U.K. moves to ban Hezbollah’s political wing

Britain said on Monday it would ban Hezbollah, adding the Lebanese Shi’ite group and all its branches to its list of banned terrorist organizations.

London had already proscribed Hezbollah’s external security unit and its military wing in 2001 and 2008 respectively but now wants to also outlaw Hezbollah’s political arm.

“Hezbollah is continuing in its attempts to destabilize the fragile situation in the Middle East – and we are no longer able to distinguish between their already banned military wing and the political party,” Home Secretary (interior minister) Sajid Javid said.

Hizballah, Ansar ul Islam, a militant group active in Burkina Faso, and Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam Wal-Muslimin (JNIM), an Islamic group based in North Africa, were also included on the list of organizations set to be blacklisted as terrorist organisations.

The Iran-backed Shi’ite group is already deemed a terrorist organization by the United States which last week expressed concern about its growing role in Lebanon’s government.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt supported the move while reaffirming the U.K.’s commitment to Lebanon. Hunt mentioned the difficulties distinguishing the militant group from the political wing.

Israel lauded Britain’s decision and urged the European Union likewise to class Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization.

However, the UK’s Labour Party had advised members to try and block the ban, with a leaflet sent to lawmakers in January suggesting that the ban “could be a move against dialogue and meaningful peace negotiations in the Middle East.”

The British ban, which will come into force on Friday subject to parliament’s approval, means anyone who is a member of Hezbollah or invites support will be committing a criminal offence with a potential sentence of up to 10 years in jail.

The group controls three of 30 ministries in Lebanon’s government, the largest number it has ever held, and has seen its influence grows in various Middle East conflicts including neighbouring Syria.