EUROPEAN UNION COUNCIL OF EUROPE, EU FLAG ON FLAGPOLE
BRUSSELS - A top European Union court dismissed an appeal by Zimbabwe&39;s attorney general and more than 100 other figures linked to the Harare government to have EU sanctions removed.
The 28-nation bloc began easing visa ban and asset freeze sanctions against Zimbabwe&39;s ruling elite early last year in the hope of encouraging reforms but left top officials including President Robert Mugabe on the blacklist.
Zimbabwe Attorney General Johannes Tomana, as well as 109 other people including top police and army officers, plus 11 companies, had called on the General Court of the European Union to annul the sanctions order.
The General Court, second only to the European Court of Justice, said however that they were correctly identified as close to Mugabe&39;s government and its "serious infringement of human rights".
Tomana had been put on the sanctions list because he had "engaged in activities that seriously undermine democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law," the Court said in a statement.
The inclusion of the other individuals and companies were broadly comparable, it said.
The court said there was an adequate legal basis for the sanctions since the positions they held "are such that it is legitimate to characterise them as leaders of Zimbabwe or as associates of those leaders and thereby to justify, on that ground alone, their being listed."
The EU first imposed sanctions against Zimbabwe in 2002 over its rights record but decided to ease them in the hope this would encourage Mugabe, now 91, to introduce some measure of reform.
Mugabe earlier this year took up the one-year rotating chairmanship of the African Union saying that he cared little for what the West might say.
"If they want to continue it&39;s up to them but these sanctions are wrong," he said at the time, adding: "If Europe comes in the spirit to cooperate and not the spirit to control us and control our ways, they will be very welcome."