Human rights groups call for sanctions on Angolan diamonds

Angola’s rich diamond-mining provinces are an “immense concentration camp” of police killings, near-slavery and abuse, according to a human rights report.

The report on South and North Lunda provinces urges international sanctions on Angolan diamonds until the southern African nation meets U.N. human rights standards, Reuters reports.

“The government in (the Angolan capital) Luanda has turned the region into a Wild West,” Rafael Marques, an Angolan human rights activist who carried out the investigation, told Reuters.

The report was sponsored by Portugal’s Mario Soares Foundation, the Netherlands Institute for Southern Africa, and the non-profit Open Society Foundation created by billionaire George Soros.

Mining concessions have made vast areas of the provinces’ 180,000 square km (69,000 square miles) no-go areas for the 1.1 million residents, with police often indistinguishable from heavily armed company security guards, the report said.

Powerful governors in the northeastern provinces of the former Portuguese colony have the right to grant business and farming licenses, can halt the movement of goods and limit where people can live and travel.

“This in general terms is the legal panorama that makes the Lundas an immense concentration camp where individual guarantees and the basic conditions of subsistence” are restricted, the report said.

Deaths of prisoners in police custody include at least five inmates who suffocated when stuffed into a small cell at Muxinda in North Lunda in December 2004. The bodies of another eight prisoners were found in a river a few days after the incident, the report said.

A large part of the diamond mining is done by freelance, unregistered miners who work in technically illegal pits, often only being paid in food, Marques reportedly said.

In a police raid on a mine site in September 2004, officers burned the camp and then forced 20 miners to sodomize each other while they looked on, the report said.

Portuguese lawyer Rui Falcao de Campos worked with Marques, who is employed by Open Society Foundation in Angola, on the 83-page report.

It was based on 4,000 miles of travel over six weeks in the provinces. The two interviewed relatives of the dead prisoners, survivors, and members of the police, Reuters reports. The report calls for international rules on the sale of so-called “conflict diamonds” to be widened to include stones coming from areas with systematic human rights violations.