The European Union (EU) has renewed its two-decades-old sanctions against Zimbabwe, citing continued human rights violations and closure of the democratic space.
Zimbabwe has been under EU targeted sanctions since 2002 after the late Robert Mugabe won a controversial presidential election.
After Mr Mugabe was toppled in a military coup in 2017, his successor President Emmerson Mnangagwa pushed for normalisation of ties with the bloc, but this is yet to bear fruit.
The EU on Monday said the situation in Zimbabwe has not changed under President Mnangagwa, hence the move to extend the embargo.
“The situation in terms of respect for human rights has not improved in Zimbabwe,” the bloc said.
“Intimidation of political opposition and other government critics has continued to restrict the democratic and civic space, which is under threat of shrinking further through the Data Protection Act and ongoing legislative processes such as the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill and the envisaged so-called Patriotic Act. The EU is concerned about these developments.”
President Mnangagwa's government has rolled out several laws targeted at its critics, including the civil society and the media.
The 80-year-old ruler is accused of trying to turn Zimbabwe into a one-party state by dismantling the opposition.
He is also accused of failing to rein in human rights perpetrators comprising largely of security forces.
“Perpetrators of human rights violations should be swiftly brought to justice to end impunity,” the EU said.
“It is important that international human rights obligations are adhered to and the constitutional rights of the people of Zimbabwe respected.
“In this light, the EU recalls the purpose of its restrictive measures, which is to encourage a demonstrable, genuine and long-term commitment by the Zimbabwean authorities to respect and uphold human rights and the rule of law.”
The sanctions include an arms embargo and asset freeze against the Zimbabwe Defence Industries, a state-owned arms manufacturer.
Zimbabwe attributes its long running economic crisis to the sanctions by Western countries, but the EU said the measures “are targeted and very limited.”
“They do not affect the people of Zimbabwe, its economy, foreign direct investments or trade,” it added.
“Zimbabwe continues to benefit from duty free and quota access of its exports to the EU, while negotiations are ongoing to deepen the Eastern and Southern African (ESA) Economic Partnership Agreement.”
Meanwhile, the EU decided to lift suspended travel bans and asset freezes against Zimbabwe’s Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, army chief Phillip Valerio Sibanda and former first lady Grace Mugabe.
Besides the EU, the United States and the United Kingdom have maintained targeted sanctions against Zimbabwe.