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 112.

    It's not selfish to say that there's nothing we can do. We've tried sanctions but he's still there and his people are destitute. We can't militarily remove him as we don't have armed forces anymore. The African Union won't act against him as that would the pot kicking the kettle. So what can we do? I want the world to be free, but the UK shouldn't be invading anybody to sort any of this out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.


    We have failed, to say otherwise is quite frankly blindness. We have waged war for a decade against an enemy who grows stronger the more we fight them and all in the name of freedom.

    We therefore hold a flag that says we will take arms against tyranny...we have not. The fact is, we lied about our intentions in Iraq, but we gave the false hope to the world that we actually cared.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    We judge Zimbabwe through the prism of colonial abuse which we perpetrated on their nation: then judge them by European, not African standards, with few facts but plenty of opinions. When will we learn to just butt out?

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    Maybe if we hadn't let Mugabe rig the 1980 election then Zimbabwean politics might have ended up a bit more balanced in the 1980s, preventing Muagbe's regime from digging in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    Gentleman and Ladies, I am a proud Zimbabwean and all I have to say to most of you here on the forum is Britons have no place in our politics. We do not need your intervention, as who will you intervine. Britain is not Zimbabwe's keeper thank you.

    As for Diamonds If little Britain (geographical size) wants to boycott our diamonds she is free to do so, why then try to mobilise all Europe?

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    Read Peter Godwin's 'The Fear'. - he wrote all this up before. Why has it taken so long for anyone to take this stuff seriously???

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    Like a few other commentors have already pointed out, the UK government has zero credibility in the wars it has forced us into in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya whilst they turn a blind eye to Mugabe. It just reinforces the point that all the wars are for oil.

    But hey, at least we refuse to play them at cricket. That'll make Mugabe change his ways!

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    #42 GaxGumede is disingenuous in the extreme in saying 'torture, rape and murder' exist everywhere. Of course they do -sadly human nature is flawed. The difference is where such inhumane activities become a tool of state, a means of government, as has been the case in Zimbabwe. I accept Mugabe is not unique but that does not excuse his heinous activities nor make his diamonds any more acceptable.

  • Comment number 104.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.


    You still didn't state how changing the topic from Africans being beaten and raped relates to our countries failure. All we need to do is tell KP to get a life and that we are not lifting the ban and the vast majority of diamonds mined there still will not leave there. It won't cost us a penny, maybe the rich will be worse off with a few less diamonds.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    If only Blair was still in charge to effect another regime change!

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    i continue to be baffled by the EU as well as the Kimberly Process...can you not see that people are DYING? or is that just a minor detail? Why has humanity become this greedy? So greedy that life is truly and explicitly insignificant? It seems that being human has become second place to being long world will you turn a blind eye while my people die and die and die?
    Lord, have mercy!

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    You wonder how muc further this evil, murdering old tyrant has to sink before even the starry-eyed "Mugabe was a liberating hero" brigade wake up to the fact that he is a despicable brute who has ruined a once prosperous African paradise. Pamwe chete !

  • rate this

    Comment number 99. you say YET.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    Why won't the British leave Zimbabwe alone? This is an obvious fabrication and makes me wonder as to what it is meant to achieve. I believe it is high time Britain and its allies accept that Zimbabwe is neither a province nor town of the British empire. Calling for the ban of our diamond exports is meant to hinder our development, but we will prosper under our current President.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    Its about time we got rid of Mugabe it is more imprtant to try and do that
    than sending our lads to fight in Afghanistan regrads Barrie Mayes

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.


    And how does our country failing relate to the blood diamond trade? And in failing you mean the lower unemployment seen and the fact that our government cuts have stopped over credit rating from taking a hit unlike Americas? Yes we are struggling but at least we are not dieing from the poverty, yet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    With all that is going on in the world, it seems that Zimbabwe is a dirty little secret that has been put to the back of the cupboard, out of sight out of mind.

    Mugabe is no better than Saddam Hussein; I firmly believe there should be a Nato presence to protect people and oust Mugabe. Zimbabwe could be a real powerhouse in African politics/economy but action needs to be taken.....and now!

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    why shouldn't we help! the "justification" given for wars in Iraq & Lybia was to protect people being murdered by their own leaders, that is EXACTLY what is happening here. Was it a lie that it was for the benefit of civilians? If it wasn't then let's get a UN resolution and deal with this monster, otherwise it just shows up the truth about those other wars, selfish oil grabbing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Yet another dictator invited to the palace proved to be violating his people's rights.

    We should have removed Mugabe from power over a decade ago, but we turned a blind eye and invited him for tea. Just like Col Gaddafi we prefer to keep our evil dictators on friendly terms. Time to start acting like civilised people and denying this creature house room.


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