via Bulawayo24 NEWS | Zimbabwe’s EU sanctions case opens at the General Court. 15 June 2014 by Staff reporter
THE hearing in the case in which the Zimbabwean Government is challenging the legality of sanctions imposed on the country by the European Union opened at the General Court of the European Union in Luxembourg on Tuesday last week, with Zimbabwe arguing its case that the sanctions were illegal since they were not backed by a United Nations resolution.Zimbabwe’s case was argued by a team of international lawyers, led by David Vaughan QC and Maya Lester, both of Brick Court Chambers in London.
Instructing attorneys, Michael O’Kane of Peters and Peters Solicitors from the UK, as well as Jacob Mutevedzi of Mutamangira and Associates and Gerald N Mlotshwa of Titan Law Chambers, both of Zimbabwe, were also in attendance.The United Kingdom, whose bilateral dispute with Zimbabwe over land was internationalised through the European Union sanctions regime, had intervened in the case at its own initiative, raising questions over its interest.
The application seeks to have the sanctions declared illegal on five primary grounds:
1 There was no legal basis for imposing sanctions on the individuals and companies associated with the Government of Zimbabwe and Zanu-PF merely on the basis of reports from faceless internet newspapers and non-governmental organisations;
2 There was no legal basis for imposing sanctions on the said individuals and companies on the sole basis that they were Zanu-PF members of the then inclusive Government.
3 The European Union in imposing sanctions had failed to give adequate or sufficient reasons for targeting the said individuals and entities;
4 In imposing sanctions, the European Union had failed to provide particulars or evidence to the affected persons and entities in order to allow them to comment on the case against them, in particular, those cases where serious criminal misconduct was alleged;
5 The European Union had infringed, without justification or proportion, the applicants’ fundamental rights, including the right to protection of their property, business, reputation and private and family life.
The EU’s defence is that as long as the affected person was a Zanu-PF member of the Government at the time or a company associated with Government or Zanu-PF, this was enough to justify the “restrictive measures” on the individuals and persons concerned.The UK did not attend the hearing.
The reasons for the United Kingdom’s absence at the hearing could not immediately be established.
The decision by the United Kingdom to launch its own submissions when the rest of the EU is being jointly represented has lent credence to Government’s argument that the standoff between the EU and Zimbabwe is a bilateral issue between the Southern African state and the United Kingdom with the latter roping in the EU as a means to lend legitimacy to its hostile foreign policy.Government initiated the case in September 2011 through a letter of demand which received a contemptuous response from the EU Council and Commission. The response led to the formal filing of the case on April 25, 2012.
The EU imposed sanctions on President Mugabe and at least 112 people and 11 companies that were said to be associated with Government in 2002.The bloc has since removed sanctions on most of the people and companies but maintained them on President Mugabe and First Lady Amai Mugabe.In a statement, the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs said Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, Prosecutor-General Mr Tomana and Deputy Chief Secretary in the office of the President and Cabinet, Dr Ray Ndhlukula attended the court proceedings.
“Three Judges (from Sweden, Bulgaria and Greece) of the General Court heard the matter in open Court, hearing arguments from all the parties, for an unprecedented length of time lasting the entire day (such hearings usually last less than an hour),” said the ministry.
The counsel for the Government argued that it was only the Security Council of the United Nations that had the lawful power to impose sanctions on a member country while the rest of the member countries’ obligation was supportive only.
Zimbabwe, since independence has never been the subject of any such sanctions.
“In fact there were attempts by the United Kingdom to present a draft resolution to the Security Council in 2009 targeting 14 persons in the Government of Zimbabwe. The resolution was not passed because the test was not satisfied, that Zimbabwe’s conduct needed to amount to a threat to international peace and security to attract UN sanctions.
The United Nations Security Council therefore refused to impose sanctions or even condemn the Government of Zimbabwe (let alone Zanu-PF),” said the ministry.Zimbabwe argues that, therefore, there is no legal basis upon which EU can continue to target persons and entities associated with Government.The oral hearing will remain open for two weeks in order to allow filing of further documents by all parties, in this case the UK to allow it to make its oral submissions, if any.A ruling is expected to be handed down during the course of the year.
Legal experts who spoke on condition of anonymity since the case is sub judice said Zimbabwe was likely to win the case as the EU acted illegally in imposing the sanctions.”I think EU acted illegally in imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe was never given an opportunity to defend itself. We were never at war or any other crisis hence there was no basis for the sanctions.
My take is it was illegal and Zim will win the case,” said a prominent lawyer based in Harare.
On what further action the country should take if it wins, he said the country would cross the bridge when it got there.
“Winning the case on its own will send the right message across the world that EU actions were wrong.”Other lawyers said they would rather comment after judgment is handed down.