UN corners America over Zim sanctions

United Nations says US ‘state of emergency’ legislation on Zim against international law and must be repealed

Chris Mahove – Editor

The report by the United Nations General Council Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, Alena Douhan is set to be discussed at the 51st United Nations Human Rights Council which starts in Geneva today, 12 September, and runs until 7 October, 2022.

The report, which calls for the lifting of sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by America and its allies back in 2002, acknowledges that the restrictions have been exacerbating the economic and humanitarian crisis in the country.

It will be on Agenda Item 3 on the Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.

The sanctions were imposed on the Southern African country after it embarked on a fast-track land reform programme in 2000, which was meant to address the colonial land imbalances that existed at the time, which saw the minority whites owning the majority of the arable land in the country while blacks were crammed in unproductive land.

The United States of America (USA) imposed its sanctions under the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA) of 2001.

These were followed by the Executive Sanctions (Executive Order 13288) of March 2003, which is renewable on a yearly basis.

The European Union (EU) also introduced its own sanctions in February, 2002, most of which were lifted in 2014 although some Senior Government officials, the country’s Service Chiefs and Zimbabwe Defence Industries still remain sanctioned.

After two decades of the illegal sanctions, of which ordinary Zimbabweans bore the brunt, Douhan, visited the country from October 18 to 28, 2021 to examine the impact of unilateral sanctions on the enjoyment of human rights in Zimbabwe and on people’s right to development.

In her report, Douhan recommended the lifting of sanctions on Zimbabwe, saying the  restrictions,  including secondary sanctions, and different forms of over-compliance by foreign banks and companies, have had a significant impact on the population and the Government, exacerbating preexisting economic and humanitarian challenges.

She said the lifting of the sanctions were in line with the principles of international law; avoiding de-risking policies and over compliance in accordance with the due diligence rule; and engaging in meaningful structured discussions on political reform, the rule of law and human rights.

“Unilateral sanctions against natural and legal persons of Zimbabwe, in conjunction with secondary sanctions and over compliance, are exacerbating the economic and humanitarian crisis, forcing the Government of Zimbabwe, banks, public institutions, private companies and individuals to look for alternative ways to participate in international trade by involving third parties, using alternative informal non-transparent mechanisms of trade and payments, thus adding to corruption rather than suppressing it.

“Such sanctions also result in preventing the participation of Zimbabwe and its people in international cooperation, adding to the isolation of the country, impeding the country’s achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, and undermining the right to development of the people of Zimbabwe,” noted the report.

The UN Special Rapporteur called on states to observe principles and norms of international law, including principles of sovereign equality, political independence, non-intervention in the domestic affairs of States, and peaceful settlement of international disputes as part of their obligations under the Charter of the UN.

“She welcomes the decisions of the European Union and Switzerland to minimize the number of active targeted sanctions to zero and calls upon Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States to review and lift sanctions on natural and legal persons of Zimbabwe in accordance with principles and norms of international law and human rights law,” the report said.

The report also noted that the Special Rapporteur called upon all stakeholders at the international and national levels not to use the rhetoric of sanctions as an advocacy tool, and to engage in structural dialogue to settle any disputes in accordance with the rule of law.

“She stresses that the Sustainable Development Goals can only be achieved in the spirit of solidarity and cooperation between countries. She reminds the international community that any unilateral measures may only be taken when they duly comply with States” reads part of the report.

The Special Rapporteur said even if the sanctions could have had good intentions, that was not justification for the violation  of the fundamental rights of Zimbabweans as ‘collateral damage’, adding that all interlocutors, including States, international organizations, banks, private companies and civil society should avoid coercion, written or oral threats, or any other act that may cause or result in over-compliance, and to interpret all limitations in the narrowest possible way in the interim period before the lifting of unilateral sanctions.

“The Special Rapporteur urges the Government of the United States to cease the state of national emergency regarding Zimbabwe, which is not in accordance with the norms of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and to bring national legislation into line with international law, including human rights law, refugee law and the law of international responsibility.

“She also stresses the inadmissibility of the expansive interpretation of jurisdiction as based on payments of United States dollars, the use of correspondent banks working under national jurisdiction and the participation of national shareholders, among others, for the application of secondary sanctions, civil and criminal penalties, and threats with sanctions, as contrary to international law,” the report said.

It noted that preventing Zimbabwe from participating in international cooperation, by impeding its ability to pay membership fees for international organizations, or from participating in inter-parliamentary cooperation, and preventing its scholars, sportspersons and artists from participating in international competitions isolated the country from international cooperation and from fulfilling its right to development.

Douhan acknowledged that the unilateral sanctions, although the sanctioning countries claim are targeted, have negatively impacted on all facets of the country’s economy.

She said they had facilitated de-industrialisation, with key agriculture, mining and manufacturing companies barred from selling their products in the United States and European Union markets.

This, she said, resulted in the contraction of the economy growing from -3.1 per cent in 2000 to -17.7 per cent in 2008.

The result was a massive closing down of local companies and subsequent loss of employment in the formal economy, and the growth of the informal sector as a method of resilience, estimated at 94.5 per cent in 2014 and 75.6 per cent in 2019.

“Foreign direct investments were affected as investors avoided risks, given the negative perceptions about the economy and the country’s governance. This led to increased unemployment, estimated at 94 per cent in the formal sector by the end of 2008, and to a significant loss of qualified professionals. From 2000 to 2008, the gross national income per person fell by 35 per cent,” read the report.

The sanctions, according to the Special Rapporteur, also had a serious humanitarian impact as they decimated the economic performance of the country, thereby impacting access to basic rights, including to life, food, water and sanitation, health and education, and the rights of Zimbabwean residents, migrants and refugees.

“Poverty has increased sharply as a result, undermining efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 1, on ending poverty in all its forms everywhere. With the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) adding to the problem, a survey by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency and the United Nations Children’s Fund showed that almost half of the population was in extreme poverty in 2020,” read the report.

The sanctions imposed on key farms and agricultural companies and the general decline of agricultural investments have resulted in poor production levels since the early 2000s, especially as regards cereals such as maize, sorghum, millet and others.

‘While droughts, cyclones and other environmental hazards influenced the decrease in food production, unilateral coercive measures also had a determining impact,”

Douhan also noted that the sanctions had negatively impacted access to health, as they have made it difficult for most municipal councils, which are generally delegated with provision of primary health care, to receive enough medicines and ambulances.

“The structural economic and social challenges inherited from the late 1990s were aggravated by unilateral sanctions and the isolation of the country, especially during the first decade under sanctions, exacerbated by the consequences of over-compliance. As a result, the public health system collapsed,” it said.

Also affected was access to education, which suffered from loss of State revenue and the cumulative impact of over-compliance measures.

‘Numerous testimonies explained the challenges faced by teachers and school staff related to reporting to work, due to transportation and accommodation costs, which contribute to the high vacancy rates in the sector,” noted the report

It also pointed out that lack of funding and various impediments to buying school material, uniforms, computers and other technology due to zero-risk policies by companies had also impeded the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 4, on quality education.

South Africa’s EFF leader Julius Malema said Zimbabwe was not struggling because they did anything except the takeover of the land.

“As a result, Zimbabwe is under sanctions and is unable to supply the most basic needs of our people.”

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