EU tightens sanctions on Zim govt

The European Union on Monday tightened sanctions on Robert Mugabe’s government in Zimbabwe over growing frustration about human rights abuses and the political situation, EU diplomats said.

EU foreign ministers, meeting in Brussels, made the decision to add 26 Zimbabwean officials and 36 companies to the EU’s visa and assets freeze blacklist to pressure Zanu-PF leader Robert Mugabe to share power with Zimbabwe’s opposition. The additions raise the number of blacklisted Zimbabwean people and companies to 203. For the first time European-based firms are included.

The EU introduced sanctions against Mugabe’s regime in 2002 to protest the country’s poor human rights record and lack of democratic reforms.
Blacklisted officials are barred from travelling to EU countries, and blacklisted companies cannot do business in the 27-nation bloc.

The EU “views with particular distress the escalation of the humanitarian crisis including the cholera epidemic”, the ministers said in a statement.

They condemned “the ongoing violations of human rights, in particular the abduction and detention of those exercising a democratic right to express opposition to the regime and of those defending human rights.”

Entering the talks, British Foreign Minister David Miliband said the EU remained “resolute” in supporting the Zimbabwean people’s “call for change”.

Zimbabwe has been in political limbo since elections last March, when opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai won a first-round presidential vote and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) seized a parliamentary majority for the first time.

The MDC victory was greeted with a wave of political attacks that Amnesty International says left more than 180 people dead—mostly opposition supporters.

Citing the violence, Tsvangirai pulled out of a run-off election in June, allowing 84-year-old Mugabe to claim a one-sided victory condemned by Western powers.

Former South African president Thabo Mbeki brokered a power-sharing deal signed in September, but the rivals have yet to agree on how to form a unity government, while attacks and arrests of MDC members have continued.

Meanwhile, an emergency Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit to address the ongoing political impasse is being held in Pretoria on Monday.

The extraordinary summit, announced last week after power-sharing talks between the country’s three political leaders again deadlocked in Harare, will see heads of 15 SADC countries attempting to find a solution to the crisis in Zimbabwe.—Sapa-AFP

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