EU Court Reverses Course, Backs Hamas Asset Freeze

A Palestinian protester takes cover during clashes with Israeli troops near Ramallah, West Bank, on Dec. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

(CN) – Four years after it questioned the basis for an asset freeze against Hamas, the European General Court reversed course Friday, saying American decisions hold no sway but that EU lawmakers were entitled to rely on the findings of a U.K. official.

The EU labeled Hamas a terrorist organization soon after 9/11, but the Luxembourg-based General Court rebuked the Council of the European Union in 2014 for basing such sanctions on “factual imputations derived from the press and the internet.”

Even though that ruling annulled the council’s acts against Hamas, however, the asset freeze remained in effect pending appeal, and the European Court of Justice wound up overturning it in 2017.

With the case sent back to it for another look, the General Court ruled Friday that Hamas has no basis to challenge the freeze of its assets.

A copy of the decision is not available in English, but a press release calls it sufficient that the council was able to refer to a decision about Hamas from the U.K. home secretary.

As for America’s influence on the asset freeze, the court noted “American decisions cannot serve as the basis for the acts of the council.”

Indeed the council would not have been able to act against Hamas based on the American decisions, the court found, unless it “verified that the American decisions had been adopted in compliance with the rights of defense and the right to effective judicial protection.”

The council faced no such obligations, however, with the U.K. home secretary’s decision. 

“In the acts challenged,” the court found, “the council was not required to set out the facts on which the Home Secretary’s decision was based, or to verify the classification of those facts with regard to Common Position 2001/931. There was also no need to refer to the arrangements for review of that decision.”

A Palestinian militant group that governs the Gaza Strip, Hamas also failed to support its appeal by pointing to its continued power following elections.

“The political nature of an organization or its participation in a government do not constitute grounds for avoiding the application of the rules in the Common Position,” the court found. 

“Since Hamas is not a sovereign state, it cannot rely, in support of its claim, on the principle of non-interference to try to annul the decisions of the council,” the press release continues.

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