Zimbabwe assets face seizure after tribunal rules for farmers

The decision by the Washington-based International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) came after a six-year legal battle between a group of Dutch farmers and President Robert Mugabe’s government.

It finally ruled last week that Mr Mugabe’s government had broken a bilateral investment treaty with the Netherlands and awarded the group more than £14 million in compensation.

The ICSID is part of the World Bank and the judgment can be enforced by seizing Zimbabwean state assets – such as Air Zimbabwe’s aircraft – in any of its more than 100 member countries, which include both Britain and America. Embassy buildings, though, are excluded from seizure under the Vienna conventions.

At a hearing in Paris, which was closed to both the public and media, Zimbabwean officials defended the eviction of more than 4,000 farmers saying the best agricultural land was taken by white "settlers", mostly British, during the colonial era.

One of the farmers, Ben Funnekotter, 49, born of Dutch parents in Zimbabwe and who now lives in Australia, was one of the first forced off by Mr Mugabe’s thugs in 2000.

"We need to see if the award will be paid," he said. "If it is not, then I will start proceedings to impound any assets belonging to the Zimbabwe government."

Matthew Coleman, a British lawyer who represented the farmers in Paris, said: "We hope this encourages others to come forward and bring claims under the bilateral investment treaties." The Telegraph (UK)