|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
The ruling party is accused of intimidating the opposition
Shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram says Britain cannot "turn its back" on reports of rapes, murders and beatings in Zimbabwe.
He fears people have "lost sight of what is happening" in Zimbabwe, because attention has been concentrated on war with Iraq.
He raised the issue as it emerged that the Zimbabwe government has ordered a huge crackdown on opposition supporters, with hundreds of claims of beatings and torture.
I would like to see a resolution before the UN Security Council, preferably moved by Britain
One group of youngsters, appalled by what was being asked of them, have escaped to South Africa where they are now on the run living rough.
Mr Ancram warned that the more the world ignores what Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe is doing, "the more he is going to get away with it".
"Robert Mugabe said he was going to declare war on the opposition and that is precisely what he is doing," said Mr Ancram.
UK 'cannot turn its back' on Zimbabwe
"I hope the world will now begin to look at what Mugabe's doing to his own people.
"I would like to see the UN involved. The UN has said this is an internal matter and don't want to get involved.
"I don't believe it is internal. I think what we are seeing now is a crisis which is spreading beyond the borders of Zimbabwe. Refugees are pouring into Botswana into the north part of South Africa and also humanitarian crisis is not one that is going to be specifically restricted to Zimbabwe."
Mr Ancram told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I would like to see a resolution before the UN Security Council, preferably moved by Britain and I would like to see the whole question internationalised.
"I don't see how we can go on having no action."
I hope the world will now begin to look at what Mugabe's doing to his own people
"The UN cannot turn a blind eye to this, nor can South Africa which is beginning to be affected financially and politically by what is happening," he said.
"We cannot just walk by on the other side. Too many governments are trying to do that, including our own, and we really cannot let the people of Zimbabwe down that way.
"I would like to see us try to involve the UN. No real attempt has been made to do that."
Mr Ancram said he would like to see EU sanctions on Zimbabwe tightened up, assets frozen and travel restrictions on President Robert Mugabe and the families of "his henchmen" extended to the people that bankroll his regime.
He would also like to see a stronger use of the G8 rich countries' strategy for investing in Africa.
It's about Mugabe taking on his own people, declaring war on them and oppressing their civil rights, destroying law and destroying democracy
"We cannot turn our backs on this. We know Zimbabwe. We have had connections with Zimbabwe. This isn't just about kith and kin and white farmers.
"It's about Mugabe taking on his own people, declaring war on them and oppressing their civil rights, destroying law and destroying democracy. We cannot stand by and let that happen."
By Alastair Leithead
BBC, Johannesburg, South Africa
They are young Zimbabweans living rough in Johannesburg, on the run from the Zimbabwean secret service and the youth force commanders who taught them violence.
The green bombers are much feared
"We went to the farms and broke everything. We took livestock, machines and burned the houses. The children were raped, the small children. We raped the girls. We targeted white farmers and opposition politicians," said Themba Skhosana, who's 19.
In the last few weeks a massive government crackdown on the opposition Movement for Democratic Change has seen hundreds of supporters arrested, most held without charge and then released days later - many having been beaten and tortured.
Responsible for much of the violence is Zimbabwe's National Youth Service - what the government calls a peace corps designed to lift youngsters out of poverty, but what its former members describe as ruling Zanu-PF party military camps of teenagers being taught to beat, rape and kill.
"They used to give us beer and drugs and told us we were going to destroy farms. Also, people who were MDC were not allowed to buy food from the shops, but Zanu-PF were allowed food when they showed their card," said Andrew Moyo, also 19.
They took the urine from my kid and said: 'Drink it'
Patricia, MDC activist
Themba Ndlovu is 22, he said they were promised money, jobs and land, but instead they were forced to attack people and burn down farms - they received nothing and were told if they ran away they would be killed.
"We used crowbars and firearms," he said. "I have not killed, but I have raped. I raped a 12 year old girl. We have attacked people from the MDC party - many people. I need to change my life - that is why I ran away from Zimbabwe.
"It is too hard living on the streets in Johannesburg. The Zimbabwe Central Intelligence Officers are looking for us and if the South African police find us they will send us back.
"If I am taken back to Zimbabwe I will be assassinated, jailed or killed. Others have been taken back from South Africa and they have just disappeared."
The boys ran away from their camps and with help from friends and relatives illegally crossed into South Africa. It's not known how many have escaped, but their accounts paint a brutal picture of state-sponsored killing and violence.
Moses Mzila-Ndlovu is shadow foreign minister in Zimbabwe and an MDC MP - he says there has been widespread intimidation after a peaceful mass protest last month.
MP Moses Mzila-Ndlovu: People want their liberties back
"Whether Mugabe arrests us or not the people of Zimbabwe have become so confident and daring as to demand their civil liberties back, demand an end to this brutalisation, demand a restoration of the rule of law and to demand a legitimate government."
With the crisis taking place on Zimbabwe's doorstep and with President Thabo Mbeki currently chairing the African Union (AU), the emphasis has been put on South Africa and the region to take a harder line on Zimbabwe.
But President Mbeki said the AU "doesn't have a position on Zimbabwe". His official spokesman said he would comment on almost anything except Zimbabwe, and the department of foreign affairs also refused to be interviewed saying government policy has not changed.
That policy, in place for months now, is for "quiet diplomacy," but it doesn't appear to have had any effect on an increasing catalogue of violence and human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.