Zimbabwe: Sanctions

– in the House of Lords at 2:56 pm on 22nd July 2002.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Watson of Richmond Lord Watson of Richmond Liberal Democrat 2:56 pm, 22nd July 2002

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What success has been achieved in freezing the personal assets held abroad by Mr Mugabe and other leading members of his administration.

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, since the imposition of the EU asset freeze on 18th February we have frozen personal assets to the value of £76,000. This is a small sum, but it is not surprising given the advance media publicity before sanctions were imposed. The key point is that Europe's financial markets are now off limits to those on the banned list.

Photo of Lord Watson of Richmond Lord Watson of Richmond Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I am grateful for that reply. However, the Minister will be aware that additional names have today and over the past 24 hours been added to the original list by the EU. Do not these extra names and the extra measures announced reveal all too painfully that the earlier freezing of assets has entirely failed to deter Mr Mugabe and that much more pressure is now needed? Does the Minister agree that the earlier measures which have led to the freezing of £76,000—a tiny amount given the total assets involved—were clearly too little, too late? They were announced far too long in advance and assets were moved beyond reach by Zidco, ZANU-PF's trading company. Advice was received also from other advisers. As Mr Mugabe has not in the least been deterred, and as the situation in Zimbabwe continues to deteriorate, has not the moment clearly come for the international community to consider more direct action?

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, I do not agree with the noble Lord. I should perhaps clarify that the General Affairs Council is meeting now and will make a decision this afternoon on whether or not to extend the travel ban list. That decision has not yet been taken.

I do not agree with the noble Lord. It is clear that sanctions have worked. There is a general isolation of the ZANU-PF regime and we have built an international consensus that includes the Commonwealth, the European Union, the United States and others. That will continue to be our strategy. We need to work very closely with our African colleagues on this matter. We shall continue to do so and to keep up the international pressure on the Mugabe regime. But, as I have said in the House a number of times, it is obvious that we are dealing with a regime that cares nothing for its own people given the humanitarian, political and economic crisis that we are seeing.

Photo of Baroness Chalker of Wallasey Baroness Chalker of Wallasey Conservative

My Lords, will the Minister consider encouraging the Government and our partners in the EU and the Commonwealth to make greater use of independent investigators to investigate the funds which are held, often in nominee names, in banks and other financial institutions, not only in the developed world but in off-shore banking? This is not easy to do—it is not easy for Government's to do—but the use of independent investigators has much helped Nigeria to trace illicitly-taken funds. I believe that this would benefit the ordinary people of Zimbabwe, who urgently need this help.

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, I totally agree that the ordinary people of Zimbabwe need this help. They are facing a humanitarian crisis: up to half the population will require food aid by the end of the year. The situation means that farm workers will be thrown off farms, and will be out of a job. As regards independent investigators, I assure the noble Baroness that we are taking all the steps that we can.

Photo of Lord Blaker Lord Blaker Conservative

My Lords, will the Minister confirm that the NePAD agreement contains provisions—as does the new treaty on African union—for human rights observation and good governance by the member countries. It also contains provision for peer pressure to be brought to bear by member countries on defaulters. Is not this the best potential source of pressure on Mr Mugabe? Are the African member countries of those two organisations exerting such pressure?

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

Yes, my Lords, the AU and the NePAD communiques contain important elements relating to human rights, good governance and peer review. NePAD is an African-led initiative. It is an inclusive initiative, not an exclusive one. African leaders have made it clear that, through the peer review process, they want to encourage those countries that are poor performers to improve their governance considerably. Yes, it is up to African leaders to put pressure on other African leaders in relation to these elements.

Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Liberal Democrat

My Lords, will the Minister confirm that, as she indicated in a letter to me, the Zimbabwe authorities were allowed to import armoured cars from Germany for the exclusive use of Mr Mugabe and leading members of his regime? How did it happen that the assets that were used to pay for those expensive cars—at a cost of 250,000 dollars—were not confiscated by the Germans?

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, I have no idea where the assets came from to pay for the vehicles. I gave the noble Lord as open an answer as I could. I shall check again, but I do not think that I have any further information that can help him.

Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

My Lords, is the Minister aware that we welcome the indications that the General Affairs Council will agree tougher sanctions this afternoon—although as she rightly says, it has not reached a decision yet? It is belated, but it is better than nothing. Will the sanctions now cover not merely the funds of individuals but also the funds of ZANU-PF and its various subsidiaries held in British and other banks? Has the Minister anything to tell the House about the reports that very substantial land allocations have now been made of seized land to the Libyan authorities and to Colonel Gaddafi?

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, as I said, the General Affairs Council is meeting as we speak, so I am unable to give the noble Lord any further information with regard to any possible extension of the travel ban and the assets freeze. As to the question of land allocation to the Libyan authorities, I have no further information. If information becomes available, I shall happily write to the noble Lord.

Photo of Lord Elton Lord Elton Conservative

My Lords, on more than one occasion, I have heard the noble Baroness explain that, in spite of the travel ban, President Mugabe and some of his henchmen have been able to travel in order to attend international meetings of certain kinds. Should not that right be withdrawn and extended only to alternates attending on their behalf so that the effect of the ban becomes more widely real?

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, this is an international agreement. The EU common position on the travel ban states:

"Member states may grant exemptions from these measures where travel is justified on the grounds of attending meetings of international bodies".

This position is not new. It applies in other cases where, for example, heads of state face travel bans in respect of individual countries. It means that countries which host international organisations such as the UN are obliged to grant visas to enable individuals to attend such meetings. We do not like it, but that is the position.

Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

My Lords, I should be grateful if the noble Baroness would answer my question about ZANU-PF funds.

Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

My Lords, I asked whether the controls on assets held by individuals in Zimbabwe apply also to the funds of ZANU-PF, which are held in British and other overseas banks.

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, the current travel ban and assets freeze apply to the 19 named individuals. As I said, I cannot comment on a decision which is currently being taken by the General Affairs Council.

Photo of Lord Watson of Richmond Lord Watson of Richmond Liberal Democrat

My Lords, will the Minister agree to return to this House at a later stage with more details about the activities of Zidco, the trading arm of ZANU-PF—currently registered, I believe, in Liberia—and also with details of advice that has been given in the past to Zidco by companies which have been managed out of Guernsey?

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, as the House knows, if I am asked a specific question, I am always prepared to answer it.