A United States-led attempt to impose United Nations (UN) sanctions against Zimbabwe failed when on Friday, 11 July, China and Russia, both permanent members of the UN Security Council, voted against a draft resolution that would have instituted a travel ban and asset freeze against President Robert Mugabe and thirteen senior government/security officials in connection with the election violence in Zimbabwe. Had it passed, the UN resolution would also have imposed an arms embargo on the country (UN doc. S/2008/447). In recent years the Security Council has moved away from broad economic sanctions because of their harmful effect on the civilian population.

The resolution would have determined, under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, that the situation in Zimbabwe posed a threat to international peace and security in the region. The US insisted that there should be no doubt that what was happening in Zimbabwe affected peace and security in the region. Both China’s and Russia’s ambassadors to the UN, however, stated that there was no mandate to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe because the present situation had not exceeded the context of domestic affairs. They also said they wanted to give the rival political parties a chance to resolve the election matter on their own terms without undue interference from the Security Council.

The draft resolution was backed by nine nations, the minimum for it to pass, but foundered on the vetoes of the two permanent members.

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