This review is conducted under section 102.1A of the Criminal Code.
Section 102.1A provides that the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security may review a regulation specifying an organisation as a terrorist organisation for the purpose of paragraph (b) of the definition of terrorist organisation in section 102.1 of the Criminal Code and report the Committee’s comments to each house of the Parliament before the end of the applicable disallowance period (15 sitting days).
Regulations re-listing the following organisations as terrorist organisations were made by the Federal Executive Council on 5 May 2016:
al-Qa’ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb,
The regulations came into effect on 28 June 2016 and were presented in the House of Representatives and Senate on 30 August 2016.
The Committee’s review
The Committee’s procedures for reviewing terrorist listings were established in its first report, Review of the listing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). The Committee determined that the validity of the listing of a terrorist organisation should be tested on both the procedures and the merits. The Committee has followed this practice for all subsequent reviews and again adopted this approach for the purposes of this report.
Where an organisation is listed for the first time, the Committee will assess the adequacy and appropriateness of the evidence presented in the explanatory statement as well as the procedures followed by the Government.
Where an organisation is re-listed, the Committee expects the evidence presented to demonstrate a continuation of the requisite activities to satisfy the relevant tests specified in the Criminal Code (and outlined below).
Conduct of the inquiry
A letter from the Attorney-General, including statements of reasons and the process of re-listing undertaken by the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, was accepted as a submission to the review and can be found on the Committee’s website.
Notice of the review was placed on the Committee website and a media release was issued on 16 September 2016. No additional submissions were received.
A private hearing with representatives of the Attorney-General’s Department and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) was held in Canberra on 13 October 2016.
It is the practice of the Committee to conduct classified hearings with agencies so that evidence presented can be interrogated in more detail, as required. Some unclassified statements from the hearing may be included in this report to support the Committee’s findings.
The remainder of this chapter will examine the Government’s procedures for the re-listing of each group as a terrorist organisation and examine the merits of the re-listings based on the evidence provided to the Committee.
The Government’s procedures
An attachment to the Attorney-General’s letter outlined the procedures followed by the Attorney-General’s Department, with input from other agencies, for the re-listing of each organisation. This document, entitled Process for the 2016 proscription of Abu Sayyaf Group, al-Qa’ida, al-Qa’ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb, Jabhat al-Nusra, Jamiat ul-Ansar and Jemaah Islamiyah as ‘terrorist organisations’ under the Criminal Code is available on the Committee’s website as an attachment to Submission 1.
The Committee reviewed the process of listing and discussed certain matters with witnesses during the private hearing. The Committee considers the procedures undertaken by the Government to be appropriate.
Merits of the re-listings
The criteria for listing an organisation
For an organisation to be listed as a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code, the Attorney-General must be satisfied on reasonable grounds that the organisation:
is directly or indirectly engaged in, preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering the doing of a terrorist act; or
advocates the doing of a terrorist act.
In addition to these legislative criteria, ASIO may also have regard to non-legislative factors, including:
ideology and links to other terrorist groups or networks,
threats to Australian interests,
proscription by the United Nations Security Council or like-minded countries, and
engagement in peace/mediation processes.
Regulations that specify an organisation as a terrorist organisation cease to have effect on the third anniversary of the day on which they take effect. Organisations can be re-listed provided the Minister is satisfied on reasonable grounds that the organisation continues to directly or indirectly engage in terrorism or advocate the doing of a terrorist act.
The Committee was first advised of ASIO’s evaluation process, including its use of non-legislative factors, in 2005. As has been the approach in past reviews, the Committee has used these criteria to assess the appropriateness and adequacy of the evidence provided.
The Committee has taken into account the Attorney-General’s explanatory statement and other publicly available information. As these organisations are all subject to re-listing, the Committee’s review has focussed upon each group’s activities since its 2013 listing. The Committee also questioned agencies during the private hearing about any significant activities undertaken by these groups since preparation of the explanatory statement.
Abu Sayyaf Group
The founding objective of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is to create an independent Islamic state in Mindanao, including the Sulu Archipelago, in the Philippines. It is believed that although recent attacks have largely been motivated by financial gain, the ASG continues to be influenced by its founding objective. Many attacks – particularly kidnappings – have been carried out to support financially its wider ‘extremist ideological objective’.
