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Thursday, 25 June 2009
Page: 4290


Senator MARSHALL (11:37 AM) —On behalf of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, I present the report of the committee on the review of the re-listing of Hizballah’s External Security Organisation as a terrorist organisation and I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

I seek leave to have my statement incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The statement read as follows—

PARLIAMENTARY JOINT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY

REVIEW OF THE RELISTING OF Hizballah’s Eso

Senator Gavin Marshall

CANBERRA 25 June 2009

Mr President, on behalf of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security I have pleasure in presenting the Committee’s report entitled Review of the Re-listing of Hizballah’s External Security Organisation (ESO) as a terrorist organisation.

Hizballah’s ESO was initially listed as a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code Act in 2003 following their listing by the United Nations Security Council. Hizballah’s ESO came up for review under the current proscription regime in 2005 and again in 2007. This is the third review is of the re-listing of Hizballah’s ESO as a terrorist organisation.

The regulations were signed by the Governor-General on 14 May 2009. They were then tabled in the House of Representatives and the Senate on 25 May 2009.  The disallowance period of 15 sitting days for the Committee’s review of the listing began from the date of the tabling. Therefore the Committee was required to report to the Parliament by Thursday 25 June 2009.

Notice of the inquiry was placed on the Committee’s website. Three submissions were received from the public along with two submissions from the Attorney-General’s Department. Representatives of the Attorney-General’s Department and ASIO attended a private hearing on the listings.

In its submission to the inquiry, the Federation of Community Legal Centres (VIC) Inc, put forward a detailed criticism of the proscription regime and stated that in the case of Hizballah’s ESO it is unclear whether the statutory criteria had been made out.

The Committee also received a submission from Dr Patrick Emerton of Monash University. This submission also put forward a detailed criticism of the proscription regime and but only briefly dealt with Hizballah’s ESO.

In its submission to the inquiry, the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council stated that, whilst it supported the re-listing of Hizballah’s ESO, it drew no distinction between the ESO and Hizballah as a whole and requested the Committee recommend to the Attorney-General that the entire Hezbollah organisation should be listed as a terrorist organisation, rather than only its External Security Organisation.

The Committee is not persuaded, at this time, to make the recommendation proposed by the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council.

Mr President, the Committee heard evidence that Hizballah’s ESO continues to engage in, and offer support for terrorist acts. I will take this opportunity to provide some information on the group’s current engagement in terrorist activity.

Based in Lebanon, Hizballah’s ESO was formed in 1983 after senior Hizballah member, Imad Mughniyah, fled to Iran following the 1983 attack on the United States military in Beirut. It was reported to the Committee that from this incident the ESO grew out of Hizballah’s military wing, the Islamic Resistance, to become a separate branch.

As a result, the ESO constitutes a distinct terrorist wing within Hizballah’s structure. ASIO informed the Committee that since Hizballah has become a legitimate political party within Lebanese politics, the ESO has had to operate independently.

The Committee also heard evidence from ASIO that due to Hizballah’s engagement in the recent Lebanese elections, the ESO have made a deliberate effort to rein in its terrorist activity to strengthen Hizballah’s political chances.

Despite this, the Committee heard evidence that the ESO remains directly or indirectly engaged in preparing, planning, assisting in, or fostering the doing of a terrorist acts. The group has a record of regular terrorist attacks, primarily against Israeli and US interests, up until the early 1990s. Following the 2006 military confrontation with Israel, it has been reported to the Committee that ESO engagement in terrorist activity has been sustained, with a significant rocket and anti-aircraft capability which can reach deep into Israel. There is no reason to believe the ESO has relinquished this capability.

The ESO has also established an insurgent capacity in Iraq, engaging in assassinations, kidnapping and bombings. Training cells have been set-up there to specifically to train Shia fighters prior to action in Iraq. The ESO is also involved in providing training, operational support and material to other proscribed Palestinian extremist groups, such as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Although it was reported to the Committee that the ESO is a highly covert and secretive organisation, there is evidence that it remains a committed terrorist organisation and the Committee supports their listing as such under the Criminal Code. In view of this the Committee will not recommend to Parliament that the regulation be disallowed.

Mr President I would like to take this opportunity to thank my fellow Committee members for their work in reviewing this and other terrorist organisations. Lastly I would like to thank the Secretariat.

Mr President, I commend the report to the Senate.

Senator Gavin Marshall

Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security

25 June 2009

Question agreed to.