Rights Abuses Persist In Marange:HRW

Human Rights Watch (HRW) made the call in a statement released to coincide with the opening of the KP annual meeting in Washington DC on Monday.

The United States chairs the KP and it gave Zimbabwe’s Mines and Mining Development minister Obert Mpofu a visa to attend the crucial meeting.

Mpofu says allegations of human rights violations are being made by organisations opposed to a KP resolution to allow Zimbabwe to sell its diamonds without supervision.

But HRW said its recent research in the Marange area indicated that while human rights violations by the Zimbabwean military were not as severe as they were in 2008, abuses persisted.

“There are significant concerns about the conduct of police and private security forces employed by companies operating in the area, and the failure of the authorities to hold to account members of the military, police and private security companies responsive for serious abuses,” the group said.

“In addition, more transparency is needed on diamond production, revenue and the allocation of mining rights. Human Rights Watch also remains concerned by the continued presence of the Zimbabwean army, which was responsible for killing 200 local miners in 2008, in parts of the Marange fields. One of the agreements between the Kimberley Process and the government of Zimbabwe was that the fans would be demilitarised.”

The KP meeting ends on Thursday and would discuss mining and trading of conflict diamonds.

HWR said abuses in the Marange area in recent years had exposed KP’s inability to effectively address human rights abuses.

In November last year, the KP lifted a ban on Zimbabwe diamonds and one of its founders, Global Witness, withdrew from the initiative in protest.

“The Kimberley Process needs to address the on-going human rights abuses in Zimbabwe’s Marange fields, and the lack of transparency by mining companies operating there,” said Daniel Bekele, the Africa director at HWR.

“The KP meeting should demand more tangible progress from Zimbabwe and focus on reforming its certification scheme so that it can tackle the human rights problems that taint diamond production.”

Last year HWR said it found evidence of serious rights abuses in the area where security guards were accused of setting dogs on panners and no steps had been taken to address the problems.