By Alex Bell
SW Radio Africa
8 April 2014
A legal challenge filed against the European Union (EU) by a ZANU PF member has seen the targeted sanctions policy of the Brussels based body come under fire, with the outcome of the case set to have far reaching consequences.
Businessman Aguy Georgias, a former ZANU PF senator and deputy minister in government, has been fighting against his inclusion on the EU’s list of targeted restrictions in 2007. Despite being removed from that list in 2011, when the EU began a controversial re-engagement campaign with ZANU PF, Georgias is arguing that being targeted with restrictions for five years resulted in significant personal and business losses.
Georgias, the founder and CEO of the Trinity Engineering company, is seeking more than €6 million in damages from the EU. Asked previously if his removal from the EU’s list of measures would result in him dropping the lawsuit, Georgias said: “Dropping the case at this stage would not make any sense after spending such an amount of money (over $1.3million).’’
Oral hearing of his case began last week at the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg, where Georgias’ lawyers questioned the European bloc’s policy of implementing targeted sanctions. UK based advocate High Mercer last week compared the ‘sanctions’ on the Mugabe regime to the US government’s policies at Guantanamo Bay.
Georgias’ lawyers are arguing that his inclusion on the ‘sanctions’ list was based solely on the fact that he was part of the Zimbabwe government. Mercer argued in court last week that the use of “absolute discretion” by the EU in deciding who in Zimbabwe was targeted with restrictions was akin to a breach of the EU’s own standards of justice and human rights law.
“What the EU is saying is that we will protect human rights and uphold the rule of law in Europe, but we will deny the same to the Government leaders in Zimbabwe where we will exercise absolute discretion to punish them,” he said.
Mercer told the court that Georgias had been wrongfully listed and judged “guilty by association” by the EU because he accepted his position in government.
Although Georgias is considered more of a ‘moderate’ than some of his ZANU PF fellows, the businessman has for years been a major party sponsor and vocal advocate for the removal of the targeted ‘sanctions’. Appointed a non-constituent party senator in 2005 by Robert Mugabe, it was widely believed his rise to power was linked more to his financial benefit than his political prowess.
He also went on to lead calls for the ZANU PF government’s appeal against a landmark court ruling in South Africa, which compelled the authorities there to arrest and prosecute Zimbabwean officials for alleged human rights abuses.
But his lawyers maintain that this ‘association’ with the Mugabe regime should not have warranted his inclusion on the sanctions list. Mercer questioned why the MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai was not listed when he became Prime Minister in 2009, if according to the EU only being a member of the government was the “necessary and sufficient” condition for inclusion on list.
EU Commission legal advisor Bart Driessen countered that Georgias had willfully accepted his appointment to the government with the full knowledge that he would be subject to EU restrictions and should therefore have declined. Minas Konstantinidis, appearing for the EU Council, argued along the same lines, stating that Georgias invited the EU action upon himself and should not cry foul.
UK based Zimbabwean journalist Makusha Mugabe told SW Radio Africa on Tuesday that the case “exposes the EU’s own policy failures.”
“The EU chose to continue to engage with ZANU PF, despite the fact that they never pulled back from dictatorial and repressive actions. They (the EU) still thought that by removing sanctions through a carrot and stick approach, they’d see some change. This never happened, and shows dictators don’t change,” the journalist said.
He called the Georgias matter a ‘test case’ that could set a difficult precedent for the EU if the ZANU PF official is successful.
“The argument is that the whole basis for sanctions is not legal. It would suggest that countries and organisations have no right to impose any form of sanctions. If he wins this case, it could open the door for more litigation,” Mugabe said.
The case comes as ZANU PF is still waiting for a hearing date of its ‘sanctions’ lawsuit against the EU. The case has been almost three years in the making, after former Attorney General Johannes Tomana in 2011 gave the European bloc a two week ultimatum to pledge a total removal of the targeted measures, or face litigation. The measures now only remain against Robert Mugabe and his wife, but there is no sign of the case against the EU being withdrawn.