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Zimbabwe Sues European Union Over Mugabe Sanctions

Zimbabwe's Attorney General Johannes Tomana has filed a lawsuit against the European Union seeking the removal of sanctions targeting President Robert Mugabe and his close allies, charging the measures are illegal and violate their rights.

At least 120 Zanu PF members on the sanctions register are part of the suit, which the EU says is surprising given recent bilateral talks between Harare and Brussels to normalize ties.

The EU slapped Mr. Mugabe and his inner circle with travel and financial restrictions in 2002 over allegations of human rights violations and voter fraud.

Tomana's suit was filed with the European Union General Court of Justice where a similar action was taken a few weeks ago by David Matsanga, a prominent supporter of Mugabe's Zanu PF party based in London.

The sanctions issues has long been a divisive factor in Zimbabwe with Zanu PF demanding their removal while the two MDC formations have somewhat been indifferent, insisting they were not affecting ordinary citizens.

But a power-sharing agreement reached in 2009 has forced the MDC to actively lobby the EU and the United States to ease the measures against Mr. Mugabe, arguing they are having a ripple effect on all Zimbabweans.

The EU has recently removed some entities and individuals from its list deemed no longer deeply involved in human rights breaches.

A Zimbabwean inter-party ministerial delegation, comprising ministers Patrick Chinamasa, Elton Mangoma and Priscilla Misihairambwi-Mushonga pressed the EU in a meeting in Brussels two weeks ago to remove the restrictions.

And in Washington Tuesday, Education Minister David Coltart of the MDC formation led by Welshman Ncube told U.S officials the measures have "outlived their purpose."

Coltart told the U.S. Foreign Policy Journal: “The sanctions were always symbolic in many respects and their primary purpose was to stigmatize those responsible for human rights abuses.

"That stigma will not be removed with the removal of sanctions. Ironically, sanctions are being used by hardliners as an excuse for ongoing economic woes. Of course, it’s a lie. But for a country that’s starved of information, it’s a lie that people sometimes believe.”

EU parliamentarian Geoffrey Van Orden told VOA he was shocked by the lawsuit's timing.

“That is only two weeks ago and it strikes me as rather bizarre. That team included Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa and now just two weeks later we have the attorney general, presumably who works in an office not too far away from the Justice Minister, coming up with this ludicrous idea," he said.

London-based analyst George Shire said Zimbabwe has a case to make in the European courts. He added that the sanctions were in violation of the Cotonou Agreement, which governs relations between the European Union and African countries.

“Political violence in Zimbabwe is not generated by insistence of one political party. It is within that political network or that culture and people who generate violence against each other are connected to all political parties," said Shire.

“The position that the West takes on Zimbabwe in itself adds to that picture of violence and it does not urge people to live together peacefully.”