The Court of Justice of the European Union on Wednesday decided to keep Hamas on the EU blacklist of terrorist organizations.
The court thus surprisingly disqualified a 2014 ruling by a lower EU court that said Hamas should be removed from the list on procedural grounds, a move that sparked vehement protests from the Israeli government at the time.
EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen welcomed the decision.
“The current listing of Hamas remains in force and the European Union continues to consider Hamas a terrorist organization,” he told The Times of Israel on Wednesday morning, minutes after the court issued its ruling. All restrictive measures against the group — an asset freeze and a ban against soliciting or mobilizing funds — remain in force, he added.
Even if the court had decided differently, its ruling would have only applied to the Hamas’s status between 2010 and 2014 and would not have affected its current status, he stressed.
In 2010, Hamas appealed its placement on the union’s list of terrorist organizations. Four years later, the EU’s General Court ruled in the group’s favor, arguing that insufficient evidence had been presented to merit the blacklisting.
Hamas had been placed on the list based “not on acts examined and confirmed in decisions of competent authorities but on factual imputations derived from the press and the internet,” the court ruled in December 2014.
The EU Council immediately appealed that decision. Wednesday’s ruling by the Luxembourg-based EU Court of Justice ruled in the Council’s favor.
“We welcome the fact that the ECJ has upheld the EU Council’s appeal and set aside the judgment of the General Court concerning the listing of Hamas from 2010 to 2014.
The EJC has thus confirmed the legality of those listings,” Faaborg-Andersen said.
“We recall that the appeal and the General Court’s judgment did not concern the EU’s subsequent listings of 2015-17,” he added.
Wednesday’s decision came as a surprise to many in Jerusalem, since in September Eleanor Sharpston, an advocate general of the Court of Justice, said that the General Court was correct to remove Hamas from the blacklist in 2014.
The ECJ usually follows the recommendations of its top lawyers.
But on Wednesday, it ruled that the General Court in 2014 “made an error of law,” according to a press release.
“With regard to Hamas, the Court observes that the General Court annulled the continued freezing of funds solely on the ground that the Council had not referred, by way of justification, to national decisions by competent authorities,” the press release stated. But such “national decisions” were only required for a group’s initial listing, not for their subsequent retention on the list, the court ruled. Hamas had been on the EU’s list of terrorist organizations since it was created in 2001.