AS the European Union (EU) prepares for its annual review of sanctions on Zimbabwe in a fortnight’s time, international human rights groups have urged the bloc and the United States to ensure political reforms and free and fair elections take place before sanctions can be lifted.
EU ambassador to Zimbabwe Aldo Dell’Aricia last week welcomed the recently-released draft constitution, saying a fair and peaceful constitutional referendum would lead to the removal of the majority of the EU’s restrictive measures which have been in place since 2002.
However, New York-based rights group, Human Rights Watch, said it would be too early for the EU to lift sanctions on the basis of a constitutional referendum expected in March.
“It would be premature for the EU to lift targeted sanctions on President Robert Mugabe and members of his inner circle simply for holding a referendum on a new constitution,” said Tiseke Kasambala, the Africa advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “Removing or suspending the measures before Zimbabwe carries out any comprehensive rights reforms will give Mugabe and his party free rein to continue repression ahead of elections.”
The International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based conflict prevention and resolution organisation, on Wednesday called on Western states to clarify their various sanctions on Zimbabwe, saying there was need to review travel bans on targeted Zanu PF individuals and business entities prohibited from travelling to and trading with the West.'