EU court moves to keep Hamas, Tamil Tigers off terrorism list
Despite protestations from Israeli and Sri Lankan officials, and the US's continued viewing of Hamas as a terrorist organization, the EU court ruled that the EU relied too heavily on media reports rather than their own investigations when they imposed asset freezes and travel bans dating back 15 years on members of Hamas and the LTTE.
An advocate general at the European Court of Justice, whose advice is usually followed by judges, recommended on Thursday that they reject an appeal by the Council of EU member states against the lower EU court's decisions in late 2014 to remove both movements from the sanctions list due to flaw procedures.
At the time, Israel, which has had fraught relations with the EU in recent years, recalled Europeans' treatment of Jews in the Holocaust and denounced the bloc's "staggering hypocrisy".
Israel responded to the court officer's advice on Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip and is still considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the US. "We are waiting for the full opinion to be published," said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon said of Thursday's recommendation: "This is only a (legal) opinion, which is not binding on the court and is part of the European judicial process. He added that "We are convinced that the European Union will do all that is required in order to keep Hamas, an active terrorist group, on the European terror list."
Several governments opposed the EU court's decisions. The United States has urged the maintenance of sanctions on Hamas. The Sri Lankan government had said in 2014 that it would provide the evidence which the court found lacking to support sanctions against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
In both cases, judges of the EU's General Court ruled that EU leaders relied too heavily on media reports rather than their own investigations when they imposed asset freezes and travel bans dating back 15 years on members of Hamas and the LTTE.
The assets have since remained frozen pending the appeal.
Both organizations argued that they were engaged in legal wars against Israel and the Sri Lankan government respectively.
The General Court did not address whether the groups' actions merited inclusion on the list of terrorist organisations but ruled the procedures putting them on the list were flawed.
The EU Council's appeal also cited the lower court's failure to accept its argument that the groups' presence on the US terrorism list justified sanctions. Advocate General Eleanor Sharpston concluded, however, that the EU could not assume that other countries gave those it listed sufficient right of appeal.
Her advice, which also said some elements of the appeal were justified, is not binding. But judges' rulings typically follow closely the recommendations of the advocates general.