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The Legal 500 2020
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European Court upholds legality of EU Zimbabwe sanctions


The General Court of the European Union has rejected a claim by 121 people and companies challenging their inclusion in the European Union’s sanctions against Zimbabwe, which imposed an EU-wide asset freeze and travel ban, but have since been withdrawn. 

The applicants argued (inter alia) that the EU lacked power to list people merely for being members of Zanu PF, or for unsupported allegations of misconduct unconnected with State action, and that the listing process had been unfair (they had not been informed they were listed, or given any of the supporting evidence) and the measures were disproportionate.  The Court dismissed the Commission’s objections to the admissibility of the claim & the lawyers’ instructions to act for the applicants, but held that the Council of the EU was entitled to assume that the listed people were “associates” of the Government of Zimbabwe, and to list members of Zanu PF even though they were part of the Government of National Unity. The Court refused to admit the applicants’ witness statements disputing the factual basis for the allegations against them and their role in the GNU, because the Court did not consider that it related to the evidence served by the Council for the first time with its Defence, nor that legal certainty required the Council to define what it meant by an “associate” of the Government.

The judgment is here.


David Vaughan CBE QC, Maya Lester and Zahra Al-Rikabi act for the applicants. Sarah Lee acted for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office which intervened in support of the Council of Europe.