Would you invite a man who says “let me be a Hitler tenfold” to a special event?

I’ve blogged several times this year about reasons for optimism as the international reach of justice extends to catch more and more people accused of horrific widespread human rights abuses in countries around the world.

But then there are events like this:

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe landed in Rome on Saturday to attend the beatification of late pope John Paul II at the Vatican … [He] obtained a special exemption from a European Union travel ban.

Nothing quite like marking the beatification of someone by making special arrangements to let a dictator responsible for widespread murders, torture of journalists who have tried to investigate him, the unprovoked invasion of a neighbouring country and more attend is there?

And as for his views on Hitler:

Robert MugabeThis Hitler has only one objective: justice for his people, sovereignty for his people, recognition of the independence of his people and their rights over their resources. If that is Hitler, then let me be a Hitler tenfold.

Not exactly a fitting guest or a fitting person to waive travel restrictions for.

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17 Comments

  • Foregone Conclusion 1st May '11 - 9:23am

    If I remember correctly, they waived the restriction for Pope John Paul II’s funeral as well. I think that there may be something in the Lateran Treaty that founded the Vatican State that requires free access.

  • Sadly the British Government may struggle to speak out on this thanks to the dubious guestlist at the Royal Wedding.

  • Simon McGrath 1st May '11 - 11:17am

    Mark , the headline of the piece is misleading. This is what the BBC says:
    “A Vatican spokesman said Mr Mugabe had not been personally invited but as the head of a state with which the Vatican has relations he was entitled to attend.”

    Not quite the same.

  • Mark Pack

    I didn’t realise there was a scale of evilness! Mugabe is pretty vicious but there are Saudis and Bahrainians who would testify that their Governments are also repressive and torture/kill people. We have to invite these people because of protocol!!!! Wasn’t the Ambassador of Bahrain part of the special security services there which do not have a good rep!

    Sounds a little bit hypocritical to me.

    Also, all the monarchists say it is a private wedding as an excuse why the only living Labour PMs were not invited but all the Tories were – so then it must have been a private decision to invite these excuses for barbarism as well.

    Why is it the Lib Dems have become apologists for Government hypocrisy – if you were in opposition you would be saying the same thing!

  • Mark Pack

    Can you comment on my last point that your party would having being the same as us if it was not part of the Government

    Zimbabwe is awful and Mugabe a tyrant but he is also probably worse than Gaddaffi as well but we are not bombing him are we? Also he cannot be that bad as the Ambassador of Zimbabwe was invited I believe

    Can you bring yourself to say that this was a disgraceful affront to democracy by the Royal Family and/or Government to have these people attending a supposedly ‘private’ wedding event or can you not do that?

  • @Mark Pack,

    I think the Saudis probably come close, and the list of non-democratic regimes represented was insulting to every democrat in the audience. Of course one expects the Royal Family to have a fondness for non-democratic states, but somebody in government should have had a quiet word and a bolshy minister spoken out. It’s really quite telling that the only Labour and Lib Dem representation at the wedding was that of the respective Leaders, who had to be invited out of protocl. Someone not invited and independently minded should have used the opportunity to speak out.

  • Old Codger Chris 1st May '11 - 1:53pm

    Governments are often in the position of inviting unsavoury characters on state visits and to state occasions.

    It might be thought that a religion can – and should – be more choosy. But this is the price the Vatican pays for its laughable status as an independent nation state with a seat at the UN, foreign diplomats etc etc.

    I’m surprised that Mecca and Salt Lake City aren’t demanding recognition as independent nations. Or perhaps they are?

  • Paul McKeown 1st May '11 - 9:57pm

    “a seat at the UN”

    The Holy See has permanent observer status at the United Nations, it has never requested full membership and as an observer may not vote at the General Assembly. It does participate in some of the United Nations agencies.

  • Old Codger Chris 2nd May '11 - 9:52am

    @Paul McKeown
    I stand corrected.

    But judging by Archbishop Nichols’s comment that “the Vatican has not broken off diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe” I assume that this is the reason – not Mugabe’s supposed Catholicism – why he was invited. I still don’t understand why the Holy See is given an international status not granted to any other religion, purely because it once, long ago, governed the Papal States.

  • Mark Pack

    Have you abandoned this discussion as soon as it gets a bit difficult?

    You criticise the Vatican (rightly) for inviting Mugabe but there is no comment at all on the fact that the ambassadors of both Zimbabwe and North Korea were invited to the private ceremony of the Heir Presumptive of our throne.

    The fact that neither is believed to be a close friend of the bride and groom gives a lie to the ‘private’ wedding explanation for not inviting Blair and Brown (and very few LD as well but plenty of Tories) and suggests the Government in the shape of the FCO has okayed this.

    To not criticise these decisions a (notwithstanding the Saudis and the Bahranians attendance) suggests that your party has lost all its teeth and descended into the hypocrisy we see from the other two parties

    Shame on you!

  • @Alec Macph

    Given that the invites to various political representatives was decided by protocol rather than Government intercession – hence why Blair and Brown weren’t invited [1] – I don’t see what relevance this has.

    Now, what d’you think about Mugabe?

    I think it’s an outrage, and I expected suitable comment from a government figure. I also think that such comment would raise serious questions about the absence of such comment relating to invitations to the Royal Wedding.

  • Mark Pack

    A representative of Mugabe’s Government was invited!!!! As was a representative of North Korea!!! I find your answer very weak.

    Shall I make it simple for you

    Should the UK Government have allowed the Royal Family to invite representatives of some of the most despotic régimes on Earth to a supposedly private celebration?

    If the answer is No then why are the LD in Government or their supporters like you not kicking up a fuss. We see enough comments about how the non-invitation of a couple of ex-Prime Ministers was acceptable as they ‘ruined the economy’ or are ‘war criminals’ but very little on who was actually invited

  • Old Codger Chris 4th May '11 - 10:35am

    @bazsc
    “Should the UK Government have allowed the Royal Family to invite representatives of some of the most despotic régimes on Earth to a supposedly private celebration?”

    I suspect that the political and diplomatic invitees were at the “suggestion” of the PM and his Civil Service advisors rather than the Royals. I shouldn’t think the Queen is very keen on Zimbabwe’s regime.

    Having said that, it has been suggested elsewhere that the Royals loath Blair so much that they refused to invite him at any price. If so, I can see their point. Presumably Knights of the Garter have to be invited, hence the embarassment of inviting Tory ex-PMs while snubbing Labour. Yet another example of poor Gordon – who I suspect was making a half decent fist of the top job – losing out because of the ghastly Blair.

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