THE European Union (EU) must demand tangible human rights reforms, and free and fair elections before lifting targeted sanctions on Zimbabwe, a leading international human rights group said yesterday.
United States-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the EU was expected to review its policy towards Zimbabwe soon.
But HRW urged the block to be careful not to bolster anti-reform elements in the inclusive government by prematurely removing the embargo.
The EU Council in July last year indicated that a peaceful and credible constitutional referendum would justify suspending the majority of EU targeted restrictions.
“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, Africa advocacy director at HRW.
“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 EU in 2002 imposed travel restrictions and asset freezes on Mugabe and about 200 senior Zanu PF officials as well as on some state-owned companies with close ties to the party.
“If the EU wants to help create a sustainable rights-respecting environment in Zimbabwe, then it should hold off lifting or suspending targeted sanctions until after Zimbabwe holds credible, free and fair elections,” Kasambala said.
“Such action would reaffirm the EU’s commitment to Zimbabwe’s political and economic well-being.”