A top EU lawyer on Thursday said Islamist movement Hamas and Sri Lankan rebel group LTTE should be taken off the bloc’s terror list because procedural mistakes invalidated the decision to put them on it.
Advocate General Eleanor Sharpston of the European Court of Justice said Thursday that a European judicial body was correct to remove Hamas and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam from the list in 2014.
The European Union imposed travel bans and asset freezes against Hamas and the LTTE under 2001 rules. The groups subsequently contested being kept on the bloc’s terrorist black list.
The General Court, second to the ECJ, found in their favor in 2014 on the grounds the EU had based its decision on publicly available information, not on a finding by a competent authority.
In a statement at the time, the court explained the EU’s blacklisting of Hamas had been based on “factual imputations derived from the press and the internet” instead of “on acts examined and confirmed in decisions of competent authorities.”
Stating that the European Council, which placed Hamas on the terrorism list in 2001, “did not produce the obligatory judicial effects for the designation,” the court scrapped it but kept sanctions in place for another three months pending appeal.
The European Council of the 28 member states in turn appealed that finding.
Sharpston said Thursday that the EU “cannot rely on facts and evidence found in press articles and information from the internet, rather than in decisions of competent authorities, to support a decision to maintain a listing.”
Given that “some of the reasons advanced could not justify the decision to maintain the listing of LTTE and Hamas,” the General Court was correct to dismiss the EU appeal when it could find no other sufficient reasons for their listing.
Accordingly, the ECJ “should annul the measures maintaining Hamas and LTTE on the EU list of terrorist organizations on procedural grounds.”
Washington, which already defines the Hamas organization as a “foreign terrorist organization,” added Hamas politburo member Fathi Hamad to its terror blacklist last week, meaning that US citizens and companies are banned from doing business with him and any assets he holds in areas under US jurisdiction will be frozen.
According to the US State Department, which issued the designation, during his time as Hamas interior minister in Gaza Hamad used his position to “coordinate terrorist cells.”
The State Department said that Hamad had founded Al-Aqsa TV, “with programs designed to recruit children to become Hamas armed fighters and suicide bombers upon reaching adulthood.”
Advocates general of the ECJ are regularly called on to give their view on a case before a final ruling and in most instances their opinions are followed.
Officials said they could not comment on Sharpston’s opinion and would wait until the final ruling in the case.
For the moment, nothing has changed and Hamas and LTTE remain listed.
The ECJ is expected to deliver a final ruling in the coming months.