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Bishop Muzorewa: Detention

Volume 448: debated on Monday 20 February 1984

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2.42 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are aware that Bishop Muzorewa has now been held in prison without charge for four months, and that it is alleged that at least three months of this detention have been contrary to the laws of Zimbabwe; and whether as fellow members of the Commonwealth they will make representations.

My Lords, Bishop Muzorewa's appeal has now been heard by the review tribunal, and the Zimbabwe Government have said that they will abide by its decision. The Zimbabwean authorities are aware of public concern in this country.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for a welcome answer.

My Lords, can the noble Baroness indicate when the result of the review tribunal is expected? Would she not agree that keeping anyone in custody for this length of time is contrary to normal practice and is to be deprecated? Further, would the noble Baroness not agree that it would certainly increase confidence in the Zimbabwe Government if Bishop Muzorewa was either charged and tried or set free?

My Lords, the noble Lord asked how long it will be before a decision is made. Of course, that is not a matter for us. The tribunal reports direct to the Zimbabwe Government; and, as I indicated in my original Answer to the noble Lord, Lord Paget of Northampton, the Zimbabwean authorities are aware of the public concern in this country.

My Lords, may I join in the welcome to the latest development in this unhappy saga? Do not the events leading up to it reinforce the plea which I made in last Wednesday's debate in this House for a British Government initiative to our Commonwealth partners to examine the possibility of strengthening the structure of the Commonwealth so as to make more effective the support for human rights and the maintenance of the rule of law? Will my noble friend the Minister urge this course upon her Government colleagues?

My Lords, I listened with great interest to what my noble friend said in the debate last Wednesday, and of course it has been seen by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. In the present circumstances, it would be wiser to say nothing more than I have already indicated in the House, in the interests of our relationship with Zimbabwe, and the interests of Bishop Muzorewa in particular.

My Lords, has the hearing before the review tribunal finished; and, if so, when?

My Lords, as I indicated in my Answer to the Question, the appeal has been heard by the review tribunal and we do not know when the answer will be given; but it is a matter that is reported to the Zimbabwe Government.

My Lords, I do not have the actual date when it finished. We do know that it has been heard.

My Lords, would the noble Baroness consider the possibility of the Government taking the initiative in order to get an international convention for human rights, in view of the fact that a United Nations survey shows that 70 countries are denying human rights—unfortunately, many of them our western allies?

My Lords, I think that the noble Lord's supplementary question is very far wide of the Question on the Order Paper.

My Lords, is it not true that any country is entitled to make its own laws? Is it not true that it is usually considered by countries that their own laws are good laws? When a country breaks its own laws, is it not pointing the finger of scorn at itself?

My Lords, I can confirm that what the Zimbabwe Government are doing is not unconstitutional and is not illegal.