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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Denis MacShane): My right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary discussed Zimbabwe with leaders of the Commonwealth, including John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia, at meetings last week.
Mr. Wilkinson: Are not the continued lawlessness and brutal behaviour of the ZANU-PF thugs whom Robert Mugabe controls testimony to the dithering diplomacy of this Government and the utter failure of their so-called ethical foreign policy to bring about democratic change in Zimbabwe? Would not Her Majesty's Government be better using their time in supporting the interests of British
I might draw some comparisons with the constant support for the apartheid regime of South Africa given by the Conservative party when it was in government, and contrast that support with the international coalition encompassing the Commonwealth, the European Union and the United States, which has put a diplomatic ring around Zimbabwe in terms of sanctions, the travel ban and support for democratic forces there. This Government can be proud of the international coalition that they have put together to put effective pressure on Zimbabwe, in contrast with the Conservative party's love affair with the apartheid regime in South Africa.
Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley): My hon. Friend will recognise that not only the political system but the economy in Zimbabwe is in a critical situation. What assessment has been made of the possible effect on the population of that poor country if sanctions are to apply in any rigid way? We certainly do not want it to be the people of that country who suffer as a result of their Government.
Mr. MacShane: My hon. Friend makes a very important point, which explains why the sanctions are carefully targeted at the elite of Zimbabwe and their interests overseas. Humanitarian and other aid still flows to Zimbabwe, but it is distributed not by the Government of the undemocratic Mugabe regime but by responsible non-governmental organisations.
Mr. MacShane: I have already mentioned the travel ban, other sanctions involving trade and commerce, the ban on any bilateral contacts with Zimbabwe and the financial sanctions imposed on the Zimbabwe elite. As I said, they encompass not only this country but the United States, other Commonwealth countries and the European Union. Yesterday, New Zealand imposed similar sanctions on Zimbabwe, and at the General Affairs Council meeting yesterday it was decided that there would be a moratorium on bilateral ministerial contacts with Zimbabwe. So the pressure is mounting steadily, but it is aimed at the elite, not at the suffering people of Zimbabwe.
Ms Oona King (Bethnal Green and Bow): Does the Minister agree that the decision of the Commonwealth troika, including Presidents Obasanjo of Nigeria and Mbeki of South Africa, to suspend Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth following the appalling human rights abuses that went on there in the run-up to the general election shows that Africans are starting to put their house in order with regard to NEPAD, the New Partnership for Africa's Development? Will he assure me that we will start to put our house in order by securing significant extra
Mr. MacShane: As my hon. Friend says, one of the heartening aspects of the Zimbabwe crisis has been the leadership on offer from Africa. It is Africans who have made it clear to Mr. Mugabe that his regime is unacceptable. I am pleased that it is this Government who have increased overseas aid by 45 per cent., that it is my right hon. Friend the Chancellor who has put forward proposals for a $50 billion development fund and that it is our Prime Minister who is taking the lead internationally in arguing against the agricultural protectionism that does so much damage to the export hopes of the poor farmers and peasants of Africa.
Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield): Does the Minister agree that it is important that the growing crisis in Zimbabwe is not driven on to the back burner because of the crisis in the middle east and other problems in the world? Does he accept that the harassment, killing and other problems that arose during the election campaign have worsened since the election there? Will the Government ensure that the Commonwealth and the civilised world seek to bring stability to Zimbabwe, which remains a country with as great a potential as that of any in Africa? We want to help the people and to get rid of the Government.
Mr. MacShane: The hon. Gentleman's commitment and courage on this issue during the 1980s is well known to the House. If there is one overwhelming case for regime change in the world, it is in Zimbabwe. The new focus on Africa, led by the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, will be discussed at the G8 summit in Canada, then at the world summit on sustainable development in Johannesburg later this summer, and Zimbabwe will be a key element in those discussions.
The hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to the continuing oppression of human rights. Speaking as a former journalist, I have to say that the arrest and detention of Geoff Nyrota, the very brave editor of the "Zimbabwe Daily News" is the latest in a long list of cases of unacceptable harassment of the media. It adds to the other crimes for which Mugabe and ZANU-PF are responsible.
Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend): Given the virtually universal condemnation of the completely unfair and non-democratic manner in which the elections were run, and the chaos that has followed, with 70 per cent. unemployment and 116 per cent. inflation, what steps are the Government taking to bolster the democratic process in other parts of Africasuch as Sierra Leone, where elections take place on 14 Mayand what steps are being taken to help the benighted population of Zimbabwe who are suffering from Mugabe's misrule?
Mr. MacShane: We continue to support all the democratic forces in Zimbabwe. The Westminster Foundation for Democracy does excellent work in promoting democracy in other parts of Africa, as do the Department for International Development and the Foreign Office through its conflict prevention fund.
Is not it a matter of grave concern to the Government that despite all the brave words that we have heard from the Dispatch Box, since the election the situation in Zimbabwe has worsened and Mugabe has got stronger, not weaker? Is not it of particular concern that these acts are increasingly being targeted at members of the opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change, and their families? There were 205 separate incidents of torture against them in the last week of March and their children are being violently and deliberately denied much-needed food aid. Does the Minister agree that the only acceptable way forward is to have a rerun of the presidential elections on a fair and scrutinised basis? What are the Government doing to bring that about?
Mr. MacShane: I am tempted to send the right hon. Gentleman to Harare to persuade Mr. Mugabe to have free and fair elections. Of course the entire international community wants proper, fair elections in Zimbabwe. The right hon. Gentleman will soon celebrate his first year in his present office, yet he has not put forward one concrete proposal for solving any of Zimbabwe's problems. The Government put together the international coalition, took the lead on sanctions and helped to persuade Commonwealth leaders to suspend Zimbabwe from the councils of the Commonwealth. Working multilaterally with our partners in the United States, the Commonwealth and Europe is the way forward. That, not hot air and waffle at the Dispatch Box, is the way to get democracy in Zimbabwe.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): The international coalition remains strong. Governments all over the world have taken steps in compliance with United Nations resolution 1373 to tackle terrorism. Afghanistan has been liberated from the Taliban and much of the al-Qaeda network has been destroyed. However, all Governments can and should do more to address terrorism and the conditions that cause it.
Ms Prentice: During his visit to the middle east, is Secretary of State Powell not only holding discussions about the disaster between Israel and Palestine, but reminding our coalition partners of their responsibility to tackle international terrorism?
Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk): Does the Minister agree that although the IRA is officially on ceasefire, it continues to represent an international terrorist threat? One has only to consider what happened in Colombia and elsewhere. Will the hon. Gentleman speak to his counterpart in America to ensure that the IRA is fully proscribed there?
Mr. Bradshaw: The IRA remains a proscribed organisation under section 2 of the Terrorism Act 2000. Since 11 September, we have received excellent co-operation from the United States authorities on the matter, and we expect that to continue.
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North): What quantity of depleted-uranium weapons were used in the conflict in Afghanistan by British or American forces? What is the latest estimate of the number of civilians who died during the bombing campaign?
Mr. Bradshaw: I am not aware of any depleted uranium used by British forces in Afghanistan. I cannot speak on behalf of another country. My hon. Friend should treat with extreme caution the claims of civilian casualties made by the Taliban, whose unreliability was shown throughout the campaign. They tried to weave a tissue of lies in their press conferences in Pakistan.
Mr. David Chidgey (Eastleigh): Does the Minister agree that the horrific events that are unfolding in Jenin seriously threaten the continued existence of the coalition against terrorism? Does he further agree that one of the first actions of the International Criminal Court should be to launch a full investigation into possible war crimes in that territory and bring the perpetrators to justice?
Mr. Bradshaw: I am sorry to tell the hon. Gentleman that the International Criminal Court does not operate retrospectively and it will therefore not be able to take the action that he would like. However, I agree that recent action by the Israeli defence force in the occupied territories has been unhelpful in the global campaign against terrorism. We share the hon. Gentleman's anxiety about the worrying reports from Jenin and expect the Israeli Government to grant immediate access to all international non-governmental organisations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, so that a full investigation can take place. We shall have to wait and see about any action after that.
Mr. Jim Cousins (Newcastle upon Tyne, Central): May I remind my hon. Friend that, arising out of coalition action in Afghanistan, a handful of British citizens have been detained for many weeks in Camp X-ray in Cuba by one of our coalition partners? Their status has not been determined, no charges have been brought and there seems no prospect of a trial with any jurisdiction that we
Mr. Bradshaw: I accept some of what my hon. Friend says, but he should not forget that the detainees could face extremely serious charges. He is wrong to suggest that the Americans have not defined their status; they have. On two visits to Guantanamo Bay by British officials, they were perfectly satisfied that the detainees were being treated in accordance with international human rights norms.
Mr. Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton): Following the answer that the Minister gave a moment ago, what is his latest assessment of the locations to which al-Qaeda terrorists might now have dispersed? In particular, given that Yemen is probably one of the easiest countries in which such people can hide, what discussions has he had with the United States about the co-operation being given to the international coalition by President Ali Abdullah Saleh?
Mr. Bradshaw: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Although we have had a great deal of success in destroying the al-Qaeda network in Afghanistan, we are still extremely worried about the networks that persist in parts of Afghanistan, across the border in Pakistan and in a number of other countries including Yemen and Somalia. We are satisfied with the co-operation that we have been receiving from the Yemeni Government. Indeed, many Governments around the world have got their act together in the wake of 11 September, and are doing extremely important work to counter the terrorism threat.
Mr. Clive Betts (Sheffield, Attercliffe): Would my hon. Friend like to reflect on the likely reaction of our Arab friends in the international coalition when they see American Secretary of State Colin Powell delaying a meeting with Chairman Arafat because of one suicide bombing, which, regrettably, killed six people, while on the same day sharing a platform with Prime Minister Sharon at the same time as Israeli troops were in the refugee camps murdering hundreds of people? If we are going to hold this international coalition together, must we not be clear that we condemn Israeli state terrorism just as strongly as we condemn suicide bombing?
Mr. Bradshaw: I have to tell my hon. Friend that there is no such thing as state terrorism. [Hon. Members: "Rubbish!"] In international law, there is no such thing. I have already told my hon. Friend that we are extremely concerned about reports of what went on in Jenin, but he is wrong to be critical of Colin Powell's mission. That mission should be welcomed on both sides of the House as a vital and timely contribution to a peace process in the middle east that we should all support.
Mr. Bradshaw: The whole international community, led by the United Nations, has made specific demands on Iraq for it to comply with its obligations under numerous UN resolutions, when it was in breach of the ceasefire agreement reached after the Gulf war. I am not going to speculate on which nations might be willing to take possible military action, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that they all feel as strongly as we do about the need for Iraq to comply.