The Group’s kidnapping targets include Westerners, wealthy foreign nationals, local politicians, business people, local civilians, and Philippine security forces. The ASG’s operational reach for these kidnappings extends into Mindanao, including the islands of Basilan, Palawan and Davao, Tawi Tawi and Jolo in the Sulu Archipelago, as well as Malaysia’s Sabah State.
The ASG was originally listed as a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code on 14 November 2002 and was re-listed in 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2013.
Engaging in terrorism
Since the Committee last considered the ASG, the following kidnappings have been attributed to the Group:
21 September 2015 – ASG kidnapped two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Philippine citizen from a tourist resort on Samal Island.
May 2015 – ASG kidnapped two Malaysians from a seafood restaurant in eastern Sabah, Malaysia. After six months, one hostage was released and the other beheaded when ransom demands were not met.
April 2014 – two German nationals were kidnapped from their yacht off the coast of Palawan. The Group threatened to behead one of the hostages if the German Government did not pay a $US 5.6 million ransom, and cease its support for the coalition against proscribed terrorist organisation, Islamic State. The ASG released the hostages in October 2014 following payment of a ransom.
In addition to these kidnappings, the explanatory statement notes that recent attacks either claimed by, or reliably attributed to, the ASG include:
June 2015 – 20 ASG members attacked troops who were guarding a water system in Basilan. The attack resulted in the death of a civilian auxiliary member, who was beheaded by ASG.
May 2015 – approximately 50 ASG members seized control of an unmanned police station and telecommunications site in Basilan. The Group rigged the two locations with explosives and then beheaded a local worker. Two ASG members were killed in a subsequent firefight with security services.
Since its founding, the ASG has associated with other terrorist organisations including al-Qa’ida and Jemmaah Islamiyah, and more recently Islamic State.
ASG Basilan leader Isnilon Hapilon pledged allegiance to Islamic State and in January 2016 declared himself the overall Emir for Islamic State in the Philippines. The Committee received evidence that, while traditionally the group has been motivated by both financial gain and ideological and political reasons, ASG’s religious and ideological inspiration, and therefore the threat posed by the group, has grown following this pledge to Islamic State.
According to the explanatory statement, there ‘is a substantial risk that ASG’s public support and allegiance to Islamic State alongside its terrorist activities … may have the effect of advocating for, or encouraging others to engage in, terrorist acts’.
Other non-legislative factors
ASG’s kidnappings have targeted Australians, including:
November 2015 – security forces foiled the planned kidnapping of an Australian family in Agusan del Sur, north-eastern Mindanao.
December 2011 – Australian national Warren Rodwell was abducted from his residence in Ipil, western Mindanao and held by ASG. The group stated that ‘money gained from his kidnapping was to be used for future operations’. Mr Rodwell was released in March 2013.
ASG has been designated for targeted financial sanctions and arms embargoes by the United Nations Security Council since October 2001, and is listed as a proscribed terrorist organisation in Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Al-Qa’ida is a Sunni Islamic extremist organisation seeking to remove governments in Muslim countries through violent means if necessary in order to establish an Islamic Caliphate.
Al-Qa’ida was originally listed as a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code in 2002, and re-listed in 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2013.
Engaging in terrorism
The explanatory statement notes that al-Qa’ida has directly and indirectly engaged in a number of terrorist attacks including assassinations, suicide bombings, aircraft hijackings and attacks using improvised explosive devices. Previous reviews by this Committee have documented al-Qa’ida’s engagement in significant terrorist attacks since 1998.
Significantly, al-Qa’ida’s capacity for planning and conducting large-scale terrorist acts appears to have been ‘seriously degraded’ due to continued and successful operations by the United States and its allies over the past four years.
Despite the successes noted above, al-Qa’ida continues to advocate the doing of terrorist acts. Senior al-Qa’ida leaders continue to make public statements promoting the organisation’s ideology and supporting attacks undertaken by other groups. In January 2016, al-Qa’ida released several audio/video statements encouraging South-East Asian extremists to conduct attacks against American and other Western interests in the region. This followed similar public statements made in December 2015 after the attacks in Paris against the Charlie Hebdo offices and a kosher supermarket.
Other non-legislative factors
While al-Qa’ida’s membership has declined, the explanatory statement indicates that al-Qa’ida maintains some influence over the activities and members of other groups, has ongoing relationships with affiliate groups around the world, broadly shapes global jihadi philosophy and is respected for its views on affiliates’ operations.
