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Africa regional court rules white Zimbabwe farmers illegally deprived of land

[JURIST] The Namibia-based Southern African Development Community Tribunal [official website] on Friday ruled that 78 white Zimbabwe farmers whose land was seized by the Zimbabwe government under its farm redistribution program [JURIST report] were owed compensation and that the seizures were racially motivated, discriminatory and contrary to the treaty [DOC text] setting up the Southern African Development Community [official website]. The farmers, many of whom had been found guilty [JURIST report] in Zimbabwe courts for failing to obey state-sponsored eviction orders, had argued that that the program did not further a public purpose and that the government did not provide fair compensation within a reasonable time. Although Zimbabwe is one of 14 states party to the SADC treaty it has rejected the Tribunal's jurisdiction over this case and it is not expected to defer to the ruling. AP has more. From Zimbabwe, the Herald has local coverage.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] has been harshly criticized [Guardian report] for his farm program, which since 2000 has sought to redistribute white-owned land among the nation's indigenous farmers. In February 2006, the Zimbabwean land minister said that, following controversial constitutional reforms that took effect in 2005, there are no longer any white farmers operating legally in Zimbabwe [JURIST reports]. The government has appropriated some 4,000 farms through the program, and has traditionally argued that any compensation owed white farmers should be paid by the British government, Zimbabwe's former colonizer. Many observers attribute Zimbabwe's disastrous economic circumstances - including an inflation rate exceeding 231,000,000 percent [Guardian report] - to the policy, under which as previously productive farms have become barren under new inexperienced owners.

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