application for annulment must be dismissed.

IV.    Costs

248    Under Article 134(1) of the Rules of Procedure, the unsuccessful party is to be ordered to pay the costs if they have been applied for in the successful party’s pleadings.

249    As the applicants have been unsuccessful, they must be ordered to pay the costs, in accordance with the form of order sought by the Council.

On those grounds,

THE GENERAL COURT (First Chamber),

hereby:

1.      Dismisses the action;

2.      Orders Ocean Capital Administration GmbH and the other applicants, whose names are set out in the annex, to pay the costs.


Nihoul

Svenningsen

Öberg

Delivered in open court in Luxembourg on 8 July 2020.


E. Coulon

 

S. Papasavvas

Registrar

 

President


*      Language of the case: English.


1      The list of the other applicants is attached only to the version served on the parties.