Zimbabwe's Mugabe: Lift sanctions, UN's Navi Pillay urges


Navi Pillay said she hoped there would be ''no violence in future elections''

Western nations should lift sanctions on Zimbabwe and its President Robert Mugabe, says the UN high commissioner for human rights Navi Pillay.

Speaking on her first visit to the country, Ms Pillay argued that the sanctions are hurting the poor.

She also urged Zimbabwe to pass reforms to avoid violence in the next election which is expected within a year.

The European Union has already lifted some sanctions but restrictions on Mr Mugabe and his close aides remain.

The president and more than 100 others are still affected by the freezing of assets and travel bans in European countries.

Britain, the former colonial power, has long argued that the measures do not affect the poor but Ms Pillay is now questioning this, and would like sanctions suspended "at least until the conduct of the elections and related reforms are clear... for people to entirely focus on economic issues that need to be addressed".

Mr Mugabe has long blamed his country's economic woes on the sanctions.


Ms Pillay, from South Africa, said she had not heard a single Zimbabwean inside the country speak in favour of maintaining the restrictions.

Start Quote

There should never be impunity for serious crimes, and justice is essential if peace and stability are to endure”

End Quote Navi Pillay

"There seems little doubt that the existence of the sanctions regimes has, at the very least, acted as a serious disincentive to overseas banks and investors.

"It is also likely that the stigma of sanctions has limited certain imports and exports. Taken together, these and other unintended side-effects will in turn inevitably have had a negative impact on the economy at large, with possibly quite serious ramifications for the country's poorest and most vulnerable populations," she said.

Zimbabwe's Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, a close ally of Mr Mugabe, welcomed Ms Pillay's call but said the sanctions should be removed "unconditionally".

"We do not want any talk about suspension of sanctions, they have to be lifted unconditionally because in the first instance they are illegal," he told journalists shortly after the human rights chief spoke.

The EU tightened sanctions after the 2008 election when Mr Mugabe's supporters were accused of killing, beating and torturing hundreds of people.

Since then Mr Mugabe has had to share power with his rivals, but there is a political deadlock and reforms to the security forces have stalled.

'Swept under the carpet'

Earlier this year the campaign group Human Rights Watch said sanctions should remain "until Zimbabwe carries out concrete human rights and institutional reforms".

Over the past week Ms Pillay met Mr Mugabe and his long-time opponent, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who joined a unity government in 2009.

In her speech in Harare she also brought up past human rights violations and warned that "devastating large-scale killings and other violations in Matabeleland and Midlands in the 1980s, or the 2008 election violence should [not] be swept under the carpet".

She made it clear that: "There should never be impunity for serious crimes, and justice is essential if peace and stability are to endure".

She said she had urged leaders to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Committee or a Commission of Inquiry to look at major human rights violations that took place some time ago.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Hurting the poor? I thought under the great leader Mugabe there weren't any poor. Surely he should be considered a saint. Perhaps a US drone could send him straight to heaven?

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Certainly not and while we are at it, stop all foreign aid of all kinds. Our own people are in need fo that money.
    Peter D

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    A president who loses an election and remains in power is no longer a president but a dictator. That is enough reason to oppose Mugabe. He has no legitimacy even to meet representatives of the UN. And like some of the leaders in the middle east he has presided over the murders of many of his own people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    There is a good reason why Mugabe is literally demanding elections whereas the opposition is avoiding them.Look at the tens of thousands that attend Mugabe rallies, all those new farmers, the mining communities and adjacent communities now set to benefit under his indigenisation programs. The opposition is offering nothing but the usual empty promises of "democracy" and a cassanova for a leader.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Zimbabwe will never be Rhodesia again even if Rhodesia was milk and honey we will Rather_Be_Cycling in Zimbabwe

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    The poor are suffering because the regime dont care and will never worry about anything other than themselves

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Oh, please.... anything the UN (or Britain) thinks about Zimbabwe needs to be discounted for it was they who turned the demi-paradise of Rhodesia into the hellhole of Zimbabwe in the first place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    This is coming head-on-heels to last week admission by the US Ambassador who said it in black and white that CNN and tabloids peddle lies and exaggerate the situation in Zim just to buy their readership. Today the UN envoy acknowledged that the sanctions are not targeted whilst some still believe they are despite that the ZIDERA Act by Obama gvt is an open document available on internet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    She doesn't make a very strong case... sounds more like she's appeasing Mugabe, trying to leave their meeting on a positive note. Frankly, I find this unhelpful and short-sighted... I absolutely oppose lifting sanctions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    sanctions dont work cdes they only give the regime a way to counter change .They argue we cant have diaspora vote becoz they cant campaign in europe and usa.In 2008 those politicians'families never ran short of food ,forex ,fuel, etc but us the general populace,povo suffered.Their not so bright kids learn as far as China when UZ,NUST,MSU cant afford to a drill 1 borehall.We'v suffered,Sanctions no

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    If Britain hadn't of helped him rig the original election he probably would have lost it. That would have caused a new Bush war, but Rhodesia throve in spite of one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Stupid idea - any money flowing in will flow out into Swiss bank accounts.
    Have we learned nothing yet from doing deals with despots?

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    All sanctions can be lifted this year :

    But only after Mugabe holds a general election that Western Nations agree has been conducted fairly, a new Government is in place and he has retired.

    At the same time the UN should pass a resolution making it crystal clear that if Mugabe or his generals set foot outside Zimbabwe they will be hauled off to the Hague for trial.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Nobody should have a problem with lifting sanctions after free and fair elections - something Rhodesia/Zimbabwe has never experienced - Bishop Muzorewa was the only elected leader and the West got rid of him in favour of Mugabe in !979 - The UN does itself no favours by siding with an unelected dictator

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    How can this be when Mugabe still treats his own people like dirt and takes all their money?

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    if they do lift sanctions everyone except Navi realizes that all the money will go to line the pockets of Mugabe and his cohorts with the poor remaining just as bad off as they are so long as he stays in power.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Navi Pillay is, being kind, extremely naive.

    Mugabe is the worst example of a despot who has maintained a fig leaf of democracy to stay in power long past his sell-by date.

    The West needs to maintain sanctions on Mugabe and his cohorts until a real democratic government is established in Zimbabwe

    We all know that this means they will need to stay in place until he's dead
    at the very least.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    How exactly does banning Robert Mugabe from coming to Europe 'hurt the poor'? The poor shoe retailers of Paris might be hurt by Mrs Mugabe's absence but that seems of little relevance to poor Zimbabweans. Half the 'luxury' fresh food items (like chillies & baby corn) sold in Sainsburys USED to be from Zimbabwe before Mugabe seized the farms & ruined them. He's the reason the poor suffer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    "Navi Pillay said she hoped there would be ''no violence in future elections''

    And I hope that Greece will stay in the EU.... and maybe there is life on Mars too...

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    I think this pillay person is confused... especially when she say... 'she had not heard a single Zimbabwean inside the country speak in favour of maintaining the restrictions'.... she seems to be misinformed therefore unfit to comment on this issue.


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