JOHANNESBURG — A team assessing Zimbabwe’s compliance with international standards to prevent the diamond trade from fueling conflict found that the nation’s military had been directly involved in illegal mining and that the authorities had carried out “horrific violence against civilians,” according to a memo the team gave to Zimbabwean officials.
The team, sent on a mission to Zimbabwe last week under the Kimberly Process, an international undertaking to halt the trade in so-called blood diamonds, said its recommendations could include the full suspension of Zimbabwe from the process, further complicating the country’s ability to sell its diamonds on international markets. Already, the World Federation of Diamond Bourses has recommended that its members in 20 countries not trade diamonds from the Marange deposits in eastern Zimbabwe because of reports of abuses.
In his confidential memo, the team’s leader, A. Kpandel Fayia, told Zimbabwean officials that he was so disturbed by the testimonies of victims the team met that he had to leave as they spoke.
“Our team was able to interview and document the stories of tens of victims, observe their wounds, scars from dog bites and batons, tears, and ongoing psychological trauma,” said the memo by Mr. Fayia, a deputy minister of the ministry that oversees mining in Liberia. “I am from Liberia, sir; I was in Liberia throughout the 15 years of civil war, and I have experienced too much senseless violence in my lifetime, especially connected to diamonds.” He told them, “This has to be acknowledged and it has to stop.”
The memo was provided to The New York Times by a person with knowledge of the proceedings, and confirmed by two others, including one who attended the team’s briefing with officials.
The government officials, who have adamantly denied any state-sponsored violence in the diamond fields, told the state-owned newspaper that they would try to comply with the Kimberly Process before the team issued its final report. Zimbabwe’s deputy mining minister, Murisi Zwizwai, was quoted as saying after Mr. Fayia’s presentation that Zimbabwe had agreed to remove soldiers from the fields “in phases while proper security settings would be put in place.”
The Kimberly team, which included Liberian, American and Namibian officials, as well as representatives of the diamond industry and civic groups, told Zimbabwean officials that they should suspend mining in the Marange fields, demilitarize the operation and investigate the role of the military and the police.
It is hard to predict what the government will do. President Robert Mugabe, 85, is deeply hostile to Western nations and international nongovernmental organizations pressing him to restore the rule of law.