Zimbabwe sanctions should be scrapped as they only worsen crisis - UN expert

US and European Union sanctions were first imposed two decades ago, targeting political leaders, government officials and selected state-controlled companies.

Zimbabwean flag. Picture: EWN

HARARE - Sanctions against Zimbabwean politicians and institutions should be scrapped because they worsen pre-existing social and economic woes in the troubled southern African nation, a UN expert said on Thursday.

At Harare's invitation, UN Rapporteur Alena Douhan concluded a 10-day visit to Zimbabwe to investigate the impact of sanctions imposed by the US and the European Union over rights abuses allegations.

The sanctions were first imposed two decades ago, targeting political leaders, government officials and selected state-controlled companies.

The restrictions, which include travel bans, are regularly reviewed.

"Over the last 20 years, sanctions and various forms of over-compliance with sanctions have had an insidious ripple effect on the economy of Zimbabwe and on the enjoyment of fundamental human rights, including access to health," Douhan said in a statement.

Foreign companies, including banks, steered clear of risking penalties by breaching the sanctions. As a result, 87 corresponding financial institutions have quit the country since 2001, she said.

"The US and other states should lift their sanctions on targeted individuals and entities and end over-compliance," she said.

She also urged "meaningful structured" dialogue on political reform.

"The time is ripe for sanctioning states and key national stakeholders to engage in a meaningful structured dialogue on political reform, human rights and the rule of law, and abandon rhetoric on sanctions as an advocacy tool," she said.

During the visit, she held talks with government officials, political parties, civil society and rights activists, as well as trade unions, business and banking representatives.

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