Ex-Zimbabwe Minister Loses Sanctions Protest

     (CN) – The EU General Court threw out a former Zimbabwean minister’s challenge of sanctions he faces for his membership in President Robert Mugabe’s oppressive government.
     Zimbabwe faced EU sanctions in 2002 for its human-rights abuses and violations of freedom of assembly under Mugabe. Though the union eased sanctions for new members of Zimbabwe’s government in 2009, and for old members earlier this year, it kept them in place against Mugabe himself.
     The penalties include a freeze on the funds of all Zimbabwean government officials.
     Aguy Georgias, a Zimbabwean businessman who owns Trinity Engineering and Georgiadis Trucking, was appointed deputy minister for economic development in 2007 by Mugabe.
     That same year, he arrived at Heathrow Airport in London, intending to visit family living in England for one day, then take a flight to New York.
     The United Kingdom refused him the right to enter London, however, or to transit through the country, and put him on a return flight to Zimbabwe the next day.
     Georgias sued in the EU General Court, seeking more than $8 million in damages for business losses he alleged suffered because of the travel restriction, as well as for legal fees, and medical expenses related to the deterioration of his health after spending a night in a Heathrow prison cell.
     The court found Thursday, however, that the EU is not responsible for any damages arising out of the U.K.’s decision to forbid Georgias transit through Heathrow airport.
     “Whatever may have been the reasons which led the United Kingdom authorities to cancel the first applicant’s leave to enter and therefore to refuse him entry to the United Kingdom and transit through its airports, what is important is that the decision was one taken by the competent authorities of that member state in the exercise of that state’s sovereign powers relating to territory of that state,” the ruling states.
     While the U.K. may have based its decision on the EU’s general sanctions against Zimbabwe, including the asset freeze, “the alleged damage suffered by [Georgias] as a result of that refusal is not a sufficiently direct consequence of the asset-freezing in question,” the 22-page opinion states.
     The need to place pressure on Zimbabwean politicians to refrain from further human-rights abuses also justified placing the asset freeze on members of Zimbabwe’s government, including Georgias, the court found.
     Without evidence to the contrary, Georgias cannot assert that the European Council erred placing the sanctions on him, and not revoking them until 2011, when it “considered that recent developments in the situation in Zimbabwe had been sufficiently positive to justify the revocation of restrictive measures imposed on a number of those identified as ‘moderate,'” including Georgias.

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