26 Feb 2019
The UK will blacklist Hezbollah’s political wing over the group’s alleged role in destabilizing Syria, Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced Monday.
The move, which requires parliamentarian approval and is expected to take effect as early as Friday, would follow proscriptions of the Shi’ite group’s External Security Organisation in 2001 and its military wing, including its Jihad Council, in 2008, the Home Office said. Under the draft order, being a member or “inviting support” of Hezbollah’s political arm would be a criminal offence, punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment.
Hezbollah’s designation under the U.K. Terrorism Act of 2000 would also bar fundraising for the group and criminalize as money laundering any attempts to conceal the organization’s control or retention of assets.
“We are no longer able to distinguish between their already banned military wing and the political party,” Javid said in a statement. “Because of this, I have taken the decision to proscribe the group in its entirety.”
The decision “does not change our ongoing commitment to Lebanon, with whom we have a broad and strong relationship,” Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in the statement.
Initially established by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, Hezbollah has drawn criticism in recent years for deploying fighters in Syria in defense of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Supporters of the Shi’ite group have conversely portrayed it as a political organization that provides social services within Lebanon.
In addition to blacklisting the Lebanese group, the Home Office said it would seek identical sanctions against Burkina Faso-based Ansaroul Islam and Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam Wal-Muslimin, an Islamist group that describes itself as a Mali-based wing of al-Qaida.
Calls to take a tougher tack on Hezbollah have grown since May, when voters elected to give the group the largest voting bloc in Lebanon’s parliament.
Earlier this month, U.S. Ambassador Elizabeth Richard told reporters that American officials had become increasingly concerned about Hezbollah’s growing political power in light of the fact that it also controls a militia that is independent of Lebanon’s military, according to The Independent.
Spokespersons for the UK Home Office did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
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