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Paris Arbitration Court To Hear Dutch Land Claims Against Harare

Twelve farmers from the Netherlands have filed a US$15 million claim against the government of Zimbabwe for the loss of their land, assets and livelihoods in the land redistribution program Harare launched in 2000 and is still pursuing today.

Registered by the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes, the case is set to be heard in Paris next month. The claimants charge Zimbabwe violated a bilateral investment treaty between the Netherlands and Zimbabwe.

Speaking from Harare, Justice for Agriculture Executive Director John Worsely-Worswick said the outcome of the case could open doors for other legal action against Harare. The government recently offered to compensate white former farmers for the improvements made to their former farms, but not for the land itself. The government nationalized all farmland in 2005 through an amendment to the constitution.

The case will be heard by a tribunal of three arbitrators, including Pakistani Justice Minister Mohammad Wasi Zafar, who will arbitrate on Zimbabwe's behalf. Arbitration for the Dutch farmers will be carried out by Ronald Cass, former dean of the Boston University School of Law. Former International Court of Justice president Gilbert Guillaume of France will chair the tribunal.

A legal advisor to the Dutch farmer, Charles Verill of the Washington law firm of Wiley Rein and Fielding, told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he believed his clients had a very strong case.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 For Zimbabwe...