A top European Union court has removed the Palestinian movement Hamas from its official list of terrorist organisations on Wednesday.
However, a statement from the General Court of the European Union said the change in status is a based on a technicality regarding the evidence used in its judgement.
Hamas, the ruling authority in the Gaza Strip, submitted an appeal to the EU to contest its designation. The court’s assessment found the current substantiating evidence for Hamas’ status is “based not on acts examined and confirmed in decisions of competent authorities but on factual imputations derived from the press and internet”.
Hamas supporters see the organisation as the Gaza Strip’s legitimate government, a highly impoverished Palestinian enclave hemmed in by Israeli security fences and Egyptian concrete and steel barriers. The organisation has been on the EU list since its creation in 2001.
The General Court’s press release states it will however maintain its policy of freezing the organisation’s funds for three months during the collection of appropriate evidence “in order to ensure the effectiveness of any possible future freezing of funds”.
“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.”
However, Hamas’ lawyer, Liliane Glock, announced she was “satisfied with the decision”.
“Every decision since 2001 imposing restrictive measures, including on the armed wing, have been annulled. I believe that this judgement shows the whole world that it exists and is legal,” she said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the decision saying that the organisation is a “murderous terrorist” group, and called for their re-instatement on the list. During a speech to the United Nations this September, Netanyahu equated Hamas with ISIS, announcing they were “branches of the same poisonous tree”.