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Promoting Democracy and Human Rights

Part of Points of Order – in the House of Commons at 5:15 pm on 13th October 2008.

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Photo of David Lidington David Lidington Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 5:15 pm, 13th October 2008

There are grounds for believing that Mugabe does fear the International Criminal Court, and it is one sanction that we should not take off the table. We should be prepared to contemplate it. Mugabe has had the opportunity in the agreement brokered by Thabo Mbeki to leave office or cede power with what I suppose in his eyes is a degree of honour. He seems to be determined to reject that opportunity, and to cling on to the last vestiges of power for as long as possible. It should be made clear to him that serious consequences could flow from that decision.

I want to say a few words about a broader challenge to human rights that is not restricted to one particular country: persecution on grounds of religion. Article 18 of the universal declaration asserts the freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Too often, that freedom is denied—sometimes by Governments and sometimes by extremist groups operating within a particular state. One could cite the persecution of the Bahai's in Iran, attacks on Christians in parts of Pakistan or the destruction of churches and the displacement of 50,000 refugees in the state of Orissa in India, but what should give us in Britain particular cause for concern is the discrimination against religious minorities, particularly Christians, in countries where British troops are serving to sustain democracy and human rights.

Afghanistan still seems, if certain high-profile cases are correctly reported, to have a legal system that condemns apostasy as a criminal act and will provide for the death penalty if someone is convicted of apostasy. In Iraq, there are persistent reports from the Nineveh plain—I appreciate that that is not the area where British troops have served—that there is little effective security, and that illegal annexation of land is taking place. What seems certain is that thousands of families of Christian belief have been displaced from their ancestral homes in that part of Iraq.