Kimberley Process Implicates Army in Killings

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RAPAPORT…  AllAfrica: A visiting delegation from the Kimberley Process has just concluded a weeklong investigation into Zimbabwe’s controversial diamond mining trade and found that the country’s military and police were major contributors to the illegal activities, human rights abuses and murders that took place in the Marange diamond fields, contrary to statements by government officials. Despite denying wrongdoing, however, Zimbabwe has promised to withdraw its soldiers from diamond fields in the east in phases.

Although the full report has not been publicized, the interim report said, “There cannot be effective security where diamonds are concerned, with the involvement of the military.” The anti-blood diamonds group recommended that the army be immediately removed from the diamond fields. Kpandel Fayia, Liberia’s deputy mines minister, who is the head of the Kimberley Process delegation, was quoted in the Herald saying that the full report on Zimbabwe would be issued within a month.

Tiseke Kasambala, Human Rights Watch senior researcher, said, “If this is truly the case, then that is indeed a positive statement from the Kimberly Process and was one of the key recommendations from our report we released about a week and a half ago, calling for the demilitarization of the diamond industry in Zimbabwe.” The rights group also said that government denials of killings, especially by the army, are a cover-up, as gross abuses have been taking place in the Chiadzwa area since the diamond fields were discovered in 2006.

Kasambala said it is disappointing that the authorities are denying the atrocities that took place, instead of addressing what happened and trying to bring about accountability and transparency in the mining of diamonds in Zimbabwe. “The army has carried out terrible abuses, including forced labor of children, women and men, and took part in the massacres that took place in October and November 2008.” According to the group, at least 200 people were killed by military personnel during a crackdown on so-called illegal diamond dealers.

This past week the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party criticized its own minister for making “inaccurate” statements about what transpired in the Chiadzwa area. Murisi Zwizwai, the deputy minister of mines, said there had been no killings in the diamond fields. But his party said, “We view the remarks as premature and inaccurate in the absence of an investigation into the murky dealings in the Chiadzwa diamond fields, where a lot of things happened out of the public eye. [Minister] Zwizwai’s claims are therefore fact-hostile and evidence-free.” It is understood that the Kimberly Process fact-finding mission also spoke with victims of the military crackdown, some with gunshot wounds, and to relatives of some of those killed.

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