HARARE, ZIMBABWE— The European Union has eased its Zimbabwe sanctions, lifting travel bans on six members of the government and an asset freeze on an additional 21 Zimbabweans. The EU first imposed sanctions on individual Zimbabweans in 2002, in response to alleged human rights abuses and disregard for rule of law by the government of President Robert Mugabe.
Addressing journalists Monday, the European Union ambassador to Zimbabwe, Aldo Dell’Aricia, said the easing of sanctions followed the drafting of a proposed new constitution, which Zimbabweans are scheduled to vote on next month. If all goes smoothly, elections will follow in July.
“We call on all political parties to maintain the momentum that should allow for the holding of elections later this year," said Dell’Aricia. "The European Union reiterates its commitment to political dialogue with the government and the fact that it will work with any government formed as a result of a peaceful, transparent and credible electoral process.”
The EU diplomat said only after the elections would Brussels review the remaining travel bans and asset freezes, which are aimed at President Mugabe himself and dozens of his family members and political and business associates.
The Mugabe supporters are accused of complicity in human rights abuses by the president's security forces and ZANU-PF party. Rights groups have accused Mugabe supporters of using violence to triumph in the 2008 elections and to secure control of Zimbabwe's Marange diamond fields, among other instances.
The United States also maintains travel bans and asset freezes against Mugabe and his allies.
Mugabe repeatedly has demanded an end to the sanctions, which he says hurt Zimbabwe's economy and are "illegal" as they are not approved by the United Nations.