The Charity Commission, the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales, has published a warning to charities operating in Syria or Turkey that a terrorist organisation may financially benefit from any aid passing through the Bab Al-Hawa crossing.
The commission said charities and their partners who use the Bab Al-Hawa crossing to deliver aid into Idlib province, Syria should be aware of the risk that HTS could “incur financial benefit” from any aid passing through the Bab Al-Hawa crossing and therefore charities and their partners, using this crossing, “may be inadvertently funding HTS”.
Following media reporting since September 2018 regarding the Bab Al-Hawa border crossing between Turkey and Syria, in which it fell under control of Hay’at Tahir Al-Sham (‘HTS’), an alternative name for the terrorist organisation Al Qa’ida, the Charity Commission published the alert to raise awareness amongst charities.
It said in a statement that the warning was for trustees, employees and volunteers and sought to “[remind] them of their duties under counter-terrorism legislation and charity law”.
It is a criminal offence under section 17 of TACT to “enter or become concerned with an arrangement as a result of which money or other property is made available or has reasonable cause to suspect that it will or may be used for the purposes of terrorism”.
The commission advised charities that use partners to deliver aid from Turkey to Syria to ensure they know which border crossings are being used and regularly review the situation on the ground.
Trustees of charities which are currently using the Bab Al-Hawa crossing either directly or through partner organisations “must consider the risks of committing an offence” under UK Counter Terrorism Legislation and “take appropriate action in the best interests of their charity”, it said.
The commission also advised that charities may be required to make a report under section 19 TACT if they believe or suspect that a terrorist financing offence has been committed.