• Press Release

Zimbabwe: Government must release Zimbabwe activist held for exposing human rights violations in diamond fields

March 27, 2011

Amnesty International Calls For Immediate Release of Zimbabwe Activist Held for Exposing Human Rights Violations in Diamond Fields

Activist’s Organization is Official Observer of Kimberly Process and Played Key Role in Investigating Abuses of Local People in Marange Diamond Fields

July 6, 2010

Amnesty International today called on the Zimbabwean government to release an activist who was detained after he exposed human rights violations in the country’s Marange diamond fields. The organization said it considers Farai Maguwu a prisoner of conscience who is being persecuted for documenting abuses at some of Zimbabwe’s richest diamond fields.

Maguwu is head of the Centre for Research and Development (CRD), an organization that, as an official observer of the Kimberly Process, has been central in investigating human rights violations against local people in Marange diamond fields.

Abbey Chikane, the KP monitor on Zimbabwe, stated in his report on the country’s compliance with the KP scheme that he met with Maguwu in the presence of state intelligence officers, raising fears that he seriously compromised Maguwu’s safety.

The monitor’s statement calls into question the Kimberley Process’ methods for protecting people who provide information about human rights violations at Zimbabwe’s diamond fields. "Farai Maguwu is being persecuted for carrying out his lawful work of monitoring and documenting alleged human rights violations by security forces at some of Zimbabwe’s richest diamond fields," said Erwin van der Borght, Amnesty International’s Africa director.

"We consider Farai Maguwu a prisoner of conscience and call on the authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally."

Maguwu has been detained since June 3, and charged with "publishing or communicating false information prejudicial to the state," after he reportedly told a diamond trade monitor about human rights violations carried out by security forces in the Marange diamond fields.

The activist had handed himself in to the police after members of his family were beaten and interrogated by state officials.

On Friday, a Harare Magistrate denied Farai Maguwu bail after the state prosecutor said more time was needed to complete investigations. Lawyers are appealing the court’s decision to deny him bail.

Maguwu’s lawyers say their client is being detained as a way of punishment for revealing human rights violations to a diamond monitor from the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KP), which is aimed at certifying rough diamonds as being free from links to violence.

Maguwu was charged under Section 31 of the Criminal Law (Reform and Codification), a section that violations the right to freedom of expression and falls short of the standards set out under the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms which states that everyone has the right to know, seek, obtain, receive and hold information about all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

This includes the right to submit to governmental bodies, agencies and organizations concerned with public affairs, criticism and proposals for improving their functioning, and the right to draw attention to any aspect of their work that may hinder or impede the promotion, protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms.