MAC: Mines and Communities

"Torture camp " discovered in Zimbabwe's Marange diamond fields

Published by MAC on 2011-08-23
Source: BBC, SW Africa Radio (2011-08-10)

European Union still set to resume imports

Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party continues  denying compelling evidence - including the recent discovery of an alleged "torture camp" - that grave human rights abuses are  being committed in the Marange diamond fields. See: Zimbabwe "blood diamonds" slip through Watchdog's net

Meanwhile, the European Union proposes to allow imports of diamonds from two of the Marange mines - a move strongly criticised by Global Witness.

"It is the latest in a series of deals that have cast aside the principle of exports for progress and pandered to the demands of the Zimbabwean government", says the UK-based NGO.

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Marange diamond field: Zimbabwe torture camp discovered

By Hilary Andersson

BBC Panorama

8 August 2011

A torture camp run by Zimbabwe's security forces is operating in the country's rich Marange diamond fields, BBC Panorama has found.

The programme heard from recent victims who told of severe beatings and sexual assault.

The claims come as the European Union pushes to let some banned diamonds from the country led by President Robert Mugabe back onto world markets.

The Zimbabwean government has not responded to the BBC's findings.

In an internal document seen by the BBC, the EU said it was confident that two mines in the area now meet international standards and it wants diamonds from those areas to be immediately approved for export, which would partially lift a trade ban dating back to 2009.

The ban was imposed by the Kimberley Process (KP), the international organisation that polices diamonds, following reports of large-scale killings and abuse by Zimbabwe's security forces in the Marange diamond fields.

'Forty whips'

The main torture camp uncovered by the programme is known locally as "Diamond Base". Witnesses said it is a remote collection of military tents, with an outdoor razor wire enclosure where the prisoners are kept.

It is near an area known as Zengeni in Marange, said to be one of the world's most significant diamond fields. The camp is about one mile from the main Mbada mine that the EU wants to approve exports from.

The company that runs the mine is headed by a personal friend of President Mugabe. A second camp is located in nearby Muchena.

"It is the place of torture where sometimes miners are unable to walk on account of the beatings," a victim who was released from the main camp in February told the BBC.

All the released prisoners the BBC spoke to requested anonymity.

"They beat us 40 whips in the morning, 40 in the afternoon and 40 in the evening," said the man, who still could not use one of his arms after the beatings and could barely walk.

"They used logs to beat me here, under my feet, as I lay on the ground. They also used stones to beat my ankles."

Former paramilitary police on torture techniques used

He and other former captives said men are held in the camp for several days at a time, before new prisoners come in.

Women are released more quickly, often after being raped, witnesses said.

"Even if someone dies there, the soldiers do not disclose, because they do not want it known," an officer in Zimbabwe's military told the BBC, again on condition of anonymity.

Witnesses said the camps have been operating for at least three years.

In Marange, the police and military recruit civilians to illegally dig for diamonds for them. Those workers are taken to the camps for punishment if they demand too large a share of the profits.

Civilians caught mining for themselves are also punished in the camps.

Dog maulings

A former member of a paramilitary police unit who worked in the main camp in late 2008 told the BBC that at the time he tortured prisoners by mock-drowning them and whipping them on their genitals.

He also said that dogs were methodically ordered by a handler to maul prisoners.

"They would handcuff the prisoner, they would unleash the dogs so that he can bite," he said. "There was a lot of screaming".

He said one woman was bitten on the breast by the dogs whilst he was working in the camp.
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"I do not think she survived," he said.

Another witness the BBC spoke to said he was locked up in Muchena camp in 2008 after police set dogs on him.

He was recaptured in November 2010.

"Nothing has changed between 2008 and 2010... a lot of people are still being beaten or bitten by dogs."

'Pandering'

Marange diamonds were banned in 2009 by the KP, the international initiative of the diamond industry, national governments and non-governmental organisations that attempts to keep conflict or so-called "blood" diamonds out of the lucrative market.

