Iran General NewsLawyers criticize EU over terrorist blacklist

Lawyers criticize EU over terrorist blacklist

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ImageWall Street Journal: A group of prominent European lawyers plans to accuse the European Union Tuesday of abusing the law in order to keep an Iranian group on its list of terrorist organizations.

The Wall Street Journal

By MARC CHAMPION

ImageBRUSSELS — A group of prominent European lawyers plans to accuse the European Union Tuesday of abusing the law in order to keep an Iranian group on its list of terrorist organizations.

The Iranian group, the Peoples' Mujahedin of Iran, or PMOI — better known in the U.S. as the Mujahedin e-Kalq — has already won two lengthy court cases finding their continued inclusion in the list unlawful. The EU, citing new evidence, has kept the group on. That has triggered accusations that EU leaders are flouting the law to avoid upsetting sensitive nuclear negotiations with the Iranian government, the PMOI's declared enemy.

The protest from the lawyers goes beyond the PMOI, a group with Marxist roots that committed terrorist acts against the regime in Iran in the 1980s and 1990s, but renounced violence in 2001. In legal opinions to be released Tuesday, the lawyers argue that the EU's refusal to abide by court decisions in this case and others — most recently in a September ruling on the listing of an alleged terrorist from Saudi Arabia — are eroding the fight against terrorism in a similar, if less spectacular way to the U.S. internment camp for alleged terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. EU foreign ministers called for Guantanamo's closure two years ago.

The EU's leaders regularly point to the rule of law as the bloc's core identity that new would-be members must respect. "The EU is a rule of law organization…this is just shocking," says Bill Bowring, professor of law at Birkbeck University in London, who co-wrote one of the opinions with prominent U.K. human-rights lawyer Sir Geoffrey Bindman.

Similar due process criticisms also have been brought against the United Nations' terrorist blacklist. In both the EU and U.N. blacklists, inclusion results in the group or individual having their assets frozen, as well as being branded as terrorists.

Other prominent lawyers filing opinions attacking the EU include Antonio Cassese, president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in the Hague from 1993 to 1997, and more recently chairman of the U.N.'s commission to investigate genocide in Darfur, as well as Lord Slynn of Hadley, a law lord who sits on some of England's highest appeal courts and used to be a judge on the European Court of Justice, the EU's highest court.

The EU developed its terrorist blacklist in 2001, after the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. It added the PMOI at the request of the U.K., which provided evidence of their terrorist activities. But the EU's Court of First Instance ruled in 2006 the group had been wrongly included, citing a failure to give the PMOI an adequate hearing and insufficient reasons for the inclusion.

Still more embarrassing was an English appellate-court ruling last November which said that even after reading the government's classified materials the court could find no evidence of any terrorist activity or intent by the PMOI since 2001. The court described the U.K. government's decision to keep the group on its terrorist list as "perverse."

After losing a final appeal in May, the U.K. removed the group from its own blacklist. That should have led to the group's delisting by the EU also. But in July, France presented what it described as new evidence and the listing remains. The EU will review its terrorism blacklist again toward the end of the year.

"The [European] Council has abused its powers because it has taken the French prosecutorial decisions as a procedural pretext for maintaining, probably on political or other inscrutable grounds, the PMOI on the list," writes Mr. Cassese.

The EU has been leading delicate negotiations with Iran aimed at persuading the regime to abandon its nuclear-fuel program — nuclear fuel can be used to build nuclear warheads — since 2003. Diplomats involved say the Iranians made suppression of the PMOI a condition of remaining in talks.

A spokesman for the European Council, the decision-making body made up by the EU's national governments, said the new evidence put forward by France was strong enough to convince all 27 EU governments. "It was examined and then the council concluded unanimously that these new elements justified inclusion of the PMOI on the list," he said.

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