- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 4, 2002

HARARE, Zimbabwe A U.S. federal magistrate in New York has recommended that Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's ruling party pay $73 million in compensation for several cases of political killings and torture, a lawyer for the victims said this week.
Magistrate James Francis said in the 32-page finding on Tuesday that Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF should pay $20 million in compensatory damages and $53 million in punitive damages, one of the beneficiaries, Elliot Pfebve, told AFP in Harare.
U.S. federal Judge Victor Marrero must review the recommendation, which he can accept or alter. He can also set out how Mr. Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) would pay the damages.
Lawyer Mary Ellen Callahan of the Washington law firm of Hogan and Hartson LLP said Judge Marrero's decision should come down within 10 days.
Relatives of three Zimbabweans who were killed and a political opponent who says she was beaten before Zimbabwe's parliamentary elections in March 2000 sued Mr. Mugabe in a U.S. District Court under the 212-year-old Alien Tort Claims Act.
The law allows nationals of other countries to file civil suits in U.S. courts for injuries suffered in violation of international law, although it is rare to collect judgments in such cases.
"It's not so much so for the money, but morally that ruling gives hope for Zimbabwe, that after all the international community is aware of what is happening in Zimbabwe," Mr. Pfebve said.
"After all, if the laws of Zimbabwe cannot protect its citizens, there are laws, like the law in the U.S., that people can use to realize justice."
Property or other assets held by Mr. Mugabe and other party officials in the United States could be seized. The plaintiffs could also turn to courts in other countries to ask that they seize assets to comply with the ruling.
No Zimbabwean official contested the suit, and the government in Harare at one point denied the case's existence. Several Zimbabwean journalists have been charged with criminal defamation for reporting on the lawsuit.
The U.S. government had argued before the court that Mr. Mugabe should have immunity as a head of state, but Judge Marrero ruled last year that ZANU-PF could be held liable for damages, and that Mr. Mugabe, being ZANU-PF's first secretary, was not immune from being served with the legal complaint.
Mr. Mugabe was served with notice of the lawsuit in 2000, when he attended the U.N. millennium summit. He had left the U.N. headquarters to give a political speech in Harlem when the paper were presented to him.
The United States already has imposed sanctions on Mr. Mugabe and his inner circle over human-rights abuses and vote fraud during the 2000 election.

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