Commonwealth Summit: Clampdown on human rights abuse regimes New guidelines to get tough on rights abuses

THE COMMONWEALTH is expected to approve proposals this weekend to give its trouble-shooters more teeth to act against governments that violate human rights.

Speaking before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Durban, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, the secretary general, said it intended to become more active in dealing with human rights abuses and suppression of minority rights in member states.

The summit would discuss guidelines enabling the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group to intervene more decisively in countries that do not conform to the organisation's democratic principles. Up to now, the group's mandate has been restricted to military regimes. If the new guidelines are accepted, they would enable the body to intervene in countries with civilian regimes but poor human rights records, such as Zimbabwe, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Zambia. The proposals are to be presented to an executive session of heads of government meeting today.

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group was established in 1995 as a response to the military coup in Nigeria. It has since also intervened in Gambia and Sierra Leone after military coups.