Zimbabwe 'torture' camp exposed
Cape Town - A torture camp run by Zimbabwe’s security forces is operating in the country’s rich Marange diamond fields, the BBC reported on Monday.
According to the report, victims had recently told of severe beatings and sexual assault.
“It is a place of torture where sometimes miners are unable to walk on account of the beatings,” the report quoted a victim, who was released from the main camp in February, as saying.
The main torture camp uncovered by the report is known locally as “Diamond Base”. According to the BBC, 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 near 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 report said, adding that the company that runs the mine was headed by a personal friend of President Robert Mugabe.
A second camp was said to be located in nearby Muchena.
The BBC report said police and military recruited civilians to illegally dig for diamonds for them. Those workers were taken to camps “for punishment if they demand too large a share of the profits. Civilians caught mining for themselves are also punished in the camps”.
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.
A former captive told the BBC how they were whipped three times a day.
“They beat us 40 whips in the morning, 40 in the afternoon and 40 in the evening,” he was quoted as saying. The BBC said he 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,” another victim was quoted as saying.
According to the former captives, men were held in the camp for several days at a time, before new prisoners came in. Women were released more quickly, often after being raped.
Another witness 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."
"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.
Witnesses said the camps have been operating for at least three years.
Marange diamonds were banned in 2009 by the Kimberley Process (KP), the international initiative of the diamond industry that attempts to keep conflict or so called “blood” diamonds out of the lucrative market.
According to BBC, 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.
Nick Westcott, a spokesperson for the Working Group on Monitoring of the KP, said of the BBC’s discovery of the torture camps: “It’s not something that has been notified to the Kimberley Process.”