Al-Qa’ida has been designated for targeted financial sanctions and arms embargoes by the United Nations Security Council since October 2001, and is listed as a proscribed terrorist organisation in Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. The organisation is also listed by the European Union for the purposes of its anti-terrorism measures.
Al-Qa’ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb
Al-Qa’ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) aims to create an Islamist state based on Islamic law in North and West Africa. Following the formation of an alliance with al-Qa’ida in late 2006, AQIM has increasingly adhered to al-Qa’ida’s extremist ideology, declaring war against foreigners and foreign interests throughout North and West Africa.
AQIM was first listed as a terrorist organisation under its former name, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (Le Groupe Salafiste Pour La Predication et Le Combat – GSPC) on 14 November 2002 and re-listed in 2004. The organisation was listed as AQIM on 9 August 2008 and re-listed in 2010 and 2013.
Engaging in terrorism
Since the Committee’s last review, the group has continued to engage in terrorist attacks and kidnappings against a wide range of targets in North and West Africa, including:
5 February 2016 – AQIM terrorists attacked the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission (MINUSMA) base in Mali, killing one Malian soldier.
7 January 2016 – AQIM terrorists kidnapped a Swiss national in Mali, demanding the release of its terrorists imprisoned in Mali in return for the release of the Swiss national.
20 November 2015 – AQIM conducted a joint attack with al-Murabitun on a hotel frequented by foreigners in Mali, killing twenty people in the attack.
3 August 2015 – AQIM attacked a Malian military camp, killing 13 soldiers.
20 April 2014 – AQIM attacked an Algerian military convoy, killing 14 soldiers.
AQIM has signalled its ongoing intent to undertake terrorist acts in North and West Africa. Following the military intervention of French and African forces in northern Mali in 2013, the organisation indicated that it would ‘engage in prolonged, mobile, guerrilla warfare against Malian, French and allied interests’. To achieve this objective, AQIM has pursued alliances with other regional terrorist groups, including al-Murabitun and Boko Haram. As noted above, AQIM and al-Murabitun conducted a joint operation in November 2015.
AQIM leaders have publicly advocated terrorist attacks in order to further the group’s objectives. The organisation released statements in April and December 2015 inciting Muslims to participate in violent jihad against the governments of Tunisia, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Niger and northern Mali.
In addition to its alliances with al-Qa’ida and al-Murabitun, AQIM has provided weapons, support and training to Nigeria-based terrorist organisation Boko Haram.
Other non-legislative factors
AQIM reiterated its commitment and pledge of allegiance to al-Qa’ida’s leader, Ayman al Zawahiri, in 2014. However, while it is an affiliate of al-Qa’ida, the explanatory statement indicates that the alliance is largely ideological and that AQIM appears to operate autonomously with limited contact and direction from al-Qa’ida’s senior leadership.
AQIM has been designated for targeted financial sanctions and an arms embargo since October 2001, and is listed as a proscribed terrorist organisation in Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Jabhat al-Nusra is a Syrian-based Sunni Islamist extremist group that adheres to the global jihadist ideology of al-Qa’ida. Its stated objectives are to remove the Syrian al-Assad government and create a Salafist oriented Sunni Islamist state in Syria, which it intends to expand into an Islamist Caliphate. The network promotes itself as ‘less extreme and brutal’ than Islamic State and that its activities are legitimate opposition to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Although the group cooperates with some like-minded Syrian opposition groups, Jabhat al-Nusra uses violence against the Syrian opposition and rival groups and opportunistically networks with other jihadist groups to advance its goals. The organisation believes the ‘fight against the Syrian regime is supported by religious texts, and its fighters hope to fulfil “God’s wish”’ for a Caliphate. In areas under the control of Jabhat al-Nusra, an extremist interpretation of Islamic law is enforced that includes violent punishments and executions.
Jabhat al-Nusra was until recently part of al-Qa’ida’s global network. In July 2016, Jabhat al-Nusra reportedly severed ties with al-Qa’ida and changed its name to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (Front of the Conquest of Syria), in an attempt to distance itself from Islamic State and unify ranks with other mainstream fighters in Syria. According to media reports, the group also sought to ‘remove the pretext used by powers, including the US and Russia, to bomb Syrians’.
Around 30 percent of the group’s 3000 to 5000 member fighting force are foreign fighters from a range of countries, including Australia.
In Australia, Jabhat al-Nusra was listed as a terrorist organisation on 29 June 2013. This is the first re-listing of the organisation under the Criminal Code.
