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Need to confront Mugabe at CHOGM


Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Media Statement

22nd August 2001

Need to confront Mugabe at CHOGM


Existing Commonwealth rules do not allow for the exclusion of President Mugabe from the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM) in Brisbane in October, said New Zealand's Foreign Minister, Phil Goff.

"Debarring President Mugabe from attending CHOGM on the basis of violations of civil rights and the rule of law does not appear possible under current Commonwealth rules.

"However having the President and his Foreign Minister at CHOGM offers the chance for Commonwealth leaders to confront the Zimbabwe Government for what is happening in that country.

"It is ironic that it was in Harare in 1991 that the Commonwealth countries including Zimbabwe agreed on the so-called 'Harare declaration' which binds all member countries. The declarations principles include fundamental values such as respect for democratic principles, the rule of law and equality of all people regardless of race, colour, creed or political belief.

"There is no doubt that President Mugabe's regime is acting in contempt of those principles.

"Violence and intimidation against all of those seen to oppose the government, black and white, has been widespread.

"The independence of the judiciary and the media, both core safeguards for democracy, have been blatantly undermined.

"Corruption and mismanagement has turned a once wealthy country into an economic and political disaster area.

"The Commonwealth must confront the Mugabe regime over this record and demand that the Harare principles are upheld.

"Such action would be welcomed by the majority of Zimbabweans who have been victims of this situation.

"President Mugabe must also be pushed to allow Commonwealth observers leading up to and at the Presidential elections scheduled next year. Such observers are necessary to ensure that the elections are free and fair and to give credibility to the outcome of those elections.

"The Commonwealth must also examine whether the sanction of suspension from membership should apply to countries seriously in breach of fundamental Commonwealth principles as well as against undemocratic and unconstitutional regimes which currently attract suspension.

"New Zealand's view is clearly that the regimes which do not comply with fundamental democratic principles should be suspended," Mr Goff said.

ENDS

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