Written ministerial statement on Zimbabwe by the Foreign Secretary

Speaker: Written Statement by the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw

The Foreign Secretary, Rt Hon Jack Straw MP, today updated Parliament on the actions the British Government has taken following the March Parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe and the recent security crackdown there. The text of the Written Ministerial Statement is as follows:

'The most recent events in Zimbabwe are of grave concern. Zimbabweans are deprived of their democratic and human rights, facing the consequences of chronic economic misrule, and grappling with severe food shortages. Over the last three weeks the Mugabe regime has launched a brutal crackdown on some of the most vulnerable Zimbabweans, including inhabitants of urban shanty settlements and informal traders.

'Over 30,000 have been arrested, with over 40,000 households (approximately 200,000 people) affected with their homes and businesses callously destroyed. People suffering from AIDS are amongst the worst affected. Many chronically ill people have been driven from their homes. HIV prevention and home-based care programmes have been severely disrupted. We are also very concerned about the welfare of children. Infants have been forced to sleep outside in the middle of winter. There are also reports of children being detained in prison and separated from their parents. The crackdown continues to spread across the country to many urban and some rural areas. Armed police have swiftly crushed any resistance with teargas. This action has received widespread international condemnation. The UN's Special Representative on the Right to Adequate Housing called this 'a new form of apartheid'.

'In response, we have joined our EU partners in demanding that the Government of Zimbabwe end this crackdown, in a statement on 7 June. Our Ambassador in Harare has raised our strong concerns, directly to the Government of Zimbabwe, in meetings with the Vice President and the Minister of State for National Security. My Honourable Friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Lord Triesman) summoned the Zimbabwean Charge d'Affaires on 13 June to protest at the continuing human rights abuses under the ongoing crackdown. We remain in close contact with our EU partners, with whom I raised Zimbabwe at the 13 June General Affairs and External Relations Council. We also continue to work with other international partners to maximise the pressure on Zimbabwe to end this brutality and are discussing these and other human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, with neighbouring African states and regional African bodies.

'DFID are already responding to this man-made disaster, providing US$ 400,000 so far towards humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable mainly through the UN and International Organisation for Migration. A further contribution is imminent. To date, over 5,000 families have been reached with food, blankets, soap and other forms of assistance. Where appropriate transport and emergency water and sanitation has been provided.

'Since 2002 the European Union has imposed targeted sanctions on Zimbabwe; an arms embargo on the country and a travel ban and asset freeze on President Mugabe and leading regime figures. The EU's Common Position is kept under regular review. Together with our EU partners we have recently reassessed the situation in Zimbabwe following the March parliamentary elections. We agreed yesterday in the light of that assessment to extend the list of those regime figures caught by the travel ban and asset freeze, from 95 to 120 names. The new list includes all the senior members of the new government and politburo, and senior figures involved in manipulating the election.

'This decision emphasises the EU's continued concerns about the lack of democracy and respect for human rights and the rule of law that exists in Zimbabwe, and the failure of Mugabe and his regime to respond to international calls for reform.

'Her Majesty's Government will continue to work with the European Union and our other international partners to restore democratic governance, human rights and the rule of law to Zimbabwe.'