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Listing of the Hizballah External Security Organisation as a terrorist organisation.



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ATTORNEY-GENERAL THE HON DARYL WILLIAMS AM QC MP

NEWS RELEASE

5 June 2003 64/03

LISTING OF THE HIZBALLAH EXTERNAL SECURITY ORGANISATION AS A TERRORIST ORGANISATION The Hizballah External Security Organisation will be listed in regulations as a terrorist organisation as soon as Government legislation designed to allow us to identify and list that organisation is passed. Once the regulations are made, they will have effect from today.

Following advice received from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and the Attorney-General’s Department, I am satisfied that the conditions for listing the Hizballah External Security Organisation under proposed Australian law have been met. Once that law has been enacted, we will be in a position to make regulations that give effect to that decision.

A regulation will be made specifying the Hizballah External Security Organisation, being the Hizballah External Security Organisation, by whatever name that organisation is known from time to time, for the purpose of paragraph (c) of the definition of terrorist organisation in section 102.1 of the Criminal Code.

The regulation will be made within 60 days after the day on which the Criminal Code Amendment (Hizballah) Act 2003 receives Royal Assent.

Listing the Hizballah External Security Organisation as a terrorist organisation will serve to deter Australians from becoming involved in its activities. It will also strengthen Australia's ability to prosecute related offences under our counter-terrorism laws, which make it an offence to belong to, direct, recruit for, train with or provide training for, and receive funds from or make funds available to a terrorist organisation, whether in Australia or abroad. These offences carry penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment.

That decision is subject to existing, effective safeguards. In order to list a terrorist organisation under current Australian law, the Attorney-General must first be satisfied that the organisation meets the strict criteria set out in the legislation. The regulation is disallowable by either House of Parliament and is open to judicial review.

ASIO advises that the terrorist wing of Hizballah is an organisation with global reach which poses a security threat to Australian interests. It is also well known that the Hizballah External Security Organisation has been responsible for numerous terrorist attacks against Western and other interests dating back to the 1980s.

ASIO advises that it continues to have the capacity and support necessary for further operations, and is assessed to have global reach. ASIO also advises that there is evidence to suggest that it has links into Australia.

It is clear that we must have the power to independently assess and act on threats to Australians and Australian interests without waiting to see if the rest of the world agrees.

I call on the Opposition to support the amendments as well as the Government’s other Bill, the Terrorist Organisations Bill, that will remove reliance on a UN Security Council decision not just in relation to Hizballah, but any organisation that represents a terrorist threat to national, regional and international security.

Media Contact: Carina Tan-Van Baren (02) 6277 7300/ 0419 423 965 www.law.gov.au/ag

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Hizballah’s External Security Organisation (ESO)

The Shi’a organisations Hizballah (Party of God) was formed in Lebanon in 1982 in the wake of the Iranian revolution and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

Ultimately, Hizballah aims to create a Shi-a Islamic state in Lebanon and remove all Western and Israeli influences in the region. Hizballah has employed military action and terror tactics in order to achieve its objectives.

While it began as a militia, the group has evolved into a multi-faceted organisation including political, social and military components. The functions of the organisation include legitimate political and social activities. However the ESO comprises a distinct terrorist wing.

Hizballah is reported to have several thousand supporters and a few hundred terrorist operatives. While Hizballah’s ESO is based in Lebanon, reliable intelligence sources indicate that it has an international infrastructure including cells in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America.

Imad Mughniyeh, one of the FBI’s most wanted terrorists, is reported to be the Chief of Hizballah’s security and ‘special operations’ and reports directly to the current Secretary General of Hizballah; Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. Reliable intelligence sources assess the ‘special operations’ area to be the ESO.

Hizballah’s ESO has been responsible for a series of suicide bomb attacks, aircraft hijackings and kidnappings of Western and Israeli/Jewish targets in Israel, Western Europe and South America dating back to the early 1980s. Major terrorist attacks for which responsibility has been reliably attributed to the ESO:

• A 1983 suicide car bomb attack in the US embassy in Beirut, killing 49 people, and a further suicide bomb attack that year on the US Marine and French military barracks in Beirut, killing 297 personnel;

• A 1984 suicide truck bomb attack on the US embassy annex in East Beirut, killing 23 people;

• Aircraft hijackings in 1984, 1985, 1987 and 1988;

• A bomb attack against the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992, killing 28 people; and

• A bomb attack on a Jewish cultural centre in Buenos Aires in 1994, killing 96 people.

In 1997, authorities in Singapore established that a number of people had been recruited to undertake surveillance of the US and Israeli embassies in Singapore. ASIO assesses that this was likely to have been an operation coordinated by the ESO, with a view to preparing for

attacks.

The ESO has access to substantial resources and support, continues to have global reach and remains committed to the long term objective of eliminating Western and Israeli influences in the Middle East through the use of violence.

ASIO assesses that the ESO is continuing to prepare, plan and foster the commission of acts involving threats to human life and serious damage to property. Such acts include those made with the intention of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause and with the intention of coercing or influencing by intimidation, US, Israeli and other Western governments.