Zim denies diamond killings

2009-06-24 17:15

Windhoek - A Zimbabwean minister on Wednesday denied any killings in the eastern Marange diamond fields, where rights groups have sounded the alarm over the forcible evictions of small-scale miners.

Zimbabwe's deputy mining minister Murisi Zwizwai told a meeting of the Kimberley Process, the international scheme to curb the sale of "blood diamonds", that the situation in Marange had been brought under control.

"Contrary to allegations in the media, nobody was killed by security forces during an operation at Marange, where about 30 000 people descended onto the alluvial mining field," Zwizwai told the 200 delegates at the conference.

"These people comprised of cunning, die-hard illegal diamond diggers," Zwizwai said. "This compelled government to conduct a special operation to flush out the illegal diamond miners and to bring order and sanity to the area."

Zwizwai said that some diamonds illegally mined from Marange had "found their way to markets in neighbouring countries and abroad".

"There are unsubstantiated reports of a number of deaths and cases of human rights abuse which we are keen to investigate if anybody comes forward with any leading information," he added.

Human rights groups have called for Zimbabwe's suspension from the Kimberley Process over claims of forced evictions and other abuses in Marange.

The World Federation of Diamond Bourses in April banned the sale of diamonds from Marange, but Kimberley has resisted taking a tough stance.

Independent newspapers in Zimbabwe reported on killings by security forces in Marange earlier this year.