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Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Zimbabwe: EU Invited to Tour Chiadzwa diamond fields

Zimbabwe’s Mines Minister, Obert Mpofu, has given the European Union (EU) an open invitation to tour the controversial Chiadzwa diamond fields, a week after the EU said it was considering lifting a ban on Zimbabwe’s exports.

Last week the EU was reported to be mulling lifting the ban, in place since 2009 over human rights abuses at Chiadzwa, saying conditions at two mines there had improved. The reports coincided with a shock documentary by the BBC's Panorama investigative series, which exposed the ongoing use of torture camps in the Marange region, said to be used by the military controlling the diamond fields. Judith Sargentini, Dutch Member of the European Parliament, also appeared in the BBC’s documentary.

The Panorama investigation gathered hard evidence and testimonies of brutalities by the military at the diamond fields, including mass murder, rape, torture and forced labour. The BBC team also took this evidence to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which said the situation at Chiadzwa could be classed as crimes against humanity.

Mpofu has dismissed the documentary as nothing more than British propaganda meant to stop Zimbabwe from selling its diamonds on the international market. This weekend he told the state run Herald that the EU was welcome to tour the diamond fields, insisting that there was "nothing to hide." He also warned that Zimbabwe could be forced to stop any exports of diamonds to the EU by international partners as "a reciprocal measure" if the bloc does not support Zimbabwe's return to trade.

The EU is now facing growing criticism for appearing to disregard ongoing human rights concerns at the diamond mines. Political analyst and former Zimbabwean diplomat, Clifford Mashiri, told SW Radio Africa that the EU is "trivialising" human rights abuses if they consider lifting the diamond ban.

"Zimbabwe's diamond civil society will be justified to feel betrayed by the EU and its partners if the ban is lifted without a serious commitment by Zimbabwe to demilitarise the diamond fields and probe the massacres of 2008 and the torture camps," Mashiri said.

Source: www.allafrica.com