EU officials said they need to balance the rights of defendants with the need to crack down on terrorists after the assets of two alleged al Qaeda suspects, who didn't know they were blacklisted, were frozen.
Suspects found they were unable to access their bank accounts
Europe's highest court ruled Wednesday, Sept. 3, that the European Union had violated the rights of two suspected al Qaeda operatives by freezing their assets without first informing them that they had been blacklisted as terror suspects.
The Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice, however, acknowledged that the suspects could have avoided punishment if they had been warned in advance by the authorities.
It therefore agreed to maintain the asset freeze for "no more than three months" in order to give the EU time to "remedy the infringements found."
The European Commission welcomed the fact that the court had upheld the EU's right to adopt "targeted sanctions against individuals."
Officials in Brussels said they would now work with EU governments to find a way of balancing defendants' rights with the need to crack down on terror suspects.
"The commission will work together with other (European) community institutions to find a general framework on how to establish sufficient mechanisms, in which targeted persons can be heard and effective judicial review can be exercised by Community courts," officials said in a statement.
Unlawful asset freeze still maintained for limited time
Wednesday's ruling was a response to a second court appeal by Yassin Abdullah Kadi, a Saudi Arabian businessman, and the Al Barakaat International Foundation in Sweden, whose names were added to the United Nations blacklist of terror suspects in 2001.
By failing to inform Kadi and Al Barakaat of the evidence justifying their inclusion in such a list, the plaintiffs were "unable to defend their rights in satisfactory conditions," judges said in their ruling.
Though unlawful, the asset freeze should nevertheless be maintained for a limited period. This is because "annulling the regulation with immediate effect" would have allowed the suspects to "take steps to prevent measures freezing funds from being applied to them again," the judges ruled.