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Human Rights Watch Urges Intn'l Ban on Zimbabwe Diamonds Over Abuses

Human Rights Watch said Thursday that a Kimberly Process Certification Scheme review meeting next week on alleged human rights violations in Zimbabwe's Marange diamond field should ban the sale of diamonds from the country on international markets.

The rights watchdog said Zimbabwe has had more than enough time to respond to Kimberly Process findings on human rights abuses and the smuggling of diamonds, but evidence on the ground to date shows no progress by the Harare government.

Human Rights Watch in a new report said its researchers spoke with nearly two dozen people with ties to the Marange field in Manicaland province and learned that the Zimbabwean military is working with syndicates of local miners to exploit the alluvial deposits, but has also resorted to the employment of forced labor, including that of children.

"Zimbabwe has had more than enough time to put a halt to the human rights abuses and smuggling at Marange," a statement issued by the organization quoted Human Rights Watch Africa Director Georgette Gagnon as saying. "Instead it has sent more troops to the area, apparently trying to put a halt to independent access and scrutiny."

The group said the army shot and killed a 19-year old member of one of the syndicates on Sept. 17. The organization charged that a soldier shot the boy because he was hiding a raw diamond instead of handing it over to the military, accused of killing hundreds.

The rights advocacy group said local miners told its researchers that soldiers had begun to recruit people from outside Marange to join the army-run diamond mining syndicates.

Researcher Dewa Mavinga told reporter Sandra Nyaira that diamond smuggling from Marange has increased rather than diminished with buyers and middlemen trading openly in Vila de Manica, Mozambique, some 20 miles from Mutare, capital of the eastern province.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...