Amnesty International: Human Rights Violated in Congo Diamond Fields

October 25, 2002

Amnesty International: Human Rights Violated in Congo Diamond Fields

Amnesty International says the Democratic Republic of Congo government should investigate human rights violations in the Mbuji Mayi diamond fields controlled by DRC. "Dozens of suspected illegal diamond miners, including children, are being shot dead every year, and many more are being seriously wounded, by security guards who are flouting the law with apparently complete impunity," the organization says.

"There is effectively a state of anarchy reigning in the diamond fields of Mbuji-Mayi," AI says in a new report, entitled "Democratic Republic of Congo: Making a Killing," about the diamond industry in DRC. "Unarmed civilians, including children, are regularly being killed in cold blood, but no one is ever brought to justice for these killings and nothing is being done to end the killings."

The majority of the killings take place in diamond concessions run by MIBA, DRC's largely state-owned diamond-mining company, which has its headquarters in Mbuji-Mayi in the province of Kasai Oriental, says AI. The killings are perpetrated by MIBA guards who have no formal training in civilian law enforcement and who appear to routinely use excessive force, including firearms, in dealing with suspected illegal miners. Although a minority of suspected illegal miners may be armed, posing a threat to the safety of MIBA guards, the majority are unarmed. "Shooting them dead, in such circumstances, amounts to extrajudicial execution," the report says.

Soldiers belonging to the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, a military ally of DRC which is now in the process of withdrawing from the country, have also played a role in guarding MIBA's concessions. They have been responsible for human rights violations, including the unlawful killing of suspected illegal miners, for which they have never been held accountable, says the AI report.

The rights of suspected illegal miners apprehended by MIBA guards are also routinely violated, the AI report says. Generally, they're held in unofficial detention centres within the MIBA diamond concessions, where the extremely poor sanitary conditions amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. In April 2002 the average age of the detainees in one of these centers was about 15. No provisions are made for detaining minors separately from adults. Detainees injured in the course of arrest or who become ill in custody have no access to medical care.

AI says Congolese authorities refuse to acknowledge large-scale abuses, including extrajudicial executions, are taking place in the diamond concessions. It also reports there has been no international pressure on DRC government to break the link between its diamond trade and human rights abuses. In April 2002 DRCsigned on to the new international system of diamond certification agreed through the Kimberley Process. The international system is intended to stem the trade in so-called conflict diamonds by armed political groups.

"The commercial activities of national governments should be subjected to greater international scrutiny too," AI urges. "It seems hypocritical for the DRC government to flaunt its apparent commitment to respecting human rights by joining the Kimberley Process, when serious abuses linked to its own diamond trade are occurring on a daily basis.

"These killings have to stop. The DRC government should establish an independent commission of inquiry to investigate human rights abuses being perpetrated in connection with the diamond trade in Mbuji-Mayi, and bring those responsible to justice," says AI. "The government should also undertake to implement the commission's recommendations for the prevention of further human rights abuses in the Mbuji-Mayi diamond fields and in the wider diamond-mining industry."

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