Britain has urged the authorities in Zimbabwe to investigate a BBC report that its security forces are beating and raping prisoners at two camps in the Marange diamond fields in the east of the country. International monitors voted to allow exports from the fields to resume in June despite
objections from the United States, Canada and the European Union.
BBC’s documentary program “Panorama” said the camps hold workers who were recruited by the police and the military to dig illegally for diamonds for them, but who then demand too large a share of the profits. The camps also hold civilians caught mining for themselves, the program said. According to the report, a released prisoner who was not named said guards at the camps were beating prisoners three times a day, with 40 lashes at a time. Dogs were let loose to bite shackled inmates, and imprisoned women were frequently raped, the program said. The Zimbabwean authorities offered no immediate comment.
One of the torture camps identified, Diamond Base, is about a mile from the Mbada mine, which the BBC says is run by a friend of President Mugabe. Witnesses cited by the program described Diamond Base as “a remote collection of military tents, with an outdoor razor-wire enclosure” to
hold the prisoners.The Marange fields were discovered in 2006 and violently taken over by Zimbabwe’s military in 2008. Henry Bellingham, Britian's minister for Africa called the takeover “a harrowing and brutal chapter,” saying “we utterly condemn all extra judicial killings and call on the Zimbabwean authorities to transparently investigate both the dreadful events of 2008 and the disturbing allegations.”