(CN) – The European Court of Justice on Tuesday rejected claims that separatists who fought the Sri Lankan government for over 20 years should be subject to international humanitarian law governing armed conflict, rather than blacklisted as a terrorist organization.
Tuesday’s preliminary ruling by the Luxembourg-based high court stems from a lawsuit filed in the Netherlands by four individuals who were busted for fundraising for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a group that waged a civil war against the Sri Lankan government between 1983 and 2009 with the aim of creating an independent state for the Tamil people.
Dutch authorities froze the assets of the four fundraisers, since the European Union considers the Liberation Tigers a terrorist organization. The fundraisers challenged the asset freeze, arguing the group did not commit terrorist acts but was instead engaged in legitimate armed conflict that falls under international humanitarian law.
The Dutch court hearing the case asked the EU high court to clarify what it viewed as inconsistencies in the definition of “terrorist acts” between EU law and international law. The court said there is international consensus that actions by armed forces during conflict are not considered terrorist acts.
In a 12-page preliminary ruling, however, the European Court of Justice pointed to the EU’s implementation of a United Nations Security Council resolution adopted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The resolution and subsequent EU law authorized asset freezes as a means to prevent funding of future terror attacks.
The EU high court also noted that while international law invoked by the Dutch court does exclude actions by armed forces during conflict, nothing in EU law prohibits member states from classifying such forces as terrorist groups and blacklisting them as a prevention measure.
Whether the four fundraisers had their assets properly frozen is a matter for the Dutch court to decide, within the parameters of the EU court’s ruling.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam never saw their dream of an independent state become a reality. After more than 25 years of sporadic fighting, the group conceded defeat at the hands of the Sri Lankan government in 2009.