EU Court Upholds Terrorist Asset Freeze Against Hamas

(CN) – Upholding an asset freeze imposed against Hamas, the European General Court rejected an argument Wednesday that the group’s attacks in Gaza are not terrorism but the actions of a legitimate political movement.

Palestinians from Hamas and other groups carry pictures of slain Palestinian Mahmoud al-Mabhouh on Feb. 26, 2010, as they call for vengeance for his killing in Dubai, in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ein el-Hilweh near the southern port city of Sidon, Lebanon. He was killed in a Dubai hotel room in an operation attributed to Mossad but never acknowledged by Israel. The Mossad, shrouded in mystery and mythology, is legendary in international intelligence circles for being behind what are believed to be some of the most daring covert operations in recent decades. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari, File)

Hamas insisted that it forms the heart of the Palestinian, making its actions similar to that of a state authority. Though the principle of noninterference in international law does indeed empower any sovereign state to conduct its affairs without external interference, the Council of the European Union shot back that groups or movements are not entitled to such authority. 

In support of its 2015 decision to include Hamas on a list of people and entities whose assets would be frozen to combat terrorism, the council explained that “Hamas has a political bureau and an armed wing: the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades.”

In addition to its internal leadership, divided between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Hamas has external leadership in Syria.

The council explained that the armed wing is relatively independent but “is still subject to the general strategies drawn up by the political bureau.”

“The political bureau takes the decisions, and the Brigades comply with them because of the strong sense of solidarity engendered by the religious component of the movement,” the council argued, as quoted in Wednesday’s ruling.
The First Chamber of the European General Court ruled against Hamas.

“Since it is neither a state nor the government of a state, Hamas cannot benefit from the principle of non-interference,” the ruling states.

Another argument Hamas made to unfreeze its assets was that the council improperly relied on the U.S. designation of it as a terrorist organization.

Though the General Court agreed here that the decisions of U.S. authorities alone cannot serve as the basis for an asset freeze, it noted that the council was justified in relying on an order of the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for the Home Department.

In contrast to the U.S. decision, which considered Hamas as a whole, the decision by U.K. authorities concerning only the group’s armed wing, the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades also known as Hamas IDQ.

Hamas offered no proof, however, to counter the council’s arguments that   the brigades are indistinguishable from the political bureau.

The council on the other hand did offer a statement of reasons that explained how the proscription against Hamas in the U.K. relied on conclusions by a cross-government group “that Hamas- Izz al-Din al-Qassem continued to be concerned in terrorism.”

Several examples of bombings, sniper attacks and rocket launches by Hamas from 2003 to 2011 are recounted in these conclusions. 

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