Human Rights Watch has released a report accusing Zimbabwe’s armed forces of forcing citizens, including children, to labor in diamond fields, as well as torturing and beating local villagers.
The report explains how in October 2008 the army seized the diamond fields of the once peaceful eastern area of Chiadzwa by invading and killing 200 people. Since then, the area has been filled with violence and unrest.Police officers are accused of exploiting the area’s chaos by beating, torturing and killing illegal miners, as opposed to trying to halt the process of illegal mining. With such police abuse, armed forces were called to step in, but they have only exacerbated the violent, lawless climate.
One interviewed miner recalls one particular day. “Soldiers in helicopters started firing live ammunition and tear gas at us. We all stopped digging and began to run toward the hills to hide. I noticed that there were many uniformed soldiers on foot pursuing us. From my syndicate, 14 miners were shot and killed that morning.”
HRW urges the government to step in and take control of the mines in order to rebuild the ravaged economy, and prosecute those responsible for bloodshed. In the meantime, HRW calls for the ban of Zimbabwean diamond exports, and for the country’s suspension from the Kimberly Process, which grants certification for diamonds.