Where is Hezbollah banned around the world?

A growing number of countries are pursuing a zero-tolerance policy to the organisation

Australia has joined the growing ranks of countries that have banned both the political and military wings of Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah party, calling the group a “real and credible threat” to the country.

For many countries, the question of whether to ban both wings has been a thorny issue, with some interested in keeping a diplomatic channel open with the political side of the group, as it is a part of the Lebanese government, despite the problems linked to that option.

That category includes France and the EU as a whole, with the bloc designating Hezbollah's military wing as a terrorist group in 2013, although it has yet to issue a complete ban.

For countries such the US – which lost 241 soldiers to an attack attributed to Hezbollah in Beirut in October 1983 – and Israel, which has been at war with the group since the mid-80s, a complete ban was an obvious move. However, France, which lost 58 peacekeepers in the Beirut attack, has been more cautious due to its longstanding links with Lebanon.

Most of the Arab League, with the exception of Algeria, Lebanon and Iraq, voted to condemn the group as a terrorist organisation in 2016. Hezbollah is entirely banned by Gulf Co-operation Council countries.

Other nations have considered whether to impose a ban for decades. Here is the state of play globally in 2021:

EU - military wing banned

Despite growing calls from some members of European Parliament, the EU has yet to issue a full ban on the group.

The bloc's most recent statement on the issue said the EU wishes to maintain "constructive dialogue with all political parties present in Lebanon". But there is growing pressure on the group among EU countries, including Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria and Serbia, which have issued complete bans.

US – complete ban

After the 1983 barracks bombing in Beirut, the US scrambled to find out who was responsible but Hezbollah was only one of many violent groups embroiled in the Lebanese civil war that was raging at the time.

The group did not issue an explicitly anti-American and anti-Israeli manifesto until 1985 and the US did not designate the group as a terrorist organisation until 1995. Since then, the US has considered the political and military wings of the group as being the same entity.

Gulf Co-operation Council - complete ban

The GCC sanctioned Hezbollah in 2013 after the group sent forces to support Bashar Al Assad, whose country had been expelled from the Arab League after a violent campaign against protesters that led to the Syrian civil war. The bloc – comprising Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar – toughened its position in 2016, giving all entities linked to Hezbollah a terrorist designation.

GCC Secretary General Abdullatif Al Zayani said at the time that the council would "take the necessary measures to implement its decision ... based on anti-terrorism laws applied in the GCC and similar international laws”. In August 2020, Bahrain arrested an undisclosed number of men accused of working for Hezbollah to smuggle weapons into the country.

Canada – complete ban

Canada banned Hezbollah in its entirety in 2002 after having previously allowed fund-raising for the group’s political wing. That changed after Hassan Nasrallah advocated suicide bombing.

Britain – complete ban

The UK banned the military wing of Hezbollah in 2008 but a complete ban was not put into effect until 2019 as Lebanon faced economic and social chaos.

Jeremy Hunt, UK foreign secretary at the time of the ban, explained the country's rationale. "It is clear the distinction between Hezbollah's military and political wings does not exist, and by proscribing Hezbollah in all its forms, the government is sending a clear signal," he said.

Germany – complete ban

Germany’s ban on Hezbollah in April 2020 was accompanied by a number of police raids on the group across the country.

“Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation deemed responsible for numerous attacks and kidnappings worldwide," Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said at the time.

The Netherlands – complete ban

The Netherlands was one of the first countries in the world outside of the US and Israel to issue a complete ban of the group in 2004.

Czech Republic - complete ban

In October 2020, the parliament of the Czech Republic voted overwhelmingly in favour of a complete ban, saying that it considered all parts of Hezbollah as "internally interlinked".

Estonia – complete ban

Any Hezbollah affiliate cannot enter Estonia after legislation was passed in October 2020.

“Hezbollah poses a considerable threat to international – and thereby Estonian – security," Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said.

Lithuania – complete ban

Since August 2020, anyone linked to Hezbollah cannot enter Lithuania. The ban will have to be renewed by a new law in 2030.

Argentina – complete ban

Argentina was slow to ban Hezbollah despite a long history of opposition to the group after the 1994 Buenos Aires Jewish community centre bombing, attributed to the group, which killed 85 people.

But it was not until 2019 that a complete ban was put in effect, with the government saying the group represented a threat to the “security and the integrity of the economic and financial order of the Argentine Republic".

Colombia - complete ban

Aside from Argentina, Colombia is one of several Latin American countries including Paraguay, Guatemala and Honduras that have completely banned the organisation. Money laundering operations by the group in Latin America to try to escape sanctions, are just one reason for these countries banning the group, extending to its involvement in the drug trade.

Iraq – no designation announced

Iraq has had a complex relationship with the organisation. During the 2003-2011 US-led occupation of the country, Iraqi security forces worked with the US to track down Hezbollah operatives who had slipped into the country to smuggle arms and train Iran-backed fighters.

But after the US departed, a number of Iraqi militia commanders went into politics, including Qais Al Khazali, whose militia, Asaib Ahl Al Haq, has worked with Hezbollah. Iraq has no official position on the group and refrained from backing the 2016 Arab League vote which condemned Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation.

Lebanon – no designation announced

Hezbollah entered the political arena after the end of the Lebanese civil war and through successive governments since 2005 has controlled a number of ministries, including the agriculture and health portfolios while building influence in the civil service through loyalists and allies.

It has subsequently been difficult for the Lebanese government to form a coherent position on the group. However, former prime minister Saad Hariri called on the group in 2017 to adopt a position of non-interference in the region.

Updated: November 24th 2021, 1:29 PM
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