EU Terror List Delisting Didn’t Kill Lawsuit

     (CN) – Removing a man from a terrorist watch list did not end his constitutional claims, the Court of Justice for the European Union ruled Tuesday.
     British citizen Abdulbasit Abdulrahim found himself in hot water with the United Nations in 2008 for his activities with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), and he ultimately faced an order freezing his assets.
     In addition to his role in LIFG, the European Council found that Abdulrahim “associated with the directors of the Sanabel Relief Agency, Ghuma Abd’rabbah, Taher Nasuf and Abdulbaqi Mohammed Khaled and with members of the LIFG in the United Kingdom, including Ismail Kamoka, a senior member of the LIFG in the United Kingdom who has been convicted and sentenced in the United Kingdom in June 2007 based on charges of terrorist funding.”
     Although both the U.N. and U.K. investigators found Sanabel to be a front for the LIFG – and that LIFG has aligned itself with al-Qaida – Abdulrahim sued to have his name removed from the terror watch list in 2009.
     He claimed that neither the EU Council nor the European Commission had explained the reasons for blacklisting him, failed to produce evidence of his involvement in terrorism, and never gave him the opportunity to be heard on the matter.
     Before the General Court heard Abdulrahim’s case, however, the U.N. dropped his name from its sanctions list and the commission removed him from the EU watchlist in 2011. Deciding it had nothing more to adjudicate, the lower court dismissed Abdulrahim’s case.
     But Abdulrahim appealed the dismissal, claiming that simply removing his name from the watch list did nothing to restore his reputation or remove bars to employment and travel for him and his family.
     Europe’s highest court agreed Tuesday.
     “As the Advocate General has observed, the interest of an applicant such as Mr. Abdulrahim in bringing proceedings is retained, despite the removal of his name from the list at issue, for the purpose of having the courts of the European Union recognize that he should never have been included on the list or that he should not have been included under the procedure which was adopted by the European Union institutions,” the Luxembourg-based court wrote. “Indeed, whilst recognition of the illegality of the contested act cannot, as such, compensate for material harm or for interference with one’s private life, it is nevertheless capable, as Mr. Abdulrahim has submitted, of rehabilitating him or constituting a form of reparation for the non-material harm which he has suffered by reason of that illegality, and of thereby establishing that he retains his interest in bringing proceedings. Therefore the General Court incorrectly inferred from the removal of Mr. Abdulrahim’s name from the list at issue that he had obtained full satisfaction and that his action for annulment was accordingly no longer such as to procure for him an advantage.”
     Inclusion on terrorism watch lists has negative consequence, including impediments to free movement, financial hardships and social suspicion, according to the ruling. Abdulrahim thus had an interest in having the EU courts make a clear finding that he never should have been on the blacklist in the first place, the judges found.
     “In the light of the circumstances of the present case and, in particular, the extent of the damage to Mr. Abdulrahim’s reputation resulting from his inclusion on the list at issue, his interest in bringing proceedings continues to exist for the purpose of seeking annulment in so far as it concerns him and of securing, should his action be upheld, his rehabilitation and, thus, some form of reparation for the non-material harm suffered by him,” the court wrote. “It follows from all the foregoing that the General Court erred in law in holding that Mr. Abdulrahim lacked an interest in bringing proceedings and that, accordingly, there was no longer any need to adjudicate on his action for annulment.”
     The high court declined, however, to issue a final judgment in the matter, although EU law permits it to do so when setting aside a decision of the General Court.
     “Since the General Court held that there was no longer any need to adjudicate on the action for annulment without having examined its admissibility or the substance of the dispute, the court considers that the state of the proceedings do not permit final judgment to be given in the matter and that it is appropriate to refer the case back to the General Court,” the Court of Justice concluded. (87)
     LIFG – which became known as Libyan Islamic Movement when it helped overthrow Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 – continues to deny links to Al-Qaida. Abdulrahim told the London Telegraph in 2009 that the blacklisting was a politically motivated effort by the U.K. to appease Gaddafi.
     “The only reason people associated with the LIFG are on the UN list is to keep the Libyan government happy and improve relations between the UK and Libya,” Abdulrahim said.

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