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Mr. Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife): Does the Foreign Secretary understand that welcome though the suspension is, for many of us it is overshadowed by an acute sense of disappointment that it became necessary and that Robert Mugabe would not respond to the moral authority of the Commonwealth and draw back from the actions that have ultimately precipitated the suspension? For many of us, welcome for the suspension is overshadowed by a profound anxiety for the ordinary people of Zimbabwe, both urban and rural, who now face the prospect of six years of ignominy and isolation, of corrupt military adventurism in the Congo, of economic mismanagement and even of food and energy shortages.
Does the Foreign Secretary agree that the decision taken by the troika establishes a new precedent for the Commonwealth and that it would be right now to consider the extent to which mechanisms of the Commonwealth should be adjusted so as to allow for suspension more easily if such circumstances were to arise in future? Some have considered that the proposals made by the high level
On the Commonwealth games, in which I should declare an historical interest if nothing else, may I remind the Foreign Secretary that on two occasions during the Conservative Government there was a mixture between sport and politics? The consequence for the 1986 Commonwealth games was a substantial boycott and the success of the games hung in the balance. That was because a view was taken of the political attitudes of the then Government. An even more salutary example was the effort of Mrs. Thatcher to persuade British competitors not to compete in the Moscow Olympic games. It is fair to say that her efforts received rather mixed results.
I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his remarks. I share his view that the decision of the Commonwealth troika and therefore of the Commonwealth, although welcome in itself, in context casts an acute sense of disappointment at the fact that the sanctions are necessary.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman talked about profound anxiety, and I should have responded to the point made by the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) about Morgan Tsvangirai. We have not had to call in the high commissioner from Zimbabwe to explain what we think about the arrest and subsequent charging of Morgan Tsvangirai with treason. One deals with opponents in a democracy by argument, not by arrest and pursuit of them on trumped-up charges. If those charges are pursued by Robert Mugabe, the international consequences for his Government in terms of isolation and, I suspect, greater sanctions, will be considerable. We remain very concerned about the position of Morgan Tsvangirai and other members of the opposition, but above all about those who are suffering daily the most acute violence in that country.
The right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) asked whether I agree that there should be a new precedent to widen the circumstances in which the Commonwealth could take such action. Personally, I think that that should happen. To those who think that Zimbabwe was not bothered about the result, I say that for a very long time, Dr. Stan Mudenge, the Foreign Minister of Zimbabwe, used to chair the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group. That is one reason why no action could be taken against Zimbabwe for such a long time, and would not have been taken even if the skills of the right hon. Member for Devizes had been brought into play.
Once Dr. Mudenge had vacated the chair, he argued for years, like the good barrack-room lawyer that he is, that CMAG and the Commonwealth had no right to suspend any country from the Councils of the Commonwealth except where a democratic regime had been overthrown in a violent coup d'etat. We managed to overcome that, but it is one reason why he refused the use of CMAG to
Donald Anderson (Swansea, East): My right hon. Friend has taken a consistent, firm and principled attitude throughout and, with the troika, deserves congratulations on a result that helps to salvage and maintain the credibility of the Commonwealth. Will he say a little more about the one-year suspension? It sounds a little difficult because, after all, it would be reviewed in any event, and it is extremely unlikely that there would be a rerun of the election during that period. Indeed, the actions of the Mugabe Government since the election have been very negative.
As the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) mentioned, part of the tragedy is that all the grand declarations of President Mbeki and other leaders on African renaissance and NEPAD are undermined by a picture of ill-governance and maltreatment of the opposition. That means that it will be increasingly difficult for private investors in a highly competitive world to look to Africa and provide the renaissance, through NEPAD, which we support.
Mr. Straw: I thank my right hon. Friend for his initial comments, and I agree that Zimbabwe has already had a terrible effect on not just its own economy but that of all countries in southern Africa, and investor confidence throughout the continent. That is one more reason why I believe that the decision taken on Tuesday by the leaders of two of the most important countries in Africa is so important. It draws a line between those who subscribe to principles of democracy, as the leaders of South Africa and Nigeria of course do, and those who follow a different, violent and undemocratic path. I very much hope that, notwithstanding that, NEPAD and the determination by democratic Africa and the international community to help Africa to rebuild its prosperity will continue. No one should be in any doubt about the damage that President Mugabe has already done and could continue to do.
My right hon. Friend asked about the time period. The Committee stated in paragraph 8 of its conclusions that the suspension will be for one year with immediate effect and that the issue will be revisited in 12 months' time, having regard to progress in Zimbabwe based on the Commonwealth Harare principles and reports from the Commonwealth Secretary-General. I take that to mean that the suspension will continue unless the Harare principles have meanwhile started to be properly observed and there has been a positive report from the Commonwealth Secretary-General.
Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): Although I of course welcome the suspension of Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth, that cannot be the end of the matter. Does the Secretary of State accept that we have a special interest as there are 40,000 UK passport holders in Zimbabwe? Does he agree that the time has come for us to explore with other Commonwealth states
Does the Secretary of State agree that, although the scale is different, Mr. Mugabe's policies of murder, arson, ethnic cleansing, intimidation and vote rigging have a great deal in common with those of Mr. Milosevic? Should we not explore ways in which Mr. Mugabe could be brought before a competent criminal court, so that if he is convicted, he spends his declining years not in Government house, to which he has no entitlement, but in premises that are equally secure but rather less accommodating?
Mr. Straw: I agree with the entirety of what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said. This is not the end of the matter, and we have a direct interest in what happens in Zimbabwe because at least 40,000 British citizens and their dependants are there. However, I am sure that I speak for the whole House when I say that even were those 40,000 British citizens not there, our concern about the humanitarian and economic disaster would be exactly the same, because it is a concern without regard to race, colour or citizenship.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is right that we must be indivisible and universal in applying principles of human rights and international crimes. There is a difference between what Milosevic did and what has happened in Zimbabwe under the ZANU-PF regime, but it is only a matter of degree. One reason why I am profoundly committed to the establishment of the International Criminal Court is that if we are to avoid a repetition of what has happened in Zimbabwe, as well as other disasters, it is hugely important that leaders do not get themselves into a position whereby they believe that they are wholly immune from any possibility of real sanction against their person, as well as their property, for their actions.
Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his approach in leaving open matters such as humanitarian aid in connection with HIV projects and the position that he has taken on sport. There is clearly a distinction between the people of Zimbabwe and the regime that has forced itself upon them. We need to target the regime as strongly as possible while doing whatever we can to assist the people. I commend that general approach to my right hon. Friend in respect of some of his other briefs.