LONDON – Queen Elizabeth II stripped Robert Mugabe of his ceremonial knighthood on Wednesday, revoking the honor amid new attempts to rebuke the president of Zimbabwe and express revulsion over human rights abuses in his country.
The highly unusual move was the most eye-catching of several steps, which included decisions to press for new European Union sanctions against Mugabe's regime, to ban Zimbabwe's cricket team from a tour of Britain, and a government warning that Britons should avoid all travel to the country engulfed in violence.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown pledged to name members of Mugabe's regime who are behind the intimidation of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change — and single them out for sanctions. But he promised new help for Zimbabwe if democracy returns.
The queen acted on the advice of Foreign Secretary David Miliband, whose office said Mugabe should have the honor revoked because of violence and intimidation ahead of Friday's presidential runoff.
Britain and the United States said they won't recognize the result after opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew, citing the risks to his supporters. Brown said Britain no longer recognizes Mugabe as Zimbabwe's legitimate leader.
Mugabe was made an honorary knight in Britain in 1994, when he was considered an anti-colonial hero.
Honorary knighthoods are conferred on people who are not British citizens but are recommended by the Foreign Office and approved by the queen. Only British recipients can use the title sir or dame.
"This action has been taken as a mark of revulsion at the abuse of human rights and abject disregard for the democratic process in Zimbabwe over which President Mugabe has presided," said a spokesman for the Foreign Office, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government policy.
Though rare, there is a precedent for the decision to revoke Mugabe's honor. The late Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu was stripped of his title in 1989 at the height of that nation's revolution.
On Wednesday, Brown told lawmakers that Britain is drafting new sanctions against specific individuals in Mugabe's government to present to the European Union to adopt and enforce.
"We are preparing intensified sanctions — financial and travel sanctions — against named members of the Mugabe regime," Brown said, during his weekly question and answer session at the House of Commons.
Britain's Foreign Office and a European Union list confirm that 131 individuals connected to Mugabe's regime are currently the subject of EU travel and financial sanctions, under EU measures drafted in 2002.
"We know the names of the criminal cabal that is trying to keep him in power, and we will name those individuals and these will be part of the next stage of the sanctions," Brown said.
Britain's Culture Secretary Andy Burnham banned Zimbabwe's cricket team Wednesday from the U.K. because of its close links to Mugabe.
The team was scheduled to play next June in cricket's Twenty20 World Cup in England. The team was also due to play England for two tests and three one-day matches.
After receiving a letter from Burnham, the England and Wales Cricket Board confirmed it will suspend all ties with Zimbabwe's cricket body.
"The close ties of the Zimbabwe cricket team to the Mugabe regime have also had a bearing on our decision," Burnham wrote in his letter. Mugabe is a longtime patron of Zimbabwe's cricket authorities.