An team of inspectors from an anti-blood diamonds body was wrapping up a visit to Zimbabwe on Friday, where they have been investigating allegations of gross rights abuses in diamond mining.
The United Nations-founded Kimberley Process is a body that monitors international trade in diamonds with a view to barring so-called conflict or blood diamonds—gems that are used to bankroll conflicts.
Kimberley Process inspectors arrived in Zimbabwe on Monday for a review visit following a first fact-finding mission to the controversial eastern Marange diamond fields in March. They were due to leave the country on Saturday.
Zimbabwe’s police and military are accused of gross human rights abuses in the Marange area since 2006, including killing and injuring dozens of illegal diamond-diggers and forcing villagers to work for them.
In a recent report, New York-based Human Rights Watch alleged the security forces, who are loyal to President Robert Mugabe, had killed more than 200 people in a three-week crackdown on illegal mining last year and ordered some of the bodies to be buried in mass graves.
The area is still under control of the military, whose members are lining their pockets with the gems, according to Human Rights Watch.
While admitting members of the military are enriching themselves, Zimbabwe’s government says they carried out “no killings.”
Human Rights Watch is calling for the definition of conflict diamonds to be expanded to include diamonds mined in conditions of gross rights violations.
Zimbabwe says the absence of an armed conflict means the diamonds cannot be classed conflict diamonds.
Attempts to reach the Kimberley Process team in Zimbabwe this week were unsuccessful.
The state-controlled daily Herald quoted Kpandel Fayia, the Liberian deputy mines minister heading the team, as saying that the government had been “very open” with the team during its investigation. The Process would deliver its report on Zimbabwe within a month, he said.
Fayia was also quoted by the paper as saying the state mining company, which controls the fields after the state seized them from a private company, operated in a “crude” way, with workers sorting stones by hand in the open.
The team also met some of the victims of the military crackdown.
“We took them [Kimberley Process team] to see victims of the clean-up,” the mayor of the nearby city of Mutare, Brian James, told the German Press Agency dpa. “There were quite a few people whose family members had been killed, victims who had gunshot wounds ...”
James is a member of Prime Minister Morgan Tvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change, which demanded this week that the coalition government and Parliament set up a commission of inquiry into the events in Marange.—Sapa-dpa