A group of Dutch farmers who were forced off their land in Zimbabwe has launched a campaign to force Harare to pay them compensation.
The group lost their land between 2000 and 2002 when supporters of President Robert Mugabe occupied white-owned farms in an often violent land redistribution campaign. They did not receive any compensation which the group claimed was a violation of the Investment Protection Agreement (IBO) which the Netherlands had made with Zimbabwe.
Landmark court case
They took their case to the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), a Washington-based court which operates under the aegis of the World Bank. The ICSID ruled in their favour in 2009 and ordered Zimbabwe to pay them 8.8 million euros compensation, to be increased by 10 percent for each year since the land grab. The group are now entitled to a sum of more 23 million euros.
The Netherlands has been pressuring Zimbabwe over the past two years to fulfil its international obligations. The Ministry of Economic Affairs appointed a special envoy in 2010 who has since travelled regularly to Zimbabwe to negotiate with government officials. Earlier this year, Zimbabwe's Finance Minister Tendai Biti promised to put forward a payment proposal. So far he has not honoured this promise despite being asked to do so in a letter from the Dutch Foreign Minister in August.
"We wanted to take action earlier, but decided to wait for Biti's proposal," the group's chairman Lion Benjamins told Dutch daily de Volkskrant. "But now we're sick of waiting, so have decided to take steps to show Zimbabwe we're serious."
The group has launched the website Justice Zimbabwe and is lobbying European parliamentarians to ensure that the EU refuse to lift its sanctions on Zimbabwe until the compensation is paid. They also hope to persuade the Dutch government to use its right of veto if Zimbabwe asks the Paris Club for debt relief.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs says it supports the farmers but is "not in a position to take over the payment".
The group is also active in the UK, lobbying the government to release frozen Mugabe regime assets in order to pay the compensation.