A U.N. special rapporteur has called on the U.S. and other Western governments to lift sanctions they imposed on Zimbabwe nearly two decades ago for alleged election rigging and human rights abuses.
Alena Douhan says the sanctions are exacerbating corruption in Zimbabwe as banks, companies and individuals banned from trading abroad simply bribe others to conduct their business for them.
“I call on all countries which imposed sanctions as well as banks and companies of third states as well as countries where these banks are registered, to behave in accordance with the rule of law, due diligence, principal, lift sanctions, make legislation which corresponds with international law and principals of human rights protection. And the last point is that all the discrepancies which exist between all parties, between states, between the government and some sort of opposition leaders and any other institutions shall be settled on the basis of structural dialogue,” Douhan said.
The European Union imposed travel and financial sanction on allies of then-Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe in 2002, in response to alleged election rigging and human rights abuses by his party and government. The U.S. followed suit with sanctions in 2003.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government says the sanctions must be lifted, arguing they are derailing the country’s efforts to climb out of a long economic slump.
Earlier this week in separate statements, the United States, Britain, and the European Union said Zimbabwe’s economy was suffering not because of sanctions, but because of corruption and government mismanagement of the country’s resources.
Pride Mkono, an opposition activist, does not agree with Douhan’s preliminary findings on the sanctions issue.
"There isn’t much which makes sense in her findings which we can talk about, it was all nonsense," Mkono said. "I am however happy to know that she encouraged dialogue between the Zanu-PF government and important stakeholders such as the opposition, churches and civic society so that they discuss issues of electoral and political reforms, as well as corruption."
To Mkono, she said, that’s all that's important; the rest is nothing as there is nothing she can tell Western countries to remove sanctions against Zimbabwe since they were imposed following human rights violations.
"So we do not expect the sanctions to be lifted before the issues (of human rights) are addressed.”
Douhan, who has been in Zimbabwe for two weeks, will present her full report to the Human Rights Council in September of next year. On Thursday, the Belarusian national declined to say if Zimbabwe had addressed the issues of human rights and election rigging that triggered the sanctions.