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EU court rules to keep Hamas on terror blacklist

July 26, 2017 7:40 P.M. (Updated: July 27, 2017 3:32 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The high chamber of the European Union Court of Justice (ECJ) overruled on Wednesday a 2014 decision by its general court to cancel sanctions against the Hamas movement.

In December 2014, the General Court ruled that the original listing of Hamas, the de facto ruling party in the Gaza Strip, on the European Union (EU) Council terrorism blacklist in 2001 was not based on sound legal judgement, but on conclusions derived from the media and the Internet, and recommended that the EU cease its freeze of Hamas assets.

The court nonetheless stressed at the time that the decision to remove Hamas was based on technical grounds and did "not imply any substantive assessment of the question of the classification of Hamas as a terrorist group."

The Grand Chamber of the ECJ however overturned the General Court decision following an appeal by the EU Council, stating that the court had “erred in law” in deciding that the EU Council needed to conduct its own investigation before ruling that Hamas represented “an ongoing risk of...being involved in the terrorist activities.”

The Grand Chamber referred the case back to the General Court for judgement, effectively stating that at this stage there were insufficient facts to decide whether or not Hamas represented an ongoing risk of involvement in terrorist activities, a legal source told Ma’an.

Hamas would only be removed from the EU terror blacklist if the EU Council decided to remove it, or if a legal investigation by the General Court concluded that it did not constitute an “ongoing risk” the source added.

While the EU Council is legally bound to carry out reviews every six months on whether a group or individual should be kept on the list, the Grand Chamber ruled that the review “does not require any new material on which the Council may rely in order to justify the retention of the person or entity concerned on the list.”

As of Wednesday evening, Hamas had not issued a statement in response to the ruling.

The European Jewish Congress hailed the decision, adding that "one just needs to look at Article 7 of (Hamas’) charter to know their proudly stated genocidal aspiration to the mass murder of Jews all over the world."

However, Hamas’ new charter released earlier this year affirmed, in a departure from the group’s 1988 charter, that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “is with the Zionist project not with the Jews because of their religion.”

“Hamas does not wage a struggle against the Jews because they are Jewish but wages a struggle against the Zionists who occupy Palestine. Yet, it is the Zionists who constantly identify Judaism and the Jews with their own colonial project and illegal entity,” the charter said.

Hamas has long rejected being labeled a terrorist group, arguing that international law allows armed resistance to a military occupation, and that its victory in 2006 legislative elections make the movement the legitimate ruling party in the besieged Gaza Strip.

While the European Union has imposed travel bans and frozen Hamas assets since 2001, the group has not carried out acts of violence in the EU.

In July 2016, Hamas notably condemned a deadly attack in the south of France, expressing solidarity with families of the dead and injured, and stating that the group rejected all forms of extremism and terrorism.
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