* Police and army use brutal force, rights group says
* HRW says income funnelled to Mugabe party officials
* Minister says reports of killings false
By Tiisetso Motsoeneng
JOHANNESBURG, June 26 Zimbabwean police and army
are using brutal methods to control diamond fields, forcing
children and adults to work and beating local villagers, Human
Rights Watch (HRW) said on Friday.
In a report on Zimbabwe's Marange diamond fields, it said
the military, which remains under the control of President
Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF under a power-sharing deal, killed more
than 200 people in a takeover of the fields in late 2008.
"The police and army have turned this peaceful area into a
nightmare of lawlessness and horrific violence," said Georgette
Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "Zimbabwe's new
government should get the army out of the fields, put a stop to
the abuse, and prosecute those responsible."
Mugabe's unity government with Prime Minister Morgan
Tsvangirai is under pressure to create a democracy and improve
Zimbabwe's human rights record to get billions of dollars from
Western donors demanding political and economic reforms.
The new administration says it needs $10 billion to rebuild
a shattered economy and win the confidence of millions of
Zimbabweans who have faced years of bare hospitals, potholed
streets and staggering unemployment.
But foreign investors and donors are likely to remain
cautious for months, if not years, piling pressure on old foes
Mugabe and Tsvangirai to work together and enact reforms,
including greater government transparency.
"Some income from the fields has been funnelled to
high-level party members of ZANU-PF, which is now part of a
power-sharing government that urgently needs revenue as the
country faces a dire economic crisis," the report said.
Zimbabwe's Deputy Mines and Mining Development Minister
Murisi Zwizwai told a business seminar that reports of killings
in Marange were false and "contrary to allegations, nobody was
killed by security".
Industry experts say legal diamond output and sales account
for less than 10 percent of Zimbabwe's mining earnings, but have
potential to join gold and platinum among country's big earners
if the government clamps down on smuggling.
Foreign investors are looking anew at mining opportunities
mineral-producing Zimbabwe, especially deposits of platinum,
gold and diamonds. While some have ventured back, others are
waiting for the legal framework to be strengthened.
Human Rights Watch said it based its findings on more than
100 one-on-one interviews with witnesses, local miners, police
officers, soldiers, local community leaders, victims and
relatives, medical staff, human rights lawyers, and activists in
Harare, Mutare, and Marange district in eastern Zimbabwe.
"Those interviewed said that police officers, who were
deployed in the fields from November 2006 to October 2008 to end
illicit diamond smuggling, were in fact responsible for serious
abuses -- killings, torture, beatings, and harassment -- often
by so-called 'reaction teams', which drove out illegal miners,"
(Writing by Michael Georgy)