The European Union’s Court of Justice (ECJ) is set to rule on whether Hamas, the Palestinian political organisation, should be removed from the bloc’s “terror” list, a measure that would likely anger Israel and the United States.
In December 2014, a lower European court said Hamas should be removed from the list because the EU’s decision to place it on the “terror” sanctions list was based on information from the media and internet, and not the result of an independent investigation.
The European Council in turn appealed that finding, believing the General Court “was wrong in its assessment of the way in which the Council relied on information in the public domain”.
The EU’s top court now has the final say on the matter.
In September, ECJ Advocate General Eleanor Sharpston said Hamas should be dropped from the terror list.
The EU could not “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”, she said.
Given that “some of the reasons advanced could not justify the decision to maintain the listing”, the General Court would be correct to dismiss the EU appeal when it could find no other sufficient reasons for their being listed.
Accordingly, the ECJ “should annul the measures … on procedural grounds”, Sharpston said.
Advocates general of the ECJ are regularly called on to give their view before it makes a final ruling. The court often, but not always, follows them.
The EU maintains an active sanctions policy, targeting individuals, groups and states, including several other Palestinian entities.
Sanctions after 9/11
Hamas opposed the sanctions from the start, alluding to its democratic mandate and arguing that it has the right to conduct military operations against the Israeli occupation.
In June, Hamas presented a new political document that accepts the formation of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, without recognising the statehood of Israel, and says that the conflict in Palestine is not a religious one.
While Hamas’ 1988 founding charter called for the takeover of all of mandate Palestine, including present-day Israel, the new document says it will accept the 1967 borders as the basis for a Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital and the return of refugees to their homes.