Deliberate Chaos: Ongoing Human Rights Abuses in the Marange Diamond Fields of Zimbabwe

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In 2008, Zimbabwe's military launched a bloody crackdown in eastern Zimbabwe after diamonds were discovered in the fields of Marange (otherwise known as Chiadzwa). Police and soldiers, deployed by the government, massacred some 200 people as they seized control of the area. They beat and raped locals, forced them to mine for diamonds, and carried out other human rights abuses. Those responsible have not been held accountable.

Since revealing these abuses in a June 2009 report, "Diamonds in the Rough: Human Rights Abuses in the Marange Diamond Fields of Zimbabwe," Human Rights Watch has continued to research conditions in Marange. It finds that while killings have abated, Zimbabwe's armed forces still control most of the fields, despite a commitment by the government to remove them from the area. Corruption is rife, and smuggling of Marange diamonds by soldiers in the field is prolific. The diamonds continue to benefit a few senior people in the government and their accomplices rather than the people of Zimbabwe as a whole.

Soldiers also continue to perpetuate abuses in Marange, including forced labor, torture, beatings, and harassment, which Zimbabwe's government has failed to investigate or prosecute. State security agents have harassed local civil society researchers attempting to document smuggling and abuses, including members of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme's civil society coalition. Police and soldiers have barred lawmakers from entering the area when they tried to investigate the illegal awarding of private tenders to mine Marange's diamonds.

Meanwhile, more than 4,000 families from villages in the Marange area are due to be forcibly resettled to make way for diamond operations, potentially contravening international standards on forced relocation. There is also concern about the role of Abbey Chikane, the South African monitor appointed by the Kimberley Process (KP), to devise a "joint work plan" to bring Zimbabwe into compliance with the KP's rules.

As it did in 2009, Human Rights Watch again calls for Zimbabwe to be suspended from the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) due to these continuing abuses, and Harare's failure to implement necessary reforms. It also calls for a halt to the "joint work plan" pending an independent investigation into Mr. Chikane.

The KPCS, which was founded in 2003, is an international group comprising governments, the diamond industry, and civil society groups seeking to halt the trade of so-called "conflict diamonds," which rebel groups use to finance wars.

However, the KPCS risks becoming irrelevant if it does not address the challenge of "blood diamonds." These are stones extracted by governments or state agencies in which abuses are committed against their own citizens, as in Zimbabwe.

Control over diamond revenue has become an urgent and divisive issue in Zimbabwe, as the country struggles to recover from a massive economic crisis. Senior members of the Zimbabwe Africa National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), the former sole ruling party, stand accused of smuggling Marange diamonds for personal and party self-enrichment. Failure by the KP to suspend Zimbabwe's membership or continue to ban the certification of Marange diamonds for export would destroy the body's legitimacy and credibility.

The KP has struggled to address abuses by governments, and the extent to which human rights, which are implicit in its charter, should be protected. The Kimberley Process sent a review mission to Zimbabwe, which found abuses by the armed forces, pervasive smuggling, and failure to satisfy the minimum requirements of KP membership. Despite this, and the review mission's recommendations that Zimbabwe be suspended, KP members meeting in Swakopmund, Namibia in November 2009 did not. Instead, they proposed a "joint work plan" that gave Zimbabwe an opportunity to meet the KP's membership requirements, and in due course resume diamond exports from Marange. The plan committed Zimbabwe to a phased military withdrawal without a specific timeframe, directed police to provide security for the area, and provided for a mutually agreed upon monitor to examine and certify all diamond shipments from Marange. Until then, no Marange diamonds could be exported legally.

The KP monitor, Abbey Chikane, visited Zimbabwe twice in 2010 on fact-finding missions organized by the Zimbabwe government. He prepared two reports. The first, based on a mission in March, reported that Zimbabwe had demilitarized a small section of Marange, and put it under the control of two South African companies, which operate as Mbada and Canadile in Zimbabwe, but whose operations did not currently meet KPCS minimum standards. Mr. Chikane's report focused on technical aspects of the firms' diamond operations, such as ensuring security around mining sites, rather than the ongoing human rights abuses related to the mining. It also glossed over the tendering process by which these two companies-allegedly controlled by senior members of ZANU-PF and the Zimbabwean armed forces-had secured their mining rights.

The second report, released in early June, addressed the military's withdrawal, as mandated by the Kimberley Process. Taking the same position as Zimbabwean officials, Mr. Chikane suggested that this withdrawal be allowed to progress slowly and with international support, in order to avoid chaos on the diamond fields, and the proliferation of individual panning. He also recommended that the Marange diamonds be certified as conflict-free diamonds, because Zimbabwe had met the basic requirements required by the Kimberley Process.

Human Rights Watch's evidence, as set out in this report, suggests that Mr. Chikane's basic analysis of the environment around Marange is flawed along with his proposed recommendations. Human Rights Watch therefore urges KP members to reject both.

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