HARARE – The European Union on Monday lifted the last individual sanctions on Zimbabwean officials, while extending an arms embargo first imposed in 2002.
The EU had already suspended the travel and financial sanctions on Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Phillip Valerio Sibanda and former first lady Grace Mugabe before deciding to lift them entirely.
The EU said in a statement: “The EU recalls the purpose of its restrictive measures, which is to encourage a demonstrable, genuine and long-term commitment by the Zimbabwean authorities to respect and uphold human rights and the rule of law.
“The EU has decided to renew its restrictive measures, while lifting the already suspended restrictive measures against three individuals. The arms embargo and the targeted assets freeze against one company, Zimbabwe Defence Industries, remain in place taking into account the situation in Zimbabwe, as well as the continuing need to investigate the role of security forces in human rights abuses.
“The EU will continue to closely follow developments, with a particular attention to the human rights situation, and recalls its readiness to review and adapt the whole range of its policies accordingly.”
The sanctions have been reviewed annually since 2002 when the EU slapped more than 100 officials with individual sanctions, accusing them of human rights abuses. Names were gradually removed and by 2018 only the former president Robert Mugabe, his wife, Chiwenga – who was blacklisted while commanding the military and Sibanda remained. Mugabe died in September 2018.
The EU said since the last review in February last year, “the situation in terms of respect for human rights has not improved in Zimbabwe.”
It added: “Intimidation of the political opposition and other government critics has continued to restrict the democratic and civic space, which is under threat of shrinking further, through the Data Protection Act and ongoing legislative processes such as the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill and the envisaged so-called ‘Patriotic Act’.
“The EU is concerned about these developments. Perpetrators of human rights violations should be swiftly brought to justice to end impunity. The recommendations of the Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry have not been followed substantially and need to be implemented as a matter of priority and urgency. It is important that international human rights obligations are adhered to and the constitutional rights of the people of Zimbabwe respected.”
Motlanthe’s commission probed army killings in post-election violence in 2018 and concluded that the use of lethal force was “disproportionate and unjustified.”
The inquiry concluded that “on the balance of probabilities from all the evidence received… the deaths of these six people and the injuries sustained by 35 others arose from the actions of the military and the police,” while six other people sustained injuries as a result of the actions of the protesters.
The commission recommended that the police should urgently complete their investigations “to enable the prosecution of all those persons responsible for all alleged crimes committed on August 1.”
It added: “Those particular members of the military and the police found to have been in breach of their professional duties and discipline should be identified as soon as possible for internal investigations and appropriate sanction which should include hearing from the victims and their families for impact assessment and to provide necessary compensation.”
President Emmerson Mnangagwa promised to implement the commission’s recommendations, but almost four years later no arrests have been made and compensation has not been paid out to victims and their families.
The Zimbabwe government blames European and American sanctions for the economic crisis gripping the country, but the EU maintains that the arms embargo is “targeted and very limited” and “does not affect the people of Zimbabwe, its economy, foreign direct investments, or trade.”
It added: “Zimbabwe continues to benefit from duty free and quota free access of its exports to the EU, while negotiations are ongoing to deepen the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) Economic Partnership Agreement. There is significant potential in terms of investments and jobs opportunities, if structural bottlenecks were to be addressed, and political and economic reforms, including enhancing trust in the rule of law, tackling corruption and respect for human rights, are implemented.”