Representatives of the KP visited the area briefly in August 2010 and concluded that the situation in the diamond areas was still problematic but there had been significant progress.

The KP had previously requested that the Zimbabwean police secure the diamond area.

Witnesses told the BBC that it is Zimbabwe's police and military that run the torture camps.

Nick Westcott, spokesman for the Working Group on Monitoring of the KP, said of the BBC's discovery of the torture camps: "It is not something that has been notified to the Kimberley Process."

The EU's proposal to allow diamond sales from two key mines in Marange to resume is part of an attempt to broker a deal within the KP, which is in turmoil over the issue.

In June, KP chairman Matieu Yamba formally announced that the export ban on the two key Marange mines was lifted with immediate effect. The EU, among others, did not accept his decision.

Now the EU's proposal, designed to break the deadlock, agrees with the partial lifting of the ban, but insists that international monitoring should continue throughout Marange.

Panorama asked the Foreign Office to comment on the EU's position.

In a statement, Henry Bellingham MP, Minister for Africa, said: "It is only from these locations that we support exports, subject to ongoing monitoring. From all other Marange mines, the UK and the EU continue to strongly oppose the resumption of exports until independent, international experts deem them to comply with the KP."

Critics have said it is a weak proposal.

Annie Dunneback of the advocacy group Global Witness said of the EU proposal: "It is the latest in a series of deals that have cast aside the principle of exports for progress and pandered to the demands of the Zimbabwean government."

Panorama: Mugabe's Blood Diamonds, BBC One, Monday, 8 August at 20:30 BST, then available in the UK on the BBC iPlayer.


ZANU PF denies torture in diamond fields

SW Radio Africa

10 August 2011

ZANU PF has strongly denied the existence of torture camps near the controversial Chiadzwa diamond fields, after video evidence of the ongoing abuses by the military there was released on Monday.

The UK's BBC Panorama investigative series has revealed that the camps have been operational in the Marange region for the last three years, and the explosive report shows how civilians are subject to severe beatings and sexual attacks.

But Mines Minister Obert Mpofu has denied the camps exist, calling it "cheap propaganda from the BBC."

"The British government is fighting a losing battle. It wants our diamonds to be banned from the international market. But I know that the world will not be fooled," Mpofu said in an interview with a German news group.

The BBC report also detailed how hundreds of people were shot and killed in a 2008 ‘clean up' operation at the diamond fields, which ZANU PF officials have insisted never happened. Panorama spoke to a former soldier who explained how the military was deployed to shoot everyone panning for diamonds. The show also obtained a hand written copy of a mortuary report from 2008, revealing the scores of people killed in the operation.

Mike Davis from rights group Global Witness told SW Radio Africa on Tuesday the BBC report vindicates what his group and other civil society groups have been saying for years, that Chiadzwa is the site of serious human rights abuses. He explained that ideally the Kimberley Process (KP) which monitors the diamond trade, should take "a more robust approach to investigate these allegations and ensure that Zimbabwe meets the standards of trade it is supposed to uphold."

"But the KP has failed miserably with regards to Zimbabwe. They are facing a serious threat to their credibility and I am not optimistic that it will do anything. Any response will likely be muted," Davis said.

The BBC report comes as the European Union (EU) prepares to lift a ban on Zimbabwe diamonds, in place since 2009 over human rights abuses at Chiadzwa. But the EU has now decided that two mines there now meet international standards, despite the continued reports of violence and smuggling at the diamond fields.

Davis said the EU has always been a weak link in trying to ensure respect for human rights in Zimbabwe's diamond trade, saying their position "is influenced by countries with a stake in the trade, like Belgium." He explained that civil society and diamond consumers now have an important role to play to keep lobbying the KP over Zimbabwe.

Analyst Clifford Mashiri meanwhile said that, while the evidence obtained by the BBC is welcome, any movement towards investigations of these atrocities will depend on the KP.

"The ball is in the KP's court and they have shown that they want the Zimbabwe issue sorted out as quickly as possible. We shall have to wait and see what they decide," Mashiri said.

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