By Staff Reporter
EU ambassador to Zimbabwe, Timo Olkkonen has challenged government to bring tangible evidence that targeted sanctions imposed on some top government officials and associated entities were hurting ordinary people as often alleged.
Addressing journalists and civil society activists at a MISA-Harare advocacy committee discussion in Harare on Tuesday, Olkkonen also dismissed continued government claims the travel and asset freeze on Zimbabwean authorities were illegal.
The sanctions were imposed by EU 2003 as a response to alleged poll fraud and rights abuses by then President Robert Mugabe.
“EU sanctions are highly legal instruments,” said the EU diplomat, “They are drafted and agreed upon on the basis that they could be subject of a legal scrutiny that gives the basis of how those entities and individuals are on that list.
“How they work, you need to find from open sources enough evidence and reasons to add people on that list. We are now referring to what has been happening in the past.”
Olkkonen said those placed on sanctions were targeted for violating “democratic principles and human rights” adding that they are often advised each time sanctions are renewed against them.
“…A letter is sent and they are notified and reasons and they can be challenged on individual basis,” he said.
“How they are conceived as a means of collective punishment, all instruments are about individuals and companies.
“So that’s why I think it erodes the argument away from these politicians that sanctions are intended to harm our population and our country because of some ‘evil intention’ by the EU.”
He added, “We don’t call them sanctions. We call them restrictive measures which indeed are a targeted set of measures against a number of individuals and then they could be measures against entities and arms embargo.
“Now if you have that list in mind and then you think when people are claiming that your sanctions are killing people in the country and are hurting the economy.
“That’s why Zimbabwe is not prospering and rising. I would challenge them (government) to bring evidence and explain how these very targeted and restrictive measures would have that influence.”