EU’s Highest Court Upholds Hamas’ Place on Terrorism List, Overturning Earlier Ruling
The European Union’s highest court has maintained the Palestinian Islamist organization Hamas on the bloc’s list of proscribed terrorist groups, reversing an earlier ruling by a lower court that had annulled the listing for procedural reasons.
The ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on Tuesday brings to an end a three-year legal wrangle over the means by which Hamas, which has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007, was added to the list.
A 2018 decision by the European Council, the body which brings together the leaders of the EU’s 27 nations, added Hamas to the list. However, Europe-based lawyers representing Hamas appealed the decision, arguing that the EU’s own procedures had not been followed. Specifically, signatures from the president of the council and its secretary-general were missing on several annexes to the application to list Hamas as a terror group, including statements offered as evidence.
A 2019 decision by a lower court of the EU concurred with that assertion.
On Tuesday, judges at the ECJ ruled that the original decision of the European Council was in the spirit of the law, even if the usual administrative procedures had not been followed.
Even without the signature on the evidence, the 11-judge panel wrote, “the authenticity of those statements of reasons has not been validly challenged.” While recognizing that the provisions of a signature is an important part of authentication, the court held that it was not needed for the entire package.
The decision means EU measures against Hamas are compatible with EU law. Implemented following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the EU’s list currently includes 14 individuals and 21 groups.
Commenting on the decision, the Brussels-based EU Office of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) noted that it came days after a Hamas gunman killed an Israeli and wounded three others in a terror attack in Jerusalem’s Old City.
“There can be no ambivalence toward an organization dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state,” the AJC Transatlantic Institute said.