Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 19th February 2008.

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Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield 2:30 pm, 19th February 2008

What recent assessment he has made of the political situation in Zimbabwe, with particular reference to the forthcoming elections.

Photo of David Miliband David Miliband Foreign Secretary

Zimbabwe is suffering from an economic, humanitarian and political crisis for which President Mugabe is directly responsible. Although the election has been declared for 29 March, the conditions for it are far from free and fair. We are pressing for effective international monitoring and for states in the region to require the election to meet international standards, including those adopted by the Southern African Development Community itself.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

The Foreign Secretary will be aware that the imminent elections in Zimbabwe are critical to the welfare and well-being not only of the country as a whole, but of its people. My support for Zimbabwe and for an African democratic solution to its problems is well known to the House. What steps is the Foreign Secretary taking to ensure that the elections are, in an African context, as free and fair as is acceptable to the civilised world?

Photo of David Miliband David Miliband Foreign Secretary

The hon. Gentleman's long record of standing up for democracy and the interests of the people of Zimbabwe is well known. I would point him in three directions. First, it has been important to emphasise that there is a humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe, which requires humanitarian action by the Department for International Development. Secondly, I would point at the support for the SADC movement, including in its election role. Thirdly, it is critical—not least given that there are 4 million refugees outside the country, which already calls into question the election processes and result—that we none the less support international demands from the European Union, the Commonwealth and elsewhere for proper observation missions that allow an on-the-ground assessment of how the election campaign and the election counting are conducted.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Shadow Minister (Defence)

Having served his sentence in Zimbabwe, my constituent, Mr. Simon Mann, has been illegally handed over by Zimbabwe to a dictator in Equatorial Guinea who has promised to sodomise him, skin him alive and drag him through the streets of the capital city. What steps can the Government take against Zimbabwe for the outrageous breach of my constituent's human rights when he was handed over before his appeal procedures were completed, and what assurance can there be for—

Photo of David Miliband David Miliband Foreign Secretary

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that our first priority is Mr. Mann's immediate welfare and the legal case against him. That is why we have put such emphasis on consular access, which has now been granted, and on making representations to the Government of Equatorial Guinea in the UK. I am pleased that we have received assurances from the Equatorial Guinean authorities that Mr. Mann will be treated well in detention. Obviously, we are monitoring that through continued consular access. A number of welfare points were raised during the visit of 12 February. We are taking them up and, within the limits of what we are allowed to disclose by Mr. Mann's family, I would be happy for the hon. Gentleman to see the explanations that we have received. He is right to raise both the humanitarian and the legal side of the case. Those are our current focus, and we can in due course turn to the role of the Government of Zimbabwe once Mr. Mann's future has been determined.