Key facts of the case:
(Common foreign and security policy — Freezing of funds — Rights of the defence — Obligation to state reasons — Manifest error of assessment — Right to life — Right to property — Right to respect for private life — Proportionality)
Results (sanctions) and key consequences of the case:
THE GENERAL COURT (Seventh Chamber) hereby:
77. With regard to the right to effective judicial protection, laid down in Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, it requires that the person concerned must be able to ascertain the reasons upon which the decision taken in relation to him is based, either by reading the decision itself or by requesting and obtaining disclosure of those reasons so as to make it possible for him to defend his rights in the best possible conditions and to decide, with full knowledge of the relevant facts, whether there is any point in his applying to the court having jurisdiction, and in order to put the latter fully in a position to review the lawfulness of the decision in question (see, to that effect, Kadi II, paragraph 100 and the case-law cited).
As was stated in paragraph 77 above, the right to effective judicial protection is a right guaranteed under the Charter of Fundamental Rights and includes, inter alia, the right of the applicant to ascertain the reasons why the decision against him was taken.
93. However, contrary to what the applicant claims, it must be stated that it is only on the request of the party concerned that the Council is required to provide him with access to all non-confidential official documents concerning the measure at issue (Case C‑548/09 P Bank Melli Iran v Council  ECR I‑11381, paragraph 92).
94. In the present case, such a possibility is expressly laid down to that effect by the legislation. Thus, it must be stated that Article 21(2) and (3) of Decision 2011/782, Article 32(2) and (3) of Regulation No 36/2012 and Article 30(2) and (3) of Decision 2013/255 provide, first, that the Council is to inform the individuals of the inclusion of their names in the lists at issue and of the grounds for doing so, and secondly that, where observations are submitted or where substantial new evidence is presented, the Council is to review its decision and inform the person or entity concerned accordingly. However, the time-limit within which the Council must reply to those observations is not specifically laid down.
95. It is clear from the documents in the case-file that the Council, in its letter of 21 December 2011, disclosed to the applicant the documents from its file which, in its opinion, justified maintaining his name on the lists of persons and entities subject to the restrictive measures in question. That disclosure enabled the applicant to react to the position adopted by the Council and to put forward his point of view. The applicant made use of that procedure on several occasions, in particular by sending letters of 16 January and 6 March 2012, in which he challenged the maintenance of his name on the lists annexed to the other contested acts, made certain observations and asked the Council to send him the evidence justifying his listing being maintained. The Council acknowledged receipt of those observations in its letter of 16 March 2012 and informed the applicant that they did not require it to do more than refer to its defence in the present proceedings. The Council also stated on 27 March 2012 that the applicant had been given access to the documents from the file.
96. Consequently, whilst it is true that the Council’s responses to the applicant’s observations and requests are particularly succinct, the fact remains that the applicant had access to summary material which the Council had in its possession and that he was able to make known his point of view. Therefore, it cannot be held that the Council infringed the applicant’s right to effective judicial protection. Accordingly, the third part of the third plea must therefore be rejected.
125. As a preliminary point, it must be observed that the effectiveness of the judicial review guaranteed by Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights requires inter alia that, as part of the review of the lawfulness of the grounds which are the basis of the decision to list or to maintain the listing of a given person, the Courts of the European Union are to ensure that that decision is taken on a sufficiently solid factual basis. That entails a verification of the factual allegations in the summary of reasons supporting that decision, with the consequence that judicial review cannot be restricted to an assessment of the cogency in the abstract of the reasons relied on, but must concern whether those reasons, or, at the very least, one of those reasons, deemed sufficient in itself to support that decision, is substantiated (Kadi II, paragraph 119).
144. As such, respect for fundamental rights is a condition of the lawfulness of European Union acts. In accordance with settled case-law, those fundamental rights do not, however, enjoy, under EU law, absolute protection, but must be viewed in the light of their function in society. Consequently, the exercise of those rights may be restricted, provided that those restrictions in fact correspond to objectives of general interest pursued by the European Union and do not constitute, in relation to the aim pursued, a disproportionate and intolerable interference, impairing the very substance of the rights guaranteed (Makhlouf v Council, paragraph 97).
145. It has previously been held that, where an act imposing restrictive measures has been adopted without furnishing any real safeguard enabling the person concerned to put his case to the competent authorities, the imposition of such measures constitutes an unjustified restriction of his right (see, to that effect and by analogy, Joined Cases C‑402/05 P and C‑415/05 P Kadi and Al Barakaat International Foundation v Council and Commission  ECR I‑6351, paragraphs 369 and 370).
146. Thirdly, it must be observed that, although in accordance with settled case-law the right to property is guaranteed by Article 17 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, it does not enjoy, under EU law, absolute protection, but must be viewed in the light of its function in society. Consequently, the exercise of that right may be restricted, provided that those restrictions in fact correspond to objectives of public interest pursued by the European Union and do not constitute, in relation to the aim pursued, a disproportionate and intolerable interference, impairing the very substance of the right so guaranteed (see Makhlouf v Council, paragraph 97 and the case-law cited).