Takunda Maodza and Fidelis Munyoro—
BRITAIN failed to make its representation in the hearing of a case in which Zimbabwe is suing the European Union for the imposition of illegal economic sanctions when the matter opened in the General Court of the European Union last Tuesday in Luxembourg.
The case, which was not against Britain but the EU, was heard by three judges from Sweden, Bulgaria and Greece in an open court last week and it lasted the entire day.
Zimbabwe did not cite Britain in the lawsuit but the United Kingdom begged the court to be included when it successfully applied for an intervener in 2012 claiming it had a personal interest in the case.
Zimbabwe’s legal team led by David Vaughan and Maya Lester of Brick Court Chambers in London argued that, “it is only the Security Council of the United Nations that have the lawful power to impose sanctions on a member country while the rest of the member countries’ obligation was supportive only.”
The lawyers said since independence, Zimbabwe 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 2008 “targeting” 14 persons in the Government of Zimbabwe. The resolution was not passed because the test was not satisfied, that is Zimbabwe’s conduct needed to amount to a threat to international peace and security to attract UN sanctions,” the lawyers said.
The UN Security Council refused to impose sanctions or even condemn the Government of Zimbabwe.
“There is, therefore, no legal basis upon which the EU can continue to target persons and entities associated with the Government of Zimbabwe and or Zanu-PF,” the lawyers argued.
The oral hearing remains open for a period of two weeks to allow for the filing of further documents by all parties and in the case of the United Kingdom, to allow it to make its oral submissions, if any.
A hearing would be handed down in the course of the year.
Instructing attorneys are Michael O’ Kane of Peters and Peters Solicitors from UK, Jacob Mutevedzi of Mutamangira and Associates, and Gerald Mlotshwa of Titan Law Chambers, both of Zimbabwe.
Legal experts yesterday described Britain’s no show as ample evidence that the erstwhile coloniser had no justifiable legal explanation for the ruinous embargo that has bogged down the economy costing the country over US$42billion in lost revenue since the turn of the millennium.
Britain advocated the imposition of illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe after the Zanu-PF Government successfully embarked on the fast-track land reform programme in 2000 to correct historical land ownership imbalances in the wake of the British Labour government’s refusal to honour its colonial obligations.
A Zimbabwean delegation led by Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, comprising Prosecutor General Johannes Tomana and the Deputy Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Ray Ndhlukula, attended the hearing.
In a statement, the Zimbabwean delegation said: “The United Kingdom, which had intervened at its own initiative in the case, did not, however, attend the hearing. The reason for the United Kingdom’s absence is yet to be known.”
Zimbabwe’s lawsuit seeks to nullify the illegal sanctions imposed on 112 persons and 11 corporate entities associated with the Government and Zanu-PF.
Legal expert Mr Joseph Mandizha said the attitude of the British government in filing the intervener application, shallow and ill advised as it was, vindicates the position that Zimbabwe has always been communicating to the international community that the sanctions the sanctions were a bilateral issue.
“Harare’s position, which is on record, has always been that the real fact of the matter was that sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe were a consequence of a bilateral dispute between it and its former colonial power and that it was profoundly unfortunate that the rest of Europe was allowing wool to be pulled over its eyes by the British government through the sanctions dispute,” he said.
“It must, therefore, be very embarrassing to the EU that Britain has disingenuously conducted itself in a manner that lends credence to Zimbabwe’s position. It is incumbent upon our Government, however, not to celebrate this court victory and allow the matter to be, but rather to continue to demonstrate to the rest of Europe that it is willing and able to engage with or without the British government.”
Another lawyer Mr Terence Hussein said the failure by Britain to appear in court was a deliberate ploy to delay proceedings.
“Britain is either using delaying tactics to avoid the finalisation of the matter or they are afraid to come to court to justify their case in a court of law,” said Mr Hussein.
He said it was clear that the sanctions were unlawful and motivated by spite.
“Britain should do the honorable thing and show leadership within the EU by conceding that the sanctions had no basis and convince its allies to unconditionally drop them,” said Mr Hussein.
Advocate Fred Gijima concurred adding that the UK’s application was malicious and frivolous, and meant to frustrate the proceedings initiated by Zimbabwe.
“It clear that they are bent on maintaining the sanctions through the back door and did not want to come out on to the play ground and defend their decision in court of law,” said Adv Gijima.
“It is also clear that they have no reason at all whether, legally, socially, economically or politically to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe and encourage the EU to do likewise. They should simply do the honorable thing and concede that the sanctions be removed unconditionally.”
Constitutional lawyer, Professor Lovemore Madhuku said by failing to appear for the hearing Britain was liable to pay “wastage costs”.
Zimbabwe wants the sanctions declared illegal on the grounds that there was no proper legal basis for imposing sanctions on the individuals and companies associated with Government and Zanu-PF.
The sanctions were based on reports from faceless dubious websites and internationally discredited NGOs.
Zimbabwe also argues that in imposing the sanctions the EU failed to give adequate or sufficient reasons for targeting the said individuals and entities.
It failed to provide particulars or evidence to the affected persons and entities to allow them to comment on the case against them.
The EU infringed, without justification or proportion, the applicants’ fundamental rights including their right to protection of their property, business, reputation and private and family life.