U.S. Faces Zimbabwean Lawsuits Over Illegal Sanctions

Zimbabwean citizens and companies losing money through the United States’ Office of Foreign Assets Control should engage lawyers and challenge the embargo in international courts.

Attorney-General Mr Johannes Tomana yesterday said although this was expensive, time had come for Zimbabweans to challenge the illegal sanctions.

“Countries that have imposed these illegal sanctions with total disregard of the United Nations structures are actually violating human rights.

“They are targeting any transactions, especially in the US currency as they are processed in their system,” he said.

Individuals receiving funds from outside Zimbabwe and in the US currency have lost their money.

Transactions in US dollars are processed through that country, giving them access to individual accounts.

“We, as Zimbabweans, are saying these sanctions were imposed without going through due process hence they are illegal. Affected people have to challenge this through competent courts, whether at the EU or in the US.”

Mr Tomana said over two million signatures collected under the Anti-sanctions Campaign have shown people’s disapproval of the sanctions.

“This just goes to show that the sanctions are real and are prejudicing the people.”

Mr Tomana said by seizing the funds, the US Government contravened Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

According to Article 17 (2): “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property”.

“The moves are in total violation of human rights,” he said.

Mr Tomana, however, said the process was “complicated” and needed people who knew the rules.

Early this year, a US-based couple lost over US$30 000 it sent to Zimbabwe to build a house in Chinhoyi.

A Chinhoyi University of Science and Technology student in 2009 was blocked by US officials from receiving computer software because of the sanctions.

A number of people and companies have lost money through the same system.

The US has now turned on individuals working for international organisations who have their salaries deposited in foreign banks. The same office has also targeted funds used by parastatals to buy spares and consumables outside Zimbabwe.

Government says it intends to sue the European Union if it does not justify why it was maintaining the illegal sanctions. Ofac is part of the US Department of Treasury that administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on the country’s foreign policy.

The office is also guided by national security goals against targeted foreign countries and regimes, terrorists, individuals engaged in activities related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and international narcotics traffickers.

While the Government mulls taking the EU to court over sanctions, Public Works Deputy Minister Aguy Georgias sued the EU over the illegal sanctions after being denied entry into London.

The case was first heard in London at the Assylum and Immigration Tribunal before taking it to the European Court of Justice.

He has since been removed from the sanctions list.