/ 29 January 2010

HRW: EU must maintain sanctions on Mugabe

The European Union should maintain its travel ban and asset freeze on Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s inner circle until he makes reforms set out in a power-sharing deal, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Friday.

Mugabe and his erstwhile rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, formed a unity government nearly one year ago, aiming to end political unrest targeting mainly supporters of the Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

The deal included provisions for protecting media freedoms, ensuring rule of law and bringing to justice the perpetrators of political violence.

Despite the agreement, Human Rights Watch said Mugabe’s Zanu-PF has continued to abduct and kill MDC activists without punishment. Oppressive media laws lay unchanged, and little progress in protecting human rights has been made.

“Zanu-PF has continued committing grave human rights abuses and acting as if the agreement had never been signed,” said Georgette Gagnon, the group’s Africa director.

“The European Union runs the risk of reinforcing ongoing repression and impunity in Zimbabwe if it eases the sanctions now.”

In September the EU sent a delegation to Zimbabwe, and found that benchmarks for reforms have not been met. Human Rights Watch said the travel bans and assets freezes, which began in 2002, should remain in place until concrete reforms are taken.

“Some in Europe might believe that making concessions is the way to get Zanu-PF to moderate its behaviour, but Zanu-PF has shown that it would only take this as a sign of weakness and dig in its heels even further,” Gagnon said. — AFP