(CN) - The European General Court conditionally removed Sri Lankan separatist group the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam from an EU terrorism blacklist Thursday, citing the lack of an independent assessment of India's handling of the group.
In 2006, the European Council placed the Tamil Tigers on its terror blacklist, freezing the group's assets in the EU. It has remained on the list ever since, with EU lawmakers relying on assessments by the British and Indian governments.
The Tigers fought their inclusion on the blacklist, however, claiming the conflict with the Sri Lankan government had been an "armed conflict" subject only to international humanitarian law and not anti-terror legislation.
Reliance on India's decisions to justify the blacklisting also required analysis, the group claimed.
In a decision Thursday, the EU's lower court held that EU anti-terrorism law includes armed conflicts like the one the Tigers waged against the Sri Lankan government for over 25 years, during that country's civil war.
But the Luxembourg-based court chastised the EU Council for not thoroughly examining whether the Indian government had given the Tamil Tigers the right of due process before defining them as a terrorist group.
"The council must, before acting on the basis of a decision of an authority of a third state, carefully verify that the relevant legislation of that state ensures protection of the rights of defense and a right to effective judicial protection equivalent to that guaranteed at EU level," the court wrote. "In addition, there cannot be evidence showing that the third state in practice fails to apply that legislation."
If there is, the government cannot be considered a "competent authority" for the purposes of terror blacklisting, the court said. Britain's involvement in the assessment also did not adequately ensure due process for the Tamil Tigers, the court added.
"That is particularly so because the grounds for the contested regulations make no mention of Indian provisions, in particular the Prevention of Terrorism Act," the ruling states. "The defense indicates, but a posteriori before the court, that they were relevant since they determined the procedure applicable to the proscription of groups regarded as infringing the Indian laws on illegal activities. That lacuna in the statement of reasons for the contested regulations confirms the lack of a thorough examination, which is particularly important in the case of decisions of authorities of third states."
Even worse, EU lawmakers have justified the Tigers' continued blacklisting on decades-old information and "information that the council derived from the press and the Internet," the court continued.
Keeping the blacklist in place while the council reassessed the situation, the court declined to weigh in on whether the Tamil Tigers should still be considered a terrorist organization.
"The court stresses that those annulments, on fundamental procedural grounds, do not imply any substantive assessment of the question of the classification of the Tamil Tigers as a terrorist group within the meaning of EU law," the 21-page opinion states.
The U.S. government first designated the group as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997. In 2001, the State Department deemed the Tamil Tigers a "specially designated global terrorist."
Sri Lankan forces defeated the group in 2009, although it remains nominally active on the Internet.