Marange diamond field: Zimbabwe torture camp discovered

diamond rings Marange could represent as much as a fifth of the world's diamonds deposits

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A torture camp run by Zimbabwe's security forces is operating in the country's rich Marange diamond fields, BBC Panorama has found.

The programme heard from recent victims who told of severe beatings and sexual assault.

The claims come as the European Union pushes to let some banned diamonds from the country led by President Robert Mugabe back onto world markets.

The Zimbabwean government has not responded to the BBC's findings.

In an internal document seen by the BBC, the EU said it was confident that two mines in the area now meet international standards and it wants diamonds from those areas to be immediately approved for export, which would partially lift a trade ban dating back to 2009.

The ban was imposed by the Kimberley Process (KP), the international organisation that polices diamonds, following reports of large-scale killings and abuse by Zimbabwe's security forces in the Marange diamond fields.

'Forty whips'

The main torture camp uncovered by the programme is known locally as "Diamond Base". Witnesses said it is a remote collection of military tents, with an outdoor razor wire enclosure where the prisoners are kept.

It is near an area known as Zengeni in Marange, said to be one of the world's most significant diamond fields. The camp is about one mile from the main Mbada mine that the EU wants to approve exports from.

The company that runs the mine is headed by a personal friend of President Mugabe. A second camp is located in nearby Muchena.

"It is the place of torture where sometimes miners are unable to walk on account of the beatings," a victim who was released from the main camp in February told the BBC.

All the released prisoners the BBC spoke to requested anonymity.

"They beat us 40 whips in the morning, 40 in the afternoon and 40 in the evening," said the man, who still could not use one of his arms after the beatings and could barely walk.

"They used logs to beat me here, under my feet, as I lay on the ground. They also used stones to beat my ankles."

Start Quote

They would handcuff the prisoner, they would unleash the dogs so that he can bite”

End Quote Former paramilitary police on torture techniques used

He and other former captives said men are held in the camp for several days at a time, before new prisoners come in.

Women are released more quickly, often after being raped, witnesses said.

"Even if someone dies there, the soldiers do not disclose, because they do not want it known," an officer in Zimbabwe's military told the BBC, again on condition of anonymity.

Witnesses said the camps have been operating for at least three years.

In Marange, the police and military recruit civilians to illegally dig for diamonds for them. Those workers are taken to the camps for punishment if they demand too large a share of the profits.

Civilians caught mining for themselves are also punished in the camps.

Dog maulings

A former member of a paramilitary police unit who worked in the main camp in late 2008 told the BBC that at the time he tortured prisoners by mock-drowning them and whipping them on their genitals.

He also said that dogs were methodically ordered by a handler to maul prisoners.

"They would handcuff the prisoner, they would unleash the dogs so that he can bite," he said. "There was a lot of screaming".

He said one woman was bitten on the breast by the dogs whilst he was working in the camp.


"I do not think she survived," he said.

Another witness the BBC spoke to said he was locked up in Muchena camp in 2008 after police set dogs on him.

He was recaptured in November 2010.

"Nothing has changed between 2008 and 2010... a lot of people are still being beaten or bitten by dogs."


Marange diamonds were banned in 2009 by the KP, the international initiative of the diamond industry, national governments and non-governmental organisations that attempts to keep conflict or so-called "blood" diamonds out of the lucrative market.

Representatives of the KP visited the area briefly in August 2010 and concluded that the situation in the diamond areas was still problematic but there had been significant progress.

The KP had previously requested that the Zimbabwean police secure the diamond area.

Witnesses told the BBC that it is Zimbabwe's police and military that run the torture camps.

Nick Westcott, spokesman for the Working Group on Monitoring of the KP, said of the BBC's discovery of the torture camps: "It is not something that has been notified to the Kimberley Process."

The EU's proposal to allow diamond sales from two key mines in Marange to resume is part of an attempt to broker a deal within the KP, which is in turmoil over the issue.

Find out more

Men digging for diamonds

Hilary Andersson presents Panorama: Mugabe's Blood Diamonds

BBC One, Monday, 8 August at 20:30 BST

In June, KP chairman Matieu Yamba formally announced that the export ban on the two key Marange mines was lifted with immediate effect. The EU, among others, did not accept his decision.

Now the EU's proposal, designed to break the deadlock, agrees with the partial lifting of the ban, but insists that international monitoring should continue throughout Marange.

Panorama asked the Foreign Office to comment on the EU's position.

In a statement, Henry Bellingham MP, Minister for Africa, said: "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."

Critics have said it is a weak proposal.

Annie Dunneback of the advocacy group Global Witness said of the EU proposal: "It is the latest in a series of deals that have cast aside the principle of exports for progress and pandered to the demands of the Zimbabwean government."

Panorama: Mugabe's Blood Diamonds, BBC One, Monday, 8 August at 20:30 BST, then available in the UK on the BBC iPlayer.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Unfortunately this is all greed over principles. They basically want more diamonds into the market along with the other precious materials e.g. Gold because they are at all time high values. The economic despair here translates into money for the fat cats. Its sad to see just how badly money corrupts us all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    What a descent into barbarity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    GaxGumede is obviously playing devil's advocate here. Rape and torture are patently crimes against humanity in civilised society, not 'simple cultural differences'.
    Mugabe is a tyrant who has destroyed his country and the hopes and dreams of its children for generations. Sadly, whoever replaces him will be no different. Such is life in the basket case that is Africa.

  • Comment number 29.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    GaxGumede's views are unacceptable in a civilised world. There are overriding standards of humanity that transcend 'cultural differences'. Torture, murder and rape which have characterised Mugabe's regime are unacceptable by any standards of human decency. All countries should shun all diamonds from that country and the KP process needs to be strenthened and shown to have real teeth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    in just a few short years the country went from the bread basket of africa to the basket case, all under the 'leadership' of one man. absolute power corrupts absolutely.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    what in the world is going on we can comment about Zimbabwe and we all know its a sick country, what about england we cant comment about what is going on, we all know this is how we want to live,open the doors to the devil and he will enter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    All this so someone can wear "the ring of their dreams" on their engagement & wedding day. Sickening.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Gumede you are to be thanked. You have shown the world that Zimbabwe does not, and never has, really committed itself to the UN Charter. It no longer deserves to remain a member of the UN, and you and your friends should not be surprised if charges of crimes against humanity come your way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    is number 19 for real? Torture and rape just a cultural difference? Apologies if I've missunderstood...

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Yeah, let's nationalise our mines... and see where it all ends up! Cape Town

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Zimbabwe is where NATO should have its troops and not fighting for
    oil corporations to preserve their assets in North Africa and the Middle East. He has been torturing people and burying them in mass graves for about 30 years ever since he used his North Korean trained Fifth Brigade to deal with the Matabele people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    The EU, including the UK government, really needs to take a zero tolerance line on torture, whether carried out on our behalf by proxies (as under the Labour government), or on European soil (cf the CIA and its secret camps in Poland). It is the lowest form of human behaviour. Oh, and it would be good to see some mea culpas from those who damned Rhodesia & backed mad Mugabe back in the 1970s.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Zimbabwe should be allowed to run its affairs in line with their cultural values and way of life. What we witness here is a simple difference in cultural values between Britain and Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is a democratic state and that should be acknowledged and respected.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    What the world has to understand is that violence against opponents has been a defining charecteristic of Zimbabwe since 1980. Even the main opposition unity government party led by Morgan Tsvangirai reveres the use of violence within the party and externally. The perpetrators of violence are given the mandate to do so by the elected officials at the end of the day, so this is a non-issue for us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    IMO, Mugabe is an example of the failure of democracy in Africa: once elected, a leader does anything they feel they must to increase & maintain their power, without restraint. It's winner-take-all, no compromise - the 'middle way' has never developed. In the USA, politics are devolving toward the same: after 2008, Obama said 'I won'; after 2010, the Tea party did the same - and the USA lost.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    This was a Commonwealth country and should have been rescued from Mugabe long before we got involved in Libya and Afghanistan.

    Now the EU wants money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Stories like these are pointless. We should either invade and depose him or stop crying about it.

    Who is the bigger monster? Mugabe? Our sanctions and behaviour towards zimbabwe are hurting more people than Mugabe has.

    And we justify this how? Mugabe is a bad man and we don't like him?

    We should cause suffering to millions because we don't line one man in the same country as them? Pathetic!

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    This is another example of the EU & Foreign Office turning a blind eye to torture & murder when it suits them.
    I wonder which officials in Europe stand to profit from lifting the ban...

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Scientists should look to perfect the manufacturing of artificial diamond. At present artificial diamonds are almost as good as the real thing so why not invest a bit to make artificial diamond as good as the real thing? Do this and you take away the need to mine diamonds. Simple.


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