Posted in News by Admin on March 24th, 2009
An international team from the United Nations’ (UN) world diamond regulatory body, the Kimberley Process (KP), has arrived in Zimbabwe to investigate reports of mass murder at the hands of soldiers in the Chiadzwa mining fields. The team arrived earlier this week and are set to report back on the widespread accounts of killings in the Chiadzwa area, which has been the center of controversy since October when the army was called in to disperse thousands of illegal diamond hunters. The government had originally illegally seized the Chiadzwa diamond claim from British-based Africa Consolidated Resources in 2007 and set off a diamond rush when it encouraged locals to help themselves.
But the arrival of the army resulted in violence and murder after the area was sealed off with military roadblocks and troops. Accounts from survivors of the military onslaught detailed the killings, speaking of machine-gun attacks by helicopter and armed attacks by troops on the ground. Civilians in the region also reported that anyone attempting to enter Chiadzwa was arrested and often tortured and killed.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights have said that about 5,000 people were arrested during the army operation, with three-quarters of them showing signs of having been tortured severely. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has also claimed that hundreds of people were buried in mass graves “to hide the regime’s murderous activities” and that the soldiers sent to “guard” the fields had become illegal diamond dealers themselves.
The probe by the KP has come on the back of a recent and damning report by a nongovernmental organization (NGO) involved in stopping the trade of conflict diamonds. The group, Partnership Africa Canada (PAC), earlier this month released a report titled “Zimbabwe, Diamonds and the Wrong Side of History,” and accused the KP of being unwilling and unable to deal with Zimbabwe. “The almost desperate insistence by some governments that the Kimberley Process has nothing to do with human rights is disgraceful,” said Ian Smillie, PAC’s research coordinator. The group has called for an immediate embargo on Zimbabwe diamonds and has demanded action by the UN Security Council.
Zimbabwe’s mining minister, Obert Mpofu, has meanwhile insisted that “no one was killed” in the army operation in Chiadzwa and this week said that Zimbabwe, a signed-up member of the KP, “is committed to the successful implementation of the Kimberley Process and will provide information on the situation on the ground.” The last inspection in Zimbabwe by KP officials was in 2006.
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