EU Lifts Zimbabwe Sanctions, But Looks for Democratic Progress
February 21, 2012
By: Rebecca Aaberg | Printer Friendly
The European Union (EU) announced on February 17 that some economic and travel bans placed on individual members of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party would be lifted. AFP reported that the lifted bans consist of visa and assets freezes of 51 individuals and 20 entities, but that travel bans and asset freezes will remain in place for an additional 112 individuals and 11 entities “who are still considered to be involved in or associated with policies and activities that undermine human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.” According to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, the reduction in sanctions corresponded with progress “towards the creation of a conducive environment for the holding of free, fair, peaceful and transparent elections” using the Southern African Development Community (SADC) roadmap, which describes the democratic electoral process expected of SADC members. The international community has opposed reducing sanctions until Zimbabwe shows progress toward respecting human rights and democratic practices. President Robert Mugabe is listed among those still under full sanction.
Reuters reported that the EU expects political progress and “prospects for credible and peaceful elections” before full sanctions can be lifted. Commenting on the situation, Ashton noted that “the overall situation in Zimbabwe has improved,” but that “further political reforms in accordance with the commitments in the [Global Political Agreement] GPA are necessary for a democratic and peaceful Zimbabwe.” To date, the EU has financed the unity government’s GPA with about US $1billion, but an arms embargo and freeze on development aid will remain in place for the next six months.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned the EU’s relaxation of restrictions against Zimbabwe, stating that though the economy has improved, “little progress on promised human rights reforms or respect for the rule of law” has been achieved. Critics of the government continue to be arbitrarily arrested and detained, HRW reported. HRW called Zimbabwe’s Office of the Attorney General and police forces “partisan state institutions,” and cited Mugabe’s use of the institutions for political purposes. Additionally, abuses against political opponents committed by officials of the ZANU-PF party and the army have not been investigated, nor has the government passed the statute necessary to make operational the human rights commission set up three years ago. HRW asked that the EU wait until Zimbabwe finished fulfilling the necessary conditions before lifting sanctions, including: “restoration and respect for the rule of law; an end to human rights violations; upholding media freedoms; and accountability for the perpetrators of violence, killings, and other abuses.”
ZANU-PF party spokesman Rugare Gumbo responded to the EU sanctions, calling the sanctions “illegal and racist,” and accused the United Kingdom (UK) of “pursuing a neo-colonial agenda to remove ZANU-PF from power.” AFP reported that the ZANU-PF has asked for the “unconditional lifting of all sanctions.”
Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party has been in power since Zimbabwe declared independence from the UK in 1980. In 2008, Mugabe signed a power-sharing agreement with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai at the behest of the international community. AFP reported that a constitutional referendum is planned for some time after August, and elections are not expected to take place until 2013.
For previous news on Zimbabwe, please see:
Zimbabwe Charges 46 People With Treason
AFP – EU Lifts Some Zimbabwe Sanctions, Mugabe Still Listed
Human Rights Watch – EU: Keep Sanctions on Mugabe’s Inner Circle
Reuters - UPDATE – Zimbabwe Ruling Party Condemns EU Sanction Extension
SADC – Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections