HC Deb 21 January 2003 vol 398 cc158-9
6. Mr. Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight)

If he will make a statement on action by the international community to combat genocide. [91785]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Bill Rammell)

To combat genocide, the international community has drawn up a UN convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide and included provisions for jurisdiction over the crime of genocide in the statutes of both the international criminal tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia and in the statute of the International Criminal Court.

Mr. Turner

I am obliged to the Minister for that answer. The Prime Minister has wept over Africa and promised never again to stand by while genocide is perpetrated in that continent. Is he aware that the Save Zimbabwe campaign says: We believe Mugabe is preparing for politicide (political mass killings) and even genocide—which will impact on all ethnic groups perceived not to be ZANU-PF supporters"? The vice-president declares that whites are not human beings and the President refers to the Opposition as "weeds". He has called on ZANU-PF to go and uproot the weeds from your garden". What effective steps is the Under-Secretary taking—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The question is far too long. Perhaps the Under-Secretary has got the message.

Mr. Rammell

I have, Mr. Speaker. I understand the sentiment behind the hon. Gentleman's question. The situation in Zimbabwe is appalling, with 60 deaths and 1,000 cases of torture in the past year. However, the ICC statute defines genocide as being committed against a national, ethnic, racial or religious grouping. It is not clear that that applies in Zimbabwe, where the actions, however reprehensible, are targeted at a political grouping and not some of the other categories that I described. Nevertheless, we shall continue to do everything in our power to put pressure on the Government of Zimbabwe to stop the appalling actions that are taking place.

Mr. Tom Clarke (Coatbridge and Chryston)

Does my hon. Friend share my anxiety about the deteriorating position in the Democratic Republic of the Congo? Does he agree that the lesson of Rwanda is that the role of the international community is paramount in preventing genocide and dispensing justice?

Mr. Rammell

I share my right hon. Friend's anxiety. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary discussed the matter with Kofi Annan at the United Nations yesterday. We need to maintain the pressure.

Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes)

What attempts have the Government made to raise genocide in Zimbabwe at the United Nations, to secure a resolution to bring meaningful pressure to bear on that country to hold fresh elections or at least to put United Nations observers on the ground to monitor food distribution? Why are the human rights of the peoples of the Balkans and Iraq apparently more valuable than those of millions of persecuted people in Zimbabwe, who look to the Government to take a lead? When will the Government grasp the nettle and act?

Mr. Rammell

I am conscious that the right hon. Gentleman tries to make political capital out of the issue. However, our international partners will confirm that we regularly raise Zimbabwe because of our anxiety about the position there. To suggest that we can get an international agreement on genocide leads us down a path of no sustainable action. We take the issue seriously and we are trying to resolve it.

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