Engaging in terrorism
The explanatory statement indicates that Jabhat al-Nusra has claimed responsibility for numerous recent terrorist attacks, but notes that there is limited information on the targets and casualties from these attacks. Many of these attacks have occurred in urban areas, ‘with no regard for indiscriminate harm’. Further, the group has conducted numerous executions of soldiers captured during military operations, as well as civilians in areas under its control.
The explanatory statement provides a list of attacks that have either been claimed by, or reliably attributed to, Jabhat al-Nusra since its initial listing in 2013:
February 2016 – Jabhat al-Nusra executed seven Syrian soldiers captured during an attack on Abu al-Duhur Military Airbase in Idlib Province. The organisation also released a video of the execution.
December 2015 – Jabhat al-Nusra conducted a suicide operation and other attacks in the villages of Khalasa and al-Humayra, Aleppo Province.
September/November 2015 – In September, Jabhat al-Nusra captured Abu al-Duhur Military Airbase in Idlib Province, executing 42 Syrian soldiers who had been taken prisoner. In November, the organisation released a video of the capture of the airbase and the executions of the soldiers.
July 2015 – Jabhat al-Nusra kidnapped several members of a Syrian rebel group, D30, whose stated intention was to fight the Islamic State.
April 2015 – After taking over cities in Idlib Province, Jabhat al-Nusra destroyed churches and religious items and threatened to kill Christians unless they paid fees.
January 2015 – Jabhat al-Nusra published a photo report of the group bombing the Shia town of al Fu’ah in Idlib Province with missiles.
January 2015 – A video was posted on the internet of Jabhat al-Nusra publicly executing a woman for adultery in the city of Ma’arat al-Nu’man, Syria. In the video, a person claiming to be a member of Jabhat al-Nusra declares the woman had been sentenced to death by an Islamic court.
December 2014 – Jabhat al-Nusra posted pictures of an attack on two Shia towns in Aleppo Province.
August 2014 – Jabhat al-Nusra kidnapped 40 Fijian personnel from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). The hostages were released on 11 September 2014.
July 2014 – Jabhat al-Nusra kidnapped two Italian aid workers, holding them hostage until January 2015 when, according to media reporting, a ransom was paid.
February 2014 – A car bomb attack on an army checkpoint in the Lebanese town of Hermel killed two soldiers and a civilian.
According to the explanatory statement, there is also reliable information that two attacks in November 2013 and June 2015 were undertaken by members of the group.
The Committee received evidence that, despite claims of changed affiliation and objectives, the group retains al-Qa’ida’s global Islamist extremist ideology and would support al-Qa’ida by conducting terrorist attacks against the West if called upon to do so.
In addition to engaging in terrorist attacks, Jabhat al-Nusra has consistently advocated terrorist attacks via its own media outlet, al-Manara al-Bayda (the White Minaret). The White Minaret has made documentary-style propaganda videos, often featuring car bombs and interviews with suicide bombers. The organisation has issued more than 200 statements, primarily through the White Minaret. Jabhat al-Nusra also publishes an English-language magazine, al-Risalah, which advocates violence in Syria and against the West.
Other non-legislative factors
Over 100 Australians have travelled to Syria and Iraq to participate in jihadist groups engaged in conflict in those countries, with some joining Jabhat al-Nusra. The October 2015 edition of al-Risalah magazine featured two Australians, including a man claiming to be a former Australian solider who is currently working as a special forces trainer for Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria. The explanatory statement also notes that one Australian is a ‘high-ranking official’ within the organisation.
Jabhat al-Nusra has been designated by the United Nations for targeted financial sanctions and an arms embargo since May 2014, and is listed as a proscribed terrorist organisation in Canada, France, Iran, New Zealand, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Based in Pakistan, Jamiat ul-Ansar aims to establish a Caliphate based on Islamic law across a united Kashmir and Pakistan. In pursuit of this goal, the organisation has advocated the use of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons against India.
In Australia, Jamiat ul-Ansar was listed as a terrorist organisation in 2002 and re-listed in 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2013.
Engaging in terrorism
Previous reviews by this Committee have documented Jamiat ul-Ansar’s engagement in significant terrorist attacks. Importantly, Jamiat ul-Ansar has not engaged in a terrorist attack since 2010.
