(JNS.org) The second-highest court within the European Union (EU) on Wednesday ruled that the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas should be removed from the EU’s list of terrorist organizations, but at the same time stated that its decision was made on procedural grounds and did not constitute a “substantive assessment” of the issue.
Members nations of the European bloc can still freeze Hamas’s assets for three months while the verdict is reviewed and possibly appealed, according to the EU’s General Court. The court said it did not consider Hamas’s actions in annulling the terror designation, but that instead it evaluated the initial decision-making process behind the designation in 2003.
“The burden of proof is on the European Union,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “Hamas is a murderous terrorist organization, with the stated goal, in its charter, of destroying Israel. We will continue to fight against it with determination and strength, so that it will never achieve this aim.”
The court said in a statement that it relied on media and Internet reports, rather than authoritative opinions, in making the ruling.
“The court stresses that those annulments, on fundamental procedural grounds, do not imply any substantive assessment of the question of the classification of Hamas as a terrorist group,” the court said.
World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder said the ruling “sends a terrible signal” regardless of the “legal aspects involved here.”
“Although it only annuls the unanimous decision taken by the EU member states in 2003 on procedural grounds, [the ruling] gives Hamas a huge moral victory and will strengthen it vis-à-vis moderate forces in the Palestinian territories,” Lauder said in a statement.
“Let’s not forget one important thing: The decision to blacklist Hamas was taken in 2003 after 22 Israelis were killed in a Hamas-orchestrated bus bombing,” added Lauder. “It is especially ironic that today, at a time when not just Western countries such as Canada and the U.S., but also moderate Arab countries such as Egypt and Jordan, consider Hamas a terrorist group, the European Union shouldn’t anymore.”