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 132.

    Just think... if Zim. had loads of oil the Brits, Americans and everybody would have piled in years ago.

    The trouble is that no oil means no help from anybody.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    In 2006, Festus Mogae, President of the Republic of Botswana, "There can be no doubt, that diamonds have played a major part in the transformation of our country's fortunes and the lives of our citizens... Every diamond purchase represents food on the table; better living conditions; better healthcare; potable and safe drinking water; more roads to connect our remote communities; and much more."

  • Comment number 130.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    this bloke is a beast what a sick sick world we are now living in

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    "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."

    Zimbabwe has oil along with diamonds and other precious raw materials...blows your argument out of the water.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    This article has all the signature of a politically motivated propaganda. If you people want to investigate on going torture why not go the Cuba? The USA run base. There are more than absolutely proven facts. BBC do not have to speculate nor fabricate assumptions. The west has wonderful skill in maneuvering public opinion. This article has all that skill. Well done BBC.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    We and the Americans won't intercede in Zimbabwe because there's no oil! End of!

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    ...Zimbabaweans have and will and always deal with thier problems thier own way. They are a civilised people.

    Is it civilised for Mugabe to torture his own people? Most Zimbabweans probably are civilised but their leader and his associates definitely are are not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    Colchie, appealing to your greed: the mine in Marange is worth about $800 billion and has the potential to a viable mine for 80 years or more. Have I got your attention now? If that’s the kind of excuse you need to intervene rather than the thousands faceless, nameless people suffering in the torture camps and across Zimbabwe then I pity you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    Mugabe has run his country into the ground,hailed as the “bread basket of Africa”, now a country whose economy & infrastructure lies in ruins. We have sat by & watched it get worse. The KP has failed and doesn’t work and doesn’t address issues of non-compliance and basic human rights abuses. Enough is enough; it’s time to do the right thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    We decided to avoid the problems by skipping the diamond ring. Even if we were as careful as possible choosing a diamond, just having one encourages the market as a whole and empowers Zimbabwe. Unfortunately, even when I try to explain, people still assume it was more an economical decision than an ethical one. Greed and status problems aren't limited to Zimbabwe else the market wouldn't exist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    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. 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 120.

    Far better our troops would be releasing the Zimbabwian People from bondage rather than being maimed and killed in Afghanistan with no end of goal in sight.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    Being a Zimbabwean myself and talking to other Zimbabweans, i acknowledge that Zimbabweans in general love Robert Mugabe and most would not change thier current position for anything(except the people of Matebeleland who have always been hated and hated ZANU in equal measure). No amount of condemnation will make most Zimbabweans stop loving ZANU because of the good it has done for them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    If we feel that these actions are wrong, we should exercise our right to vote with our wallets. Since we can no longer tell if a Kimberly Diamond is a blood diamond, then we can boycott natural diamonds. There are manufactured diamonds that are virtually identical (made from carbon) and other equally beautiful gemstones like Tanzanite and Sapphires. Talk to your partner and discuss your choices!

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    What happens when thieves break into protected areas? You talk of people being beaten by soldiers after entering forbidden areas. What is the norm then? Even in Botswana if you talk of diamonds in the streets you do not last an hour before their diamond and narcotics police pick you up. You can fool some pple sometime but u can't fool all the pple all the time. Go hang?

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    It's so sad that we all developed soft hearts when Africans wanted to govern themselves, and we all failed when we saw that in fact the Freedom figter leaders was doing it for personal gain, rather than doing what they fought for and deliver it the his/her supporters.What's happening in Africa today makes Colonialism look like a kindergarden party. And loads will agree it was bad. Was it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.


    The problem is, we are butting out. Lots of conversation and gasps, but no action.

    The British Lion no longer has teeth of it's own. Imagine if we had been as cold as we are about Africas problems when we considered Polands plight 60 years ago.

    "Not on our doorstep" doesn't apply in a globalised world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    It is also another example of double standards. Just imagine if Ian Smith's Rhodesia had committed even 10% of the crimes Mugabe has. The World Council of Churches, the UN, the Guardian, the Archbishop of Canterbury etc etc would have been gibbering with rage. What do we hear ? Nothing. As the man once said "The Silence is Deafening". This bestiality stinks in the nostrils of decent people.

  • Comment number 113.

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


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