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Monday, November 8, 1999 Published at 15:08 GMT


UK Politics

Commonwealth countries face 'freedom test'

The heads of state from Commonwealth countries will meet this week

Four countries could face expulsion from the Commonwealth if new proposals for a membership criteria based on democracy and human rights are adopted.

The Daily Telegraph says a think tank, the Foreign Policy Centre, has put forward the proposals in a report which will be published at the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in South Africa this week.

It says Zimbabwe, Kenya, Zambia and Sri Lanka could be expelled if they do not improve the treatment of their citizens.

Independent think tank

The report is also alleged to question whether Prince Charles should take over from the Queen as the head of the Commonwealth and whether the organisation's headquarters should remain in London.


[ image: The report questions whether Charles should become head of the Commonwealth]
The report questions whether Charles should become head of the Commonwealth
The report has been prepared by the independent think tank whose president is Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and whose patron is Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The newspaper said the report had semi-official status because it had been written in consultation with the Commonwealth's own human rights advisers.

It also calls for a checklist of criteria for membership, which would oblige member countries to hold free and fair elections as well as respecting human rights, said the paper.

The Telegraph also said the report called for the Commonwealth to adopt new powers against countries that failed to live up to its standards, with the appointment of a "good governance commissioner" to police member states.

"It also includes a checklist of criteria for membership, which would oblige member countries to hold free and fair elections and to respect human rights, including freedom of expression, association and the press.

"Members would be expelled if they refused to maintain an independent judiciary, tackle corruption and promote civil society."

The report follows the Commonwealth's decision to suspended Pakistan after democracy ended in the country following last month's military coup.





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