However, since its last re-listing in 2013, Jamiat ul-Ansar operatives and individuals trained by the organisation have continued to be implicated in disrupted terrorist attacks and activities. In January 2016, five Jamiat ul-Ansar operatives were arrested by Indian security forces in Indian-controlled north Kashmir for planning attacks against Indian dignitaries and security forces. In August 2014, the United States State Department confirmed that Jamiat ul-Ansar continued to operate terrorist training camps in eastern Afghanistan.
The explanatory statement does not note any statements that have been made by Jamiat ul-Ansar advocating the conduct of terrorist attacks since the organisation was last re-listed in 2013.
Other non-legislative factors
Jamiat ul-Ansar has ties with other militant groups operating in Afghanistan, Kashmir and Pakistan including al-Qa’ida, Hiz-ul-Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan.
Jamiat ul-Ansar has been designated for targeted sanctions by the United Nations Security Council, and is listed as a proscribed terrorist organisation in Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States and Pakistan.
Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) is a Salafi jihadist group based in Indonesia which formed in the early 1990s to establish a pan-Islamic Caliphate encompassing southern Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei and the southern Philippines. Accordingly, JI regards the Indonesian Government, along with other governments in the region, to be illegitimate.
Inspired by the same ideology as al-Qa’ida, JI evolved from the Indonesian Islamist movement, Darul Islam, and ‘seeks to revive a pure form of Islam, governed by the tenets of Sharia’. Its operatives, who trained in Afghanistan and the southern Philippines, began conducting terrorist attacks in 1999. The network’s existence was discovered in late 2001 after Singaporean authorities disrupted a cell that was planning to attack targets associated with the United States.
Significantly, JI remains ‘operationally and organisationally distinct’ from other extremists groups in the region. The explanatory statement notes that JI remains a functional terrorist organisation despite counter-terrorism efforts and a threat to the region.
JI was first listed as a terrorist organisation on 27 October 2002, and relisted in 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2013.
Engaging in terrorism
Previous reviews have documented JI’s involvement in significant terrorist attacks, most notably the Bali bombings of October 2002, which killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.
Between 2002 and 2013, Southeast Asian governments arrested more than 300 suspected operatives, significantly degrading JI’s network and operations. The explanatory statement notes that while JI has not undertaken a terrorist attack since the Committee’s last review, the organisation ‘retains intent and willingness to use violence in support of its long term political and ideological objectives’.
Further, while organisationally JI is focussed on Dawah (Islamic outreach) in order to build a support base for future extremist activity, elements of JI have retained their aspiration to return to the use of violence, undertaking terrorist training in preparation for these activities. Two separate incidents displayed this intent and preparation. In 2014, Indonesian authorities arrested several JI members who were reported to have been making preparations to launch terrorist attacks. Similarly, in 2015 a JI operative killed in the southern Philippines was linked to an attack planned to coincide with the visit of Pope Francis to Manila.
In recent years, JI members—and other Indonesian extremists—have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join Islamic State. Since 2012, individuals have travelled to Syria under the auspices of Hilal Ahmar Society Indonesia (HASI). These HASI ‘delegations’ have sought to ‘open channels for more direct participation in the conflict, which would include direct participation in the conflict and undertaking paramilitary training’.
Other non-legislative factors
Anti-Western attacks by JI include the Bali bombings in October 2002, the 2003 JW Marriot Hotel bombing, the 2004 Australian Embassy bombing in Jakarta, the second Bali bombing in 2005, and the second JW Marriot Hotel/Ritz-Carlton bombing in 2009. 95 Australians were killed in these attacks.
JI has links with other extremist groups in Indonesia and South-East Asia, including remnant groups of Darul Islam. JI operatives have developed relationships with several extremist networks active in the Middle East, including Jabhat al-Nusra.
JI has been designated for targeted financial sanctions and arms embargoes by the United Nations Security Council since October 2002, and is listed as a proscribed terrorist organisation in Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.
As with its previous reviews of the listing and re-listing of Abu Sayyaf Group, al-Qa’ida, al-Qa’ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb, Jabhat al-Nusra, Jamiat ul-Ansar and Jemaah Islamiyah as terrorist organisations, the Committee again used ASIO’s criteria to assess the information provided to support the re-listings.
On the basis of both public and private evidence provided, the Committee is satisfied that these organisations continue to engage in and advocate terrorist acts, thereby satisfying the definition of terrorist organisations set out in section 102.1 of the Criminal Code.
Consequently, the Committee supports the relisting of these six organisations under the Criminal Code and finds no reason to disallow the legislative instruments.
Mr Michael Sukkar MP