Julian Leeser has told the House of Representatives that Hezbollah should be listed in its entirety as a terrorist organisation

June 24, 2021 by J-Wire News Service
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LiberalFederal MP Julian Leeser has spoken in the House of Representatives on the recommendation to the Australian government to list Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation in its entirety.

Julian Leeser

The member for the Sydney seat of Berowra told parliament: “In a bipartisan report, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security has unanimously recommended that the government expand the listing of Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organisation. 

The committee was asked to review the minister’s decision to relist Hezbollah’s External Security Organisation. The committee found no reason to disallow the legislative instrument, but the committee recommends that the government consider listing the whole organisation in its entirety.

There are five points I’d like to make. First, why is listing an organisation as a terrorist organisation important? Listing such an organisation can act as a deterrent to people who may be tempted to join a terrorist organisation. It can disrupt activity, and it also has a symbolic value, demonstrating Australia rejects the group’s terrorist activities. In a prosecution for terrorism offences, the authorities do not have to prove that the organisation is a terrorist organisation. The effect of only partially listing Hezbollah is that if the defence pleads that a terror suspect is involved with other parts of the organisation but not the listed part, it may hamper the authorities in protecting the broader community from acts of terrorism. This is what happened in the case of Ali Haidar. The New South Wales government attempted to have Mr Haidar listed as a high-risk terrorist offender due to his history of violent criminal offences and his support for Hezbollah. The prosecution in this case was unsuccessful, in part because it could only prove Mr Haidar’s support of Hezbollah, not that he was a supporter of Hezbollah’s ESO, and, as such, could not prove his support of a terrorist organisation.

Second, a compartmentalised Hezbollah is a fiction. Hezbollah itself considers itself to be one organisation. The deputy secretary-general of Hezbollah, Naim Qassem, said:

 “Hezbollah has one single leadership, and its name is the decision-making Shura Council. It manages the political activity, the Jihad activity, the cultural and the social activities… we have one leadership, with one administration.”

The head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary delegation, Mohamed Raad, said:

The Hezbollah military wing is a lie invented by the Europeans because they feel a need to communicate with us and they want to make a delusional separation between the so-called military and political wings.”

Third, Australia is now the only country that lists only the Hezbollah External Security Organisation. A range of other countries list Hezbollah in its entirety. Those countries are the Arab League, Argentina, Austria, Bahrain, Canada, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Guatemala, the Gulf Cooperation Council, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Paraguay, Serbia, Slovenia, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, the United Kingdom and Venezuela.

In 2019 the United Kingdom upgraded its listing to list the entirety of Hezbollah. In announcing the decision to list Hezbollah in its entirety, the then UK home secretary, Sajid Javid, said: 

“There have long been calls to ban the whole group, with the distinction between the two factions derided as smoke and mirrors. Hezbollah itself has laughed off the suggestion that there is a difference. I have carefully considered the evidence and I am satisfied that they are one and the same, with the entire organisation being linked to terrorism.”

This Government have continued to call on Hezbollah to end its armed status; it has not listened. Indeed, its behaviour has escalated; the distinction between its political and military wings is now untenable. It is right that we act now to proscribe this entire organisation.

In response to the tabling of this report in the other place, Mr Javid released a tweet with this to say:

“This report is right – the ‘political wing’ of Hizballah is a false distinction, as is recognised by UK, US, Canada, Germany and others. Australia are great allies on counterterrorism so I’m sure the Morrison government will consider this carefully”.

Fourth, the intervention of the head of ASIO, the Director-General of Security, Mike Burgess, in hearings for this inquiry was highly significant. The director-general told the committee that expanding the current listing of Hezbollah to the whole organisation of Hezbollah would ‘not impact ASIO’s ability to do its job’. And when the case of Mr Haidar was put to Mr Burgess, he observed, ‘I agree with your view on how unhelpful the partial listing is for law enforcement.’

The final point I want to make is in relation to relations with Lebanon. The Australian-Lebanese community has made a vital contribution to this nation.

I am proud of the century-old, significant Lebanese diaspora in my electorate. It’s hard to think of an area of Australian life which has not been enriched by the Lebanese community. I know people in the Lebanese community are concerned about speaking up against Hezbollah because it forms part of the Lebanese government and they fear reprisals against family in Lebanon.

The Lebanese government has many problems, as we saw in the wake of last year’s explosion in Beirut. Hezbollah is not a force for good in their government. Australia’s relationship with Hezbollah is important, but as even a cursory examination of the foreign Commonwealth office website will show there’s no diminution in the relationship between Lebanon and Britain in a substantial sense as a result of listing the entire organisation of Hezbollah. I encourage our government to give this report serious consideration and follow the example of so many of our allies.

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