Fidelis Munyoro Chief Court Reporter
The much-awaited judgment on the legality of the economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by Western countries will be delivered next Wednesday by the General Court of the European Union.The raft of sanctions are estimated to have cost Zimbabwe over $42 billion in lost revenue in addition to contracting the economy by a factor of over 40 percent since the turn of the millennium.
The Government of Zimbabwe approached the court in 2011 challenging the illegal sanctions and the hearing was done in June last year.
Prosecutor-General Mr Johannes Tomana has since been informed of the date for the judgment by the court’s administrator Ms Caroline Heeren in a correspondence dated March 24 2015.
“The Registrar of the General Court informs you that the date of the hearing for delivery of the judgement is fixed at 22-04-2015-09:30.
“That delivery will take place in one of the courtrooms of the General Court (Kirchberg, Luxembourg),” read the letter signed by Ms Heeren.
Mr Tomana confirmed the latest development without giving finer details.
“The court is handing judgment on the matter on the 22nd of April,” he said.
When the hearing was held in June last year, Britain — which had applied to be joined in the suit as an intervener — failed to make submissions in Luxembourg for the hearing of the matter, leaving the EU’s case apparently debilitated.
Although the hearing remained open for two weeks to allow all contesting parties, including the EU Commission and Council, as co-respondents, to make submissions, Britain did not show up to argue the matter.
Zimbabwe did not cite Britain in the lawsuit, but successfully asked the court to include it in 2012.
A panel of three judges from Sweden, Bulgaria and Greece heard the matter last year and had tentatively agreed to deliver the judgment in October the same year.
The hearing was attended by Mr Tomana, who was the Attorney-General then, who is also the first applicant in the case, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa in his capacity as Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, and Deputy Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet Dr Ray Ndhlukula.
The legal team comprised celebrated British barristers Mr David Vaughan and Ms Maya Lester both from Brick Court Chambers in United Kingdom, instructed by Mr Michael O’Kane of Peters and Peters Solicitors LLP, as well as local counsel Mr Farai Mutamangira and Mr Gerald Mlotshwa.
The EU has over the past few years, removed several Zanu-PF officials and companies purported to be linked to the revolutionary party from the sanctions list.
But President Mugabe, the First Lady Dr Grace Mugabe and the Zimbabwe Defence Industries remain on the sanctions list.
In the EU court, Zimbabwe seeks to have the sanctions declared illegal, citing several reasons.
It argued that 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 newspapers on the Internet, and non-governmental organisations.
The court also heard that there was no legal basis for imposing sanctions on the said individuals and companies on the sole basis that they were Zanu-PF members in the then inclusive Government.
The EU, it was further argued, in imposing sanctions failed to give adequate or sufficient reasons for targeting the said individuals and entities.
“In imposing sanctions, the European Union failed to provide particulars or evidence to the affected persons and entities to allow them to comment on the case against them, in particular, those cases where serious criminal misconduct was alleged,” the Zimbabwe legal team argued.
The court was also asked to decide on whether or not the EU infringed, without justification or proportion, the applicants’ fundamental rights, including the right to protection of their property, business, reputation and private and family life.