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Thursday, 28 June 2012
Page: 8317

Mr BYRNE (Holt) (09:03): On behalf of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security I present the committee's report entitled Review of the re-listing of Hizbollah's External Security Organisation.

Ordered that the report be made a parliamentary paper.

Mr BYRNE: by leave—The current regulation proscribing this organisation was signed by the Governor-General on 10 May, 2012. It was then tabled in the House of Representatives and the Senate on 21 May 2012. 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 today, Thursday, 28 June 2012.

Hizbollah's External Security Organisation was initially listed in 2003 under legislative arrangements which required that, for an organisation to be listed, it had to be on the United Nations list of terrorist organisations. The ESO came up for review under the current proscription regime in 2005, 2007 and 2009. This review is of the fourth re-listing of ESO as a terrorist organisation.

The committee would like to make it clear that this is not a listing of the entire Hizbollah organisation. However, in looking at the ESO in particular, the committee was faced with a difficulty. Many of the resources, such as Jane's Terrorism and Counter Insurgency Centre and the United States National Counterterrorism Centre, that the committee uses to independently look at terrorist organisations that have been re-listed, do not now differentiate between Hizbollah and Hizbollah's ESO.

In relation to the difficulty of attributing specific attacks to Hizbollah's ESO the statement of reasons refers to the 'secretive' nature of the ESO and that:

... it is difficult to gather detailed information about the group's role and activities. However, there is no indication that the ESO's role has changed in recent times, and considering Hizballah's stated desire to avenge the death of Imad Mughniyah, and the recent arrest of a probable Hizballah operative in Bangkok, it is likely that the ESO retains its separate terrorist function within Hizballah's overall organisational structure.

The statement of reasons points out that the External Security Organisation is a discrete branch within Lebanese Hizbollah responsible for the planning, coordination and execution of terrorist attacks against Hizbollah's enemies outside of Lebanon.

The ESO was set up by Imad Mughniyah, who has been described variously as the head of Hizbollah's security section, a senior intelligence official and as one of the founders of Hizbollah. After he fled to Iran following Hizbollah's 1983 attack on the US military in Beirut, the 'international wing' grew out of the military wing to become a separate branch under his control. This is thought to be the genesis of Hizbollah's 'international wing', or the ESO. states that:

In Israel's view, Hizballah's activities are part of Iran's overall policy with regard to Israel, which is to fan the flames of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and initiate terrorist activities against Israel, despite the fact that Hizballah is a Lebanese organization consisting entirely of terrorists from Lebanon, with no national connection to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In view of Iran's interest in smudging its fingerprints with regard to direct control over internal terrorist activities, Hizballah's status is significant as Iran's front-line operative arm against Israel.

Hizbollah elements provide training, operational support and material to Palestinian extremist groups, including the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas's Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, both of which are proscribed entities, and Shia militia elements in Iraq. Although these activities are undertaken by units within Hizbollah specifically created for these tasks, elements of the ESO are likely involved. As mentioned, it is clear that many research organisations, such as Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Centre and the United States National Counterterrorism Centre, that the committee refer to in reviewing a re-listing such as this, no longer make a distinction between Hizbollah and Hizbollah's ESO. However, in the statement of reasons provided by the government, ASIO assesses that the ESO continues to directly and/or indirectly engage in conducting, preparing, planning, assisting, advocating or fostering the doing of terrorist acts, involving threats to life and serious property damage. This assessment is corroborated by information provided by reliable and credible intelligence sources.

On this basis, and with the benefit of having examined this organisation on numerous occasions, the committee was able to conclude that certain activities attributed to Hizbollah could equally be attributed to Hizbollah's ESO. The committee found that the Hizbollah ESO continues to engage in activities that satisfy section 102.1 of the Criminal Code. The committee recommends that the regulation not be disallowance.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my fellow committee members, and the secretariat, for their work in reviewing this and other terrorist organisations

I commend the report to the House.