Senate debates

Tuesday, 14 August 2012


Intelligence and Security Committee; Report

5:49 pm

Photo of John FaulknerJohn Faulkner (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

On behalf of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, I present a report of the committee on the review of the relisting of Hezbollah's External Security Organisation.

Ordered that the report be printed.

by leave—I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

I note that the current regulation 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 this year. The disallowance period of 15 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, 28 June 2012. This report was originally tabled in the House of Representatives on that date.

Hezbollah'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 prescription regime in 2005, 2007 and 2009. This review is the fourth relisting of the ESO as a terrorist organisation.

The committee would like to make it clear that this is not a listing of the entire Hezbollah organisation. However, looking at the ESO in particular, the committee was faced with a difficulty. Many of the resources that the committee uses to independently look at terrorist organisations that have been relisted, such as Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre—something that I know is very close to the heart of Senator Feeney, who, as I speak, is reading the words of that very organisation—and the United States National Counterterrorism Center, do not now differentiate between Hezbollah and Hezbollah ESO. In relation to the difficulty of attributing specific attacks to Hezbollah's ESO, the statement of reasons refers to the secretive nature of the ESO and the fact 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 Hezbollah responsible for the planning, coordination and execution of terrorist attacks against Hezbollah's enemies outside of Lebanon.

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

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.

Hezbollah elements provide training, operational support and materiel to Palestinian extremist groups, including to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas's Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, both of which are prescribed entities, and also to Shiah militia elements in Iraq. Although these activities are undertaken by units within Hezbollah specifically created for these tasks, elements of the ESO are likely to be involved. It is clear that many of the research organisations, such as Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre and the United States National Counterterrorism Center, that the committee refers to in reviewing a relisting such as this no longer make a distinction between Hezbollah and Hezbollah ESO.

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 Hezbollah could equally be attributed to Hezbollah's ESO. The committee found that the Hezbollah ESO continues to engage in activities that satisfy division 102.1 of the Criminal Code, and the committee recommends that the regulation not be disallowed. I commend the report to the Senate.

Question agreed to.