The Registrar of the General Court of the European Union (EU), Mr Emmanuel Coulon, has served the Council of the European Union and the European Commission with papers to respond to the case in which Attorney-General Johannes Tomana and 120 others are suing the European bloc over sanctions.
The EU and the Commission have two months to respond to the case.
This comes after the Southern African state successfully regularised its submissions with the court.
This development seems to have jolted the EU as there are reports that the bloc is likely to suspend the sanctions later this month.
In a document seen by The Sunday Mail last week, the registrar acknowledged that Harare had regularised its application and also confirmed papers have already been dispatched to the defendants.
Part of the document, dated June 25, reads: “The Registrar of the General Court hereby acknowledges receipt of the regularisation of the application and confirms that that document has been served on the defendants.
“Under Article 46 (1) of the Rules of Procedure, a defence must be lodged within two months from the date of receipt of that document.
“In accordance with Article 46 (3) of the Rules of Procedure, that time limit may, in exceptional circumstances, be extended by the President on a reasoned application by the defendant. That reasoned application must be submitted in sufficient time before the expiry of the time limit.”
Attorney-General Mr Johannes Tomana yesterday said the development lays the foundation for a bruising legal battle against the EU.
“Obviously, this is a victory for us because it is an acceptance that the issues that we raised are genuine and are neither misleading nor arguments of fallacy,” he said.
“We have been handed the green light to throw these illegal sanctions right into the face of the EU.”
Mr Tomana, who is leading a team of legal experts tackling the sanctions issue, said the bloc faces a Herculean task in responding to the lawsuit because the sanctions have no legal basis.
“The loins have been girded; we are ready for battle. The EU will sweat over how they can defend themselves because we stand on solid ground. Our submissions
were that there was no legal basis for the sanctions and there are no justifications or firm reasons for including the individuals and entities on the list.
“The individuals and the entities that were placed under sanctions did not even get the chance to exercise their right of defence and this impinged on their rights.”
Mr Farai Mutamangira, a member of the legal team handling the lawsuit, said legal channels were more effective than dialogue.
“Dialogue does not bring results to the table. There have been several occasions where discussions have taken place, but this has not achieved the desired results.”
Mr Mutamangira said the EU would struggle to justify the sanctions.
“These developments at the court mean the EU will struggle to come up with a position and put up a plausible defence of the case. The reality is that they are likely to react by repealing the sanctions because they are not in a position to put up a plausible defence.”
A legal expert who is assisting in the case said the adoption of the legal team’s submissions has put EU nations under intense pressure to remove the embargo.
“Look, there have not been any fresh developments other than the litigation to warrant the EU to repeal the embargo. The political landscape in the country has not changed in the past four months. The only thing that has jolted them into action is the litigation.
“The burden of proof in relation to the allegations being levelled by the EU is simply impossible to discharge. To save themselves embarrassment, the easier route for them to take is to de-list all listed persons.”
The EU imposed sanctions on the country following a dispute between Zimbabwe and Britain over the land reform programme.
Harare later took the matter to the EU Tribunal, arguing the embargo was baseless.