JAFFA, Israel – Hamas welcomed a European prosecutor’s statement last week that the movement should be taken off the European Union’s terror list.
“Hamas welcomes the decision of the prosecutor in the EU court and calls on the EU institutions to adopt it,” spokesperson Dr Sami Abu Zuhri said, although the EU’s political leadership is very unlikely to change its policy.
Speaking to Felesteen, Hamas’ official publication, Abu Zuhri said: “Hamas believes it gives the EU an opportunity to redress the terrible injustice it did to the Palestinian people by labeling our movement as terrorist while succumbing to the Israeli occupation.”
“Hamas has championed a pro-Western approach and sought good relations with the West,” he said. “Hamas has no enemies except the Israeli occupation. We wait for the EU to remove Hamas from its terror list.”
On Thursday, a top EU lawyer said Hamas and Sri Lankan rebel group LTTE should be taken off the bloc’s terror list because procedural mistakes invalidated the decision to put them on it.
The European Union imposed travel bans and asset freezes against Hamas and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam under 2001 rules. The groups subsequently contested being kept on the bloc’s terrorist black list.
The General Court, second to the European Court of Justice, found in their favor in 2014 on the grounds the EU had based its decision on publicly available information, not on a finding by a competent authority.
The European Council of the 28 member states in turn appealed that finding.
Advocate General Eleanor Sharpston of the ECJ said the EU “cannot rely on facts and evidence found in press articles and information from the internet, rather than in decisions of competent authorities, to support a decision to maintain a listing.”
Given that “some of the reasons advanced could not justify the decision to maintain the listing of LTTE and Hamas,” the General Court was correct to dismiss the EU appeal when it could find no other sufficient reasons for their listing.
Accordingly, the ECJ “should annul the measures maintaining Hamas and LTTE on the EU list of terrorist organisations on procedural grounds.”
Advocates general of the ECJ are regularly called on to give their view on a case before a final ruling and in most instances their opinions are followed.
Officials said they could not comment on Sharpston’s opinion and would wait until the final ruling in the case.
For the moment, nothing is changed and Hamas and LTTE remain listed.
Palestinian legal experts and EU specialists believed the bloc’s leadership will disregard the recommendation.
Adib Ziadeh, an EU foreign policy expert, told Felesteen that the recommendation is not binding. “The judges have to speak out,” he said. “It’s true that theoretically, the EU Council has to heed court resolutions, but even if the court adopts it, the council can undo it via the back door.”
“I believe the EU political leaders will find roundabout ways to leave it on the list,” he said. “They won’t let Hamas enjoy the same status as other political movements that the EU deems acceptable. In the West, when the law clashes with policy, they will always opt for policy.”
He said that EU agencies will work to reject the recommendation. “Inside the EU there are bodies that are bent on serving Israel.”