Tanzania: EU Declines Law Firm's Request to Impose Sanctions Over Polls

The European Union will not impose sanctions on Tanzania, despite pressure from a law firm representing opposition leader Tundu Lissu currently exiled in Belgium.

In a letter dated March 3, 2021, Josep Borrell Fontelles, the EU High Representative and Vice President of the European Commission, citing lack of sufficient evidence to support a sanctions regime said, "I should also stress that any decision to impose sanctions must be built on well-documented, legally sound evidence packages, to reasonably withstand any possible legal challenge."

He was responding to David McAllister, a German member of European Parliament and chairman of the committee on Foreign Affairs, on the status of EU policy on Tanzania.

Requested by Amsterdam & Partners, a law firm that has represented Mr Lissu in the past, Mr McAllister implored the bloc to follow up targeted sanctions by the US on Tanzania. Mr McAllister wrote to Mr Fontelles on February 16, 2021, arguing that EU's sanctions would constitute its policy on encouraging democracy and respect for rights across all its partners.

"For the European Union, sanctions are a foreign policy tool designed to help achieving the EU's goals in terms of international security, peace, democracy, international law and human rights," he said on February 16. "I would like to ask you whether it is currently being examined to adopt sanctions under the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime or not."

The request came two months after the European Commission published guidelines on implementing punitive measures as part of the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime. Under these guidelines, the High Representative initiates a proposal which is then voted on by members of the Council.

In the case of Tanzania, both the US and the European Union had issued observations on how last year's elections were conducted.

In January, the US government imposed visa restrictions on Tanzanian officials for "undermining" a free and fair election. The State Department said it was banning an unspecified number of Tanzania government officials for what it called subversion of a democratic process in their country.

Amsterdam & Partners then lobbied various EU leaders to consider piling pressure on Tanzania, including reconsidering aid. The EU High Representative did agree that restrictive measures, or sanctions, are one of the tools used to enforce respect for good governance.

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