EU Upholds Sanctions for Abuses in Zimbabwe

     (CN) – European lawmakers properly slapped economic sanctions on Zimbabwe’s attorney general and 120 others involved in human rights violations, the EU’s lower court ruled Wednesday.
     In 2002 – and in response to serious human-rights abuses perpetrated by the government of Zimbabwe – EU lawmakers froze assets and revoked the visas of hundreds of individuals and companies involved.
     Zimbabwe Attorney General Johannes Tomana, 109 individuals and 11 companies sued to end the sanctions, arguing that there was no legal basis for them and claiming lawmakers had not given the legally required list of reasons for the black list.
     In Tomana’s case, the EU had found he “engaged in activities that seriously undermine democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law.” For the other 120 individuals – high-ranking government officials, police and army officers – and companies, lawmakers linked them to a policy of violence, intimidation and other human-rights abuses against the Zimbabwean people.
     On Wednesday, the European General Court dismissed the blacklisting challenges in full even though in most cases the sanctions have since been suspended or dropped entirely.
     The Luxembourg-based court noted that lawmakers had revisited the sanctions numerous times between 2002 and found that worsening conditions in Zimbabwe – even after an election that was supposed to bring reform to the nation – justified their extension.
     “Contrary to what the applicants appear to believe, there is no question of a radical and comprehensive change in the Zimbabwean leadership following the formation of the Government of National Unity. It was therefore open to the council, even after the formation of that government, to adopt a decision providing for restrictive measures against both those of the Zimbabwean leadership who had previously been part of the leadership of that country in the past or their associates and also persons who had, in the past, engaged in activities which seriously undermined democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law in Zimbabwe,” the court wrote in its 37-page ruling.
     Furthermore, the EU had no obligation to lay out a list of reasons for the sanctions each time they were renewed since there had been no change in power or in the conditions of Zimbabweans to warrant reassessment, the court found.
     The court also rejected claims that the 121 weren’t given an opportunity to defend themselves, since they only asked for the council’s list of reasons five days before filing their challenge.
     Tomana and the others have 60 days to lodge an appeal with the European Court of Justice.
     The U.N.’s humanitarian affairs office said in 2012 that the situation in Zimbabwe had improved since a power-sharing agreement between President Robert Mugabe and the majority party in the nation’s parliament took effect in 2008.
     However, the office also said “conditions remain precarious for many people.”
     In 2013, Zimbabweans approved a constitutional change that curtailed Mugabe’s powers and will eventually lead to an election to decide whether the dictator’s 35-year rule will come to an end.

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