Javid extends proscription of Hezbullah to entire political party

29th Mar 2019

 

Hamed Chapman

Just a month ahead of its due Brexit date, the UK Government broke with the Common Position of the EU to outlaw Lebanon’s second largest political party as a proscribed organisation under the Terrorism Act 2000.

Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, brought an order to Parliament on February 25, which said “extends the proscription of Hezbollah’s military wing to cover the group in its entirety.” In doing so, he reversed the Government’s previous position that was restated just over a year ago.

“I cannot go into the details of current intelligence, but I can say that Hezbollah has been reported in many open sources as being linked to or claiming responsibility for many atrocities,” Javid told MPs. As if to justify the move, he claimed it was “no longer tenable to distinguish between the military and the political wings of the organisation.”

Throughout his comments, the Home Secretary referred to the party as “continuing in its attempts to destabilise the fragile situation in the Middle East” and mentioning that it was “committed to armed resistance to the state of Israel.” He said he hoped that the proscription “will help to protect our friends in Israel, and give comfort to Jews across the world.”

But speaking in a brief debate, former Conservative Minister, Crispin Blunt, reminded the Home Secretary that it was only 13 months ago when the Government was having a “rather more difficult time of making the opposite arguments” not to extend the proscription and said he would be “extremely interested to know what has changed.”

“In terms of open source information it is evident that Hezbollah has got more involved in and drawn into the Syrian conflict, and is responsible for the death and injury of countless innocent civilians,” Javid argued about its neighbouring country still partially occupied illegally by Israel.

Shadow Security Minister, Nicklaus Thomas-Symonds, also called for further detail behind the decision, referring to the Foreign Office being of the view for many years that the “proscription of the political wing, which is part of the elected Lebanese Government, would make it difficult to maintain normal diplomatic relations with Lebanon or to work with the Government there on humanitarian issues, including those facing Syrian refugees.”

SNP Home Affairs spokeswoman, Joanna Cherry, also said that she wanted to elicit from Javid “what specifically has led to the Government’s change of mind since 25 January 2018 so that I might better understand this decision today.”

She added that she was “also concerned that the Home Secretary should clarify for us what specific arrangements he has put in place to make sure that diplomatic channels are kept open – not with Hezbollah, but with the Lebanese Government and Lebanese parliamentarians – in order to maintain stability in Lebanon.”

Not for the first time during the brief Parliamentary debate, Javid repeated that the reason for the reverse in British policy was based firstly on “secret intelligence” and said that MPs would understand why it could not be shared with them. Again he added there had been “plenty of open-source information, especially in the last 12 months, in which there has been a step change in the activity of Hezbollah, particularly in Syria.”

“The proscription review group – a group of civil servants from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Home Office, the Department for International Development and others – makes an independent, objective assessment of the evidence that it has, and it has expressed the clear view that all these organisations, but in particular Hezbollah in its entirety, meet the definition of a terrorist organisation in the 2000 Act,” he insisted.

With regard to the ban affecting relation with Lebanon, the Home Secretary denied it would. In response to a question from Lib Dem MP, Sir Edward Davey, he said that “for a number of years, the UK Government have had a long-standing policy of no contact with Hezbollah and, in a way, that has made this decision more straightforward in terms of any potential impact on Lebanon.”

Hezbollah currently provides 13 out of the 68 parliamentarians in the governing coalition, including two ministers in Prime Minister, Saad Hariri’s Cabinet. “Our ties with the Lebanese Government and our support for Lebanon through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development are strong. There has been a need to ensure that those arrangements are compliant with this order, but they remain largely untouched and our relationship with the legitimate Government of Lebanon will remain,” Javid further insisted.

Under the Terrorism Act 2000, the Home Secretary has the power to proscribe an organisation if it is believed to be “concerned in terrorism, and it is proportionate to do.” For the purposes, it means the organisation “commits or participates in acts of terrorism, • prepares for terrorism, promotes or encourages terrorism (including the unlawful glorification of terrorism)” or “is otherwise concerned in terrorism.”

The Order is the 23rd to be laid before Parliament with well over 70 organisations already proscribed. It follows the UK Government first proscribing Hezbollah’s external security organisation in 2001. In 2008 this was extended to include the entire military wing, the so-called Jihad council, and all units operating under it. Under the Terrorist Asset-Freezing Act 2010, this was taken further when designating Hezbollah’s military wing.

 

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