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 52.

    I'll dumb it all down to fit in 400 words.

    Britain turned its back on Zimbabwe when Mugabe played lip service to democracy. The Zimbabwean equivalent of a vote amounts to having your family held at gun point while you go to the local polling station and put a tick in the box the gun men tell you to.

    This was enough to get Mugabe "democratically" elected. The Western world looks the other way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    I'm not sure that GaxGumede's assertion that Zimbabwe is "a democratic country" is particularly true. Generally speaking, stuffed ballot boxes, imprisonment of political rivals, and voter intimidation aren't actually hallmarks of Democracy. Zimbabwe is a deeply troubled country. I truly hope that things get better there soon. Unfortunately, I don't think they actually will for a good while yet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    This morning I found a newsletter from Cyprus dated 13 January 1997, in it Robert Mugabe, referring to Turkish Troops occupation of Cyprus said "It cannot be right to leave injustice uncorrected" and that the world today is founded on "togetherness, international law and good relations". Just found this very interesting and relevant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Shows how two faced the EU is. I cannot understand how any country would trade with someone as corrupt and cruel to his own people as Mugabe. Obviously money talks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    No 19. Ignorance is bliss....... There is a diffence between crime and culture. Rape is a crime and it should be treated as such. What planet do you inhabit No 19?

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    GaxGumede (#18, #19, #42)
    Yes you are right, Zimbabwe is clearly not advanced but you don't seem to be prepared to do anything about it. You tacitly accept and approve of torture, that's what's abhorant. That's why Zimbabwe will always be 3rd world.

  • Comment number 46.

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

  • Comment number 45.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Why is anyone even considering even considering this, Thought there were sanctions in place.. Are diamonds worth more than the suffering of the Zimbabwean people caused by this monster. Clearly they are... Shame on you!

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    doolal, you will find that the person reporting this is NOT a European Farmer but in fact a professional journalist. This has got nothing with UK government attacking the Zimbabwean government. They don't actually care! The problem is that innocent Zimbabweans are being terrorised. You would change your tune if was you or one of you family in these hell holes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    In relation to point 19, rape, murder and torture is not unique to Zimbabwe, it happens in all civilised countries including UK. So please dont single out Zimbabwe for criticism in respect to this. Just because it happens, it doesnt mean its the core of our culture, perhaps our stage of socialisation is not as advanced as yours yet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Diamonds are artificially high priced by syndicate manipulation...if you must buy precious gems then go for sapphires, rubies, tourmaline, spinel, opal, topaz, tanzanite, or any of the other true precious gems...a white sapphire is far more valuable in terms of rarity than a diamond.
    retired gemologist

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    @doolal 35

    The objection to selling Zimbabwe's diamonds is that they are being produced with the aid of torture, and sold to keep a brutal regime in the money.

    This aids neither the white nor the black farmers whose land was rendered unproductive by Mugabe's theft of the land for his cronies and bully boys, who then neglected it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Mugabe is a tyrant. It is a joke that in this age we "choose" to do nothing! If he had "weapons of mass destruction" we might do something in "our" interest.

    Zimbabwe was and is a rich country. It used to be a massive exporter of produce, produce needed given rising cost of food prices.

    There is an excuse to bring stability to the region if the endless human suffering were not enough!

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Due to a lack responsible democratic government, another ex-colony falls apart. We should have intervened when the farmers were forced off land that they had bought after independence. It's too late now. The best we can do now is fly home anybody with ancestral links to the UK and leave Mugabe to run his tin pot empire in peace. If the African Union won't act against him, why should we?

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    i have studied the kimberly process and this is one of its biggest challenges since its creation and if it certifies the diamonds then it has failed to validate a diamond as a sybol of awfull lot of people died and lost limbs in wars directly related to the mining of diamonds and the kimberly process was supposed to prevent this happening again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Industry can use synthetic diamonds, gemstones are what this is all about .. rich vain people who feel the need to adorn themselves with precious stones ... pathetic

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Let us not destroy this great nation for view white European farmers who refused to handed back the land they stolen in the colonial time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    People must always be certain of where their diamonds come from, Th wearing an item of jewellery containing a "blood diamond" makes my flesh crawl. Are we so greedy for these pieces of carbon, that we can wear them with no thought for where they come from, apparently the answer is "yes". "Blood diamonds" should be banned from every country that practices this torture to their own people people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Mr Mugabe is a dreadful rotter and is doing something that hurts his citizens. This isn't news.

    If diamonds powered cars, perhaps we'd invadeor help but they don't - so nothing's going to change.

    PS: Panorama - stop wasting my license fee on stirring up horror stories my Government isn't prepared to fix. If you want a story - find out how much last year's awful BBC website changes cost us.


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