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filed in Zimbabwe case against EU
Ray Ndlovu, Business Day
October 31, 2013
The European Court of
Justice has confirmed that the Zimbabwe government has filed a lawsuit
against the European Union (EU) in a bid to have restrictive measures
imposed against several government officials and companies repealed.
A date for the hearing
has not yet been set, although an official at the court, Juan Carlos
González Álvarez, said the case was brought to the
court in April last year.
The court has already
allocated the Zimbabwe litigation a case number, T-190/12.
The Zimbabwe government
contends that the sanctions imposed a decade ago by the EU had cost
Zimbabwe $42bn in lost revenue, among other economic and political
According to papers
from the European court, Zimbabwe’s legal challenge will hinge
on five main arguments.
In its first argument,
the Zimbabwean government accused the EU Council and EU Commission
of including individuals and entities on the sanctions list without
a proper legal basis for doing so.
"Neither the council
nor the commission has the power to impose restrictive measures
on nonstate actors in Zimbabwe on the sole grounds of unsubstantiated
allegations of criminal misconduct in Zimbabwe," lawyers for
the Zimbabwean government said in papers before the court.
The second argument
questioned the criteria used for placing individuals on sanctions.
According to the court papers, the EU "leaned on their Zanu-PF
affiliations and vague unsupported allegations of human rights violations"
to place officials on the sanctions list.
In its third argument,
the Zimbabwean government said there was no justification given
on why the particular individuals were placed on the sanctions list.
It also said, in its
fourth argument, that those put on the sanctions list were not given
the right of reply that is legally afforded to officials placed
on such lists.
The Zimbabwean government
also contended that the sanctions by the EU had infringed on the
personal liberties of the Zimbabwe officials targeted, their business
interests, reputations and also their private lives.
failed to give adequate or sufficient reasons for including individuals
and entities in the contested measures. They also failed to safeguard
the applicants’ rights of defence and to effective judicial
provided no particulars or evidence in support of their vague assertions
of serious misconduct and they provided no opportunity for the applicants
to comment on the case and evidence against them," the court
"The Zimbabwe government
also argues that neither the council nor the commission has the
power to impose restrictive measures on nonstate actors in Zimbabwe
on the sole grounds of unsubstantiated allegations of criminal misconduct
in Zimbabwe," the papers said.
erred manifestly in considering that the criteria for listing set
out in the contested measures were fulfilled. The defendants were
not lawfully entitled to include applicants on the sole basis of
assertions that they are Zanu-PF members, officials of the government
of Zimbabwe or an associate of such a person.
were not lawfully entitled to include applicants on the basis of
vague unsupported allegations of misconduct stated to have taken
place in the past, in many cases before the government of national
unity was formed."
Legal observers said
it was important to have the EU’s response to each of the
arguments tabled by the Zimbabwe government in order to get a fuller
picture of the strength of the case.
"We need to know
what the EU is saying, so that we can then be able to formulate
a fuller picture of the issues at hand, otherwise trying to draw
up an analysis at this stage will only be on the basis of what the
Zimbabwe government has put forward. It is necessary for the EU
to give its opinion on the matter," said legal practitioner
Jessie Majome, a lawyer
and MDC-T legislator for Harare West, said: "It’s a political
issue and not a legal issue. This matter is one of international
relations and diplomacy. It boggles the mind why the auditor-general’s
office is pursuing this case as it is tantamount to chasing the
wind," she said. "The auditor-general ’s legal experience
would be better utilised in helping Zimbabwe deal with its backlog
of legal issues … a cost-benefit analysis of this case also
suggests that the taxpayers’ funds will be wasted in funding
a political agenda."
Estella Cigna Angelidis,
the administrator principal in the European Court of Justice, said
cases that appeared before the court were free.
"I cannot foretell
when the case T-190/12 will be heard in public, but you can follow
the calendar of the general court and through the internet. Concerning
the duration of proceedings by the general court, we can only refer
to the average: in 2012 of 22.2 months," said Ms Angelidis.
But Ms Majome said due
consideration was supposed to be made of public funds spend on the
government lawyers, on travel and accommodation in Europe for the
more than 22 months the court might sit.
"It’s a bit
far-fetched for the government to be approaching the European Court
of Justice over the sanctions issue. It is tantamount to going into
the lions’ den. I would be surprised if at all they manage
to get a favourable judgment given that they are approaching an
EU court to fight the EU’s decisions," Ms Majome said
adding it was unlikely that the EU would rule against itself.
The MDC-T is largely
credited with recommending the listing and the removal of names
of government and Zanu-PF party officials on the sanctions list.
Zimbabwe and the EU have been fragile since the onset of the land-grab
programme by the Zimbabwe government. The EU had promised to remove
all sanctions against the government based on the outcome
of the July 31 elections.
Although the Southern
African Development Community and African Union observers called
the election free, the MDC-T said it was a sham.
This led to the EU suspending
the lifting of its sanctions.
Neither the (EU) council
nor the commission has the power to impose … measures on nonstate
actors in Zimbabwe
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