Zimbabwe Diamond Fields Suffer ‘Repression’

Reports of forced labor, torture and beatings in the diamond fields of Marange, Zimbabwe, by the hands of the African nation’s police and army, were made public today in a report produced by Human Rights Watch (HRW). The report also detailed the military’s violent takeover which resulted in 200 deaths on the Marange diamond fields last October. 

Diamonds in the Rough: Human Rights Abuses in the Marange Diamond Fields of Zimbabwe” is HRW’s 62-page report that chronicles the discovery of diamonds in Marange since June 2006. Since that time, the police and army (which remains under the control of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, the former ruling party) have used brutal force to control access to the diamond fields and to take over unlicensed diamond mining and trading, according to the report.

“The police and army have turned this peaceful area into a nightmare of lawlessness and horrific violence,” says Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at HRW. “Zimbabwe’s new government should get the army out of the fields, put a stop to the abuse, and prosecute those responsible.” 

Georgette Gagnon, the Africa director for Human Rights Watch.
Georgette Gagnon, the Africa director for Human Rights Watch.

In February of this year, HRW researchers conducted more than 100 one-on-one interviews with witnesses, local miners, police officers, soldiers, local community leaders, victims and relatives, medical staff, human rights lawyers, and activists in Harare, Mutare, and Marange district in eastern Zimbabwe.

Those interviewed said that police officers, who were deployed in the fields from November 2006 to October 2008 to end illicit diamond smuggling, were in fact responsible for serious abuses – killings, torture, beatings, and harassment – often by so-called “reaction teams,” which drove out illegal miners.

A diamond miner in Zimbabwe.
A diamond miner in Zimbabwe.

HRW urged the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), an international group governing the global diamond industry, to press Zimbabwe, a participant, to end the smuggling of diamonds, and ensure that all diamonds from Marange are lawfully mined, documented, and exported in compliance with KPCS standards. Gagnon also pressed the Southern African Development Community to help bring transparency to Zimbabwe’s diamond trade, according to a HRW announcement from South Africa.