Chines lawyer on arbitration panel

The International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes has appointed Chinese commercial law expert, An Chen, to the arbitration panel in two court cases in which foreign investors are suing the Zimbabwean government for breaches of bilateral investment pacts.

President Bingu wa Mutharika
President Bingu wa Mutharika

Chen replaces Malawian lawyer, Peter Mutharika, who was forced to resign from the panel in June amid objections about his impartiality.

The foreign investors protested against Mutharika’s inclusion on the tribunal, questioning whether he was the right person to arbitrate in their cases against the Zimbabwe government given his indirect links to the Mugabe regime.

Mutharika is the young brother of Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika, a close ally of Mugabe.

The Chinese lawyer joins the three-member panel whose other members are Yves Fortier of Canada and New Zealand’s David Williams.

The arbitration tribunal was appointed by the Paris-based ICSID in December last year to consider the request of a German family that is contesting the seizure of its farms by the Zimbabwean government.

The von Pezold family sought assistance of the ICSID in July 2010 after its three farms were invaded by members of President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) in June.

The same tribunal is expected to hear another case in which Swiss-controlled Border Timbers is suing Zimbabwe for damages following the destruction of more than 7 000 hectares of timber plantations by marauding Zanu (PF) gangs in 2009.

In both cases, the investors argue that Mugabe failed to take appropriate action to protect their investments from the illegal land occupiers.

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