The European General Court in Luxembourg has upheld a procedural complaint brought by Hamas, challenging the European Union’s (EU) classification of the organisation as a terrorist group.
The appeal was first made by Hamas in 2010 and centres on procedural issues relating to its original designation as a terrorist organisation in 2003. Hamas claims that the classification process infringed seven European regulations, including that there was a lack of reasonable notification and that it was not given an opportunity to defend itself. Crucially, Hamas has also challenged the quality of evidence brought against it to prove terror activity.
The Hamas appeal was launched in the wake of a similar complaint by the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers group, which saw its appeal upheld by the European court on procedural grounds.
However, as in the Tamil Tigers case, such a ruling does not impact an existing freeze on all European funds to Hamas. And, it will likely give EU authorities several months to re-build its evidence that Hamas is a terrorist organisation. Matthew Levitt, director of The Washington Institute’s Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence said “EU authorities have been working closely with Israel to counter the burgeoning Hamas fundraising network that has been taking root in Europe despite the EU ban. Those investigations should now serve as the basis for a renewed terrorist designation of Hamas.”
Israel Radio said before the judgement was announced that even if the European Court ruled in Hamas’s favour, no European countries intend on establishing ties with Hamas. Ynet reports that some EU member states have already begun collecting intelligence information to help build a strong case against Hamas and that Israel’s Foreign Ministry already has a department dedicated to such research.
Meanwhile, Labour leader Isaac Herzog and Hatnuah leader Tzipi Livni released a joint statement on the issue, describing a ruling upholding Hamas’s appeal as “a big mistake.”