Zimbabwe security forces are running illegal mining camps [BBC report] in the country's Marange area where recruited civilian workers are regularly tortured and forced into labor, the BBC reported Monday. According to the report, workers are subject to mauling by dogs, multiple beatings and rape. The camps, one of which allegedly has ties to a personal friend of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], are reported to have been operating for three years. The news comes just as the EU announced intentions to lift a ban on diamonds from other areas in Zimbabwe that were mined in compliance with the international diamond market regulator Kimberley Process (KP) [official website, French]. UK Minister for Africa Henry Bellingham [official profile] addressed allegations of torture [press release] in some of the camps:
The UK is absolutely committed to eradicating the trade of conflict diamonds. We played a leading role in creating the [KP], which has helped reduce the proportion of conflict diamonds to a tiny fraction of world trade. We pressed for Zimbabwe to adhere to the principles of the KP. Two Marange mines currently meet these standards; 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.Earlier in the year, the KP had called for police monitoring of the camps, but torture victims claim that the police, as well as military officials, are responsible for the treatment in the camps.
The diamond trade in Zimbabwe has been the subject of much criticism. Last year, the US-based Rapaport Diamond Trading Network [corporate website] took a stance against the sale of Zimbabwe diamonds [press release; JURIST report] associated with human rights violations. In a letter to their members, Rapaport stated they would expel members who knowingly traded the tainted diamonds and that they would publish the names of members who traded the stones. Rapaport noted that KP certification may have allowed the stones to be sold in certain jurisdictions, but warned that it was illegal for citizens from the US, EU and UK to knowingly trade diamonds from the Marange diamond fields. They also cautioned that KP certification did not guarantee that the diamonds were not associated with human rights violations and that KP did not have a mandate to deny certification for diamonds involved in human rights violations. In June 2010, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called for the removal of Zimbabwe [report materials; JURIST report] from KP, echoing similar sentiments from rights groups who urged KP to suspend Zimbabwe's international diamond trade [JURIST report] in November 2009 due to the human rights violations [Telegraph report] allegedly committed by the Zimbabwean army against civilians and illegal workers in the Marange diamond fields.