PIUS Ncube, Archbishop of Bulawayo and an outspoken critic of the Zimbabwean Government, recently called on the South African leaders to cut off electricity supplies to its northern neighbour in order to force President Mugabe to the negotiating table.
He said sanctions, similar to those imposed on apartheid South Africa should be instituted against Zimbabwe. In a radio interview Ncube said: 'Zimbabwe is owing billions in electricity (bills). They just would need to be told: 'Hey you people, settle your affairs or else we cut off'.
Then Mugabe would be forced to dialogue with the opposition because Mugabe is refusing to talk to them.'
This is not the first time the call for more stringent sanctions against the Zimbabwean government has gone out. Over the past two years the idea that South Africa, which supplies Zimbabwe with electricity, should turn off the switch has been levelled on numerous occasions. In the face of an authoritarian regime, sanctions seem to be the most obvious and effective means to force a government to reconsider its actions. However, there are some complex issues to consider - sometimes they create human rights abuses of their own. In order to help bring the terrible current human rights abuses in Zimbabwe to an end, to what extent do we take risks in extending sanctions.
According to a June 2000 report of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights of the United Nations entitled 'The Adverse Consequences of Economic Sanctions on the Enjoyment of Human Rights' (otherwise known as the Bossuyt Report), the guiding theory behind economic sanctions is that these will put economic pressure on civilians who will thus put pressure on a government for change.
Cutting off the supply of electricity and other necessary goods (petrol, to name one) to Zimbabwe would create the 'economic pressure' proponents of comprehensive economic sanctions speak of, but at what cost to ordinary Zimbabweans? The Bossuyt report argues that 'under sanctions, the middle class is eliminated, the poor get poorer, and the rich get richer as they take control of smuggling and the black market. The Government and elite can actually benefit economically from sanctions, owing to this monopoly on illegal trade.' The report cites a number of commentators who have demonstrated that, 'in the long run, as democratic participation, independent institutions and the middle class are weakened, and as social disruption leaves the population less able to resist the Government, the possibility of democracy shrinks. In sum, the civilian suffering that is believed to be the effective factor in comprehensive economic sanctions renders those sanctions ineffectual, even reinforcing the Government and its policies'.
The United Nations Secretary-General, Koffi Annan, wrote in his Millennium Report: 'When robust and comprehensive economic sanctions are directed against authoritarian regimes, a different problem is encountered. Then it is usually the people who suffer, not the political elites whose behaviour triggered the sanctions in the first place.'
According to research conducted by the Bossuyt report, only about a third of all sanctions can boast even 'partial' success, while others have cited a 'dismal' 2 per cent success rate for sanctions against authoritarian regimes.
Sanctions are, in essence, a 'middle ground' option - more severe than verbal condemnations but falling short of the use of force, the report states. There are a wide range of sanction options, from economic to diplomatic to cultural. Economic sanctions include trade sanctions, such as selective or comprehensive economic sanctions; financial (blocking government assets abroad and its access to financial markets); and travel, targeting individuals or groups. Military sanctions are essentially arms embargoes. Diplomatic sanctions target state rulers or may include sanctions such as, for example, the refusal to allow the apartheid South Africa government to participate in the United Nations to further its diplomatic isolation. According to the report, financial sanctions alone have a greater success than trade sanctions or combined trade and financial sanctions.
As a fallout of the highly criticised comprehensive economic sanctions imposed against Iraq under Saddam Hussein, 'smart' or 'targeted' sanctions have become the preferred way of imposing sanctions on authoritarian regimes in order to bring them in line with human rights and humanitarian law. Targeted economic sanctions, particularly targeted financial sanctions, are regarded as a more effective tool than comprehensive economic sanctions. These may target the personal foreign assets and access to foreign financial markets of members of a government, the ruling elite, or members of the military. It usually includes the freezing of assets of government-owned businesses; investment in those businesses may be prohibited. Further, imports of luxury goods and other goods primarily consumed by the ruling elite can be banned.
The European Union recently extended its travel ban on ruling members of the Zimbabwean regime from 79 individuals to 95. The EU sanctions also include the freezing of these individuals' assets in countries that are members of the Union. The United States government has imposed a blanket ban on more than 200 Zimbabwean officials linked to the ruling Zanu-PF, freezing the assets of such high-ranking government officials as Information Minister Jonathan Moyo. According to a report in the state-owned Herald newspaper, Moyo dismissed the new US sanctions, telling the 'imperialists' to 'go to hell'.
His attitude echoes the general response of Zimbabwe's ruling elite who, at least in public, greet the news of sanctions with calculated nonchalance. Many argue that turning off the electricity supply would be far more effective than banning Mugabe and his allies from travelling to Europe or freezing their assets (if they can be found) in the United States, particularly since reports of the elite's shopping trips to the Far East appear in news reports with disconcerting regularity. The Bossuyt report argues that the right to impose sanctions is not unlimited in human rights and humanitarian law and recommends a 'six-pronged test' for sanctions, which must undergo periodic review.
1. Are the sanctions imposed for valid reasons?
2. Do the sanctions target the proper parties?
3. Do the sanctions target the proper goods or objects?
4. Are the sanctions reasonably time-limited?
5. Are the sanctions effective?
6. Are the sanctions free from protest arising from violations of the 'principles of humanity and the dictates of the public conscience'?
Sanctions must abide by human rights and humanitarian law and internationally and regionally recognised charters (including the African Charter on Human and People's Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights). If they fail the above test or violate international human rights, then sanctions may be having an adverse effect. As much as it may be tempting to use more comprehensive economic sanctions against Zimbabwe and as frustrating as it is to see the ruling elite snub its collective nose at the sanctions imposed against them, the international community must bear the rights of every innocent Zimbabwean man, woman and child in mind, when assessing which sanctions to impose on Zimbabwe.
This column is provided by the International Bar Association - an organisation that represents the Law Societies and Bar Associations around the world, and works to uphold the rule of law. For further information, visit the website www.ibanet.orgwww.newzimbabwe.com/pages/ba11.1546.htmlE-mail this article