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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  • Comment number 72.

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

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    Comment number 71.

    Mugabe and Zimbabweans gave their blood for independence from British Colonialism. Mugabe does not take to lecturing from the British, establishment et all, who have never really been his friends throughout his life. Zimbabaweans have and will and always deal with thier problems thier own way. They are a civilised people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Okay so they've got their own Guantanamo Bay. I smell a double standard here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Ooh, well, AWENAAB, (no.66). Please feel free to discuss these "short sighted comments" with the victims of rape and torture they have endured at the state's hands. The main reason that people like Mugabe get away with this behaviour is that we don't do anything and individuals (sorry - you sound like one) refuse to see the evidence placed in front of them! Iddi Amin - "all untrue"? Perlease!

  • Comment number 68.

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

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    Comment number 67.

    Anyone else sick and tired of our soft touch approach?!

    "Mugabe, don't grab land and give it to your cronies... why? Because otherwise I'm going to drive a big Tank into your Presidential Palace!"

    Mugabe and co have nothing to fear... we are the rich kid being held upside down THREATENING the bully with "I'll tell on you" - we've got words and trade embargos, no real TEETH! And Mugabe knows it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.


  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    No.59 Come on you idealist - turn your fine, armchair rhetoric into action!
    What do you suggest?

    Invasion - seems unlikely (+no force atm)
    Bend market forces - isn't working
    Change perceptions - see above
    More sanctions - doesn't hit the right people

    Soak up your approbation from fellow posters for having a heart but do bear in mind your contribution is as useless as mine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    This isn't news, it's just a small addition to what has been known for years. Yet all we seem to do is unanimously disapprove and claim the moral highground.

    I feel the truth is that whilst this regime's actions are condemned, they are not seen as a threat to the UK like other groups/governments and so aren't really on the UK government's priority list.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    NO.58 GaxGumede - surely the point here is not whether there is "democracy" or not, nor whether there are cultural differences (obviously are) but whether it is morally right to condone a state that happily employs/encourages (or does not really try to stop) violence, torture and rape as methods to getting its own way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    @GaxGumede: I really don't think you understand the severity of the situation there. If you ever met anyone from Zimbabwe, for example the great many currently living in SA, you would understand that this is much worse than a simple matter of 'ballot box stuffing'. A working government wouldn't allow such madness to persist, unfortunately the west doesn't care, rending everything said here mute.

  • Comment number 61.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    Zimbabwe was the bread basket of Africa... was

    Mugabe may have been a good rebel but he's a crap economist.. all he's done is rape the country of anything valuable & run it into the ground.

    ...and then blames us! what a joke this guy is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    No 38. Colchie - Yeah why should we help? What is in it for me? That is what we should be asking, what would benefit us the most. Because the suffering of thousands pales into insignificance compared to OUR needs. Here's a reason if you need one... We should help them because it is the right thing to do. Full stop. Not because they have oil or resources that we want.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    I find it offensive for people to accuse Zimbabwe of not demonstrating democractic principles. There has never been evidence of 'ballot box stuffing' but there has been instances of violence by the majority towards the minority. This was Zimbabwe in 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2008. Violence has always been a charectoristic of Zimbabwean elections, not evidence of undemocratic gvt

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    And the rest of the Western world will continue to send pounds and dollars to this country despite all these horrific tales. Aid that is sent genrally doesn't reach the folk who are desperately in need of it. Al it does is fill the pockets of Mugabe and his cronies who sell it it on at exhorbitant and over-inflated prices on the black market.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    Our own governments are every bit as guilty as Mugabe I am afraid because we buy products - diamonds are just one of the many thousands - our so called clean image as western world is every bit as bad as theirs. We are no different than Mugabe, we are helping to promote his genacidal ways by trading with him. We should feel very ashamed but of course we don't, we carry on spending with him.

  • Comment number 55.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    No 19. GaxGumede's - Are you actually suggesting that it is acceptable behaviour to torture, maul with dogs and rape people on mass in a systematic way... Because they "voted" their leader in. Obviously they didn't vote their leader in but lets assume they did. I bet you wouldn't agree if it were you being mauled by dogs, beaten and raped, even if you voted the guy in who allows it to happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    Why is the UK STILL so insistent on Rhodesia otherwise known as Zimbabwe ? The MOMENT this country adopted "UDI" it should have ceased completely to be of any interest to the UK ,yet some 50 years or so later ,we are STILL pouring aid etc ,into this institutionally corrupt country and even allowing them some diplomatic representation when clearly they are completely uncivilised & beyond any help.


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