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U.S. Human Rights Report Notes Child Labor in Many Diamond Regions

Jun 26, 2015 1:17 PM   By Jeff Miller
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RAPAPORT... Forced child labor and abuse and violence against women were the most common human rights violations related to diamond mining  in 2014, according to the U.S. State Department. John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State, released the annual "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices," which tracks human rights violations in all nations for the purpose of guiding  foreign policy decisions.

In Angola,  there were three  important human rights abuses, as defined by the U.S., comprising   cruel, excessive and degrading punishment, including reported cases of torture and beatings as well as unlawful killings by police and other security personnel. Angola also limited freedom of assembly, association, speech and press in 2014. There were  life-threatening prison conditions, arbitrary arrests and detention, lengthy pretrial detention, impunity for human rights abusers, lack of due process and judicial inefficiency, infringements on citizens’ privacy rights and forced evictions without compensation, restrictions on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), discrimination and violence against women, abuse of children, human trafficking, limits on workers’ rights and forced labor.

The U.S. confirmed that violations in diamond-producing regions centered mostly on abuse  against “garimpeiros,” or artisanal diamond miners, in Lunda Norte and Lunda Sul  perpetrated  by personnel of private security companies that were guarding foreign mining concessions. Specifically, in Lunda Norte,  human rights activists and some journalists also reported that diamond firms' security companies  used excessive, and sometimes lethal, force against the population. NGOs and the media reported several acts of violence and degrading treatment, including rape and sexual abuse; however, Angola did not carry out thorough and impartial investigations into these cases and it failed to prosecute alleged perpetrators, according to the report.

Diamond trading transparency remained problematic, too, particularly regarding allocations of exploration, production and purchasing rights. Angola prohibits forced labor, but the government did not enforce its own law -- in part due to lack of resources. The U.S. confirmed forced labor was ongoing in the artisanal diamond sector (as well as others) and migrant workers were subjected to seizure of passports, threats of violence, denial of food and confinement. Forced child labor was also widespread, but not in the diamond sector.  Adults sometimes used children under the age of 12 for criminal activity, since the justice system prevents youth from being tried in court.

While Angola does not ban female genital mutilation and cutting, the U.S. determined that there were no reports of this practice in 2014, nor were there any confirmations of ritualistic killings, as had been the case in years past. Progress on these fronts was attributed to Angola's extensive education programs across the diamond-producing areas on the dangers of traditional practices.

In Botswana, the principal human rights violations in 2014 were violence, particularly sexual in nature against women and children; discrimination against the Bushmen (also Saan or Basarwa) and child labor. The U.S. observed occasional excessive use of force and abuse by security personnel, police corruption, government attempts to limit press freedom and shortcomings in the judicial process. Societal problems included human trafficking and discrimination against women, children, people with disabilities and HIV/AIDS and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

The reported noted that Botswana respected constitutional law regarding  freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration and repatriation; however, there were no programs addressing discrimination against Basarwa and with the exception of a 2006 court ruling, there were no demarcated cultural lands -- generally considered to be the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR). Since 2006, a number of NGOs made efforts to promote the rights of the Basarwa, or to help provide economic opportunities, but such programs had only limited impact, the U.S. concluded. Survival International, along with other independent organizations, continued to criticize the government for allowing diamond mining in the CKGR, arguing that diamond exploration has a significant negative impact on the life and environment of the Basarwa.

As is well documented at this point, the most serious problems in Central African Republic (CAR) during the year were arbitrary and unlawful killings -- especially those perpetrated by the ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka -- disappearances and torture, including rape, and the use of child soldiers. The country's violence led to a rough diamond embargo in 2013, under the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, which is now up for review.  CAR's citizens have no ability to change the government through free and fair elections, the U.S. said. Other violations included  illegal detention, the complete break-down of the judicial system,  interference with privacy and the seizure and destruction of property. Severe restrictions were placed on  freedom of speech, the press, public assembly  and movement, and there was lack of protection for refugees. Rampant discrimination and violence were experienced by women, children, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities, indigenous people, the LGBT community, people  with HIV/AIDS, Christians and Muslims.

CAR's mining code prohibits child labor; however, the U.S. confirmed that child labor was common in many sectors, including the formal and informal diamond industry. Observers found children as young as 7 years old  working in the diamond fields, often alongside adult relatives, transporting and washing gravel, digging holes and carrying heavy loads. The government did not enforce any labor standards in 2014, according to the U.S.

CAR's organized diamond miners, which employed an estimated 400,000 in 2014, are subject to strict standards; however, monitoring efforts were underfunded and insufficient. Here, too, observers frequently saw underage diggers. Mine workers, in general, were not offered safety equipment and worked open-pits that were susceptible to collapse. There were, however, no credible reports of workplace injuries or deaths.  On average, a digger earned a daily wage of $3.40, or CFA 2,000, working seven days a week during the peak diamond season. While rough diamond exports are forbidden, the report concluded that diamond miners supplemented earnings with  either illegal diamond sales or wages from other sectors of the economy.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is also under siege, which only exacerbated human rights violations in 2014. Unlawful killings, sexual violence, disappearances, torture and arbitrary arrests and detention were rampant, along with widespread impunity and corruption throughout the government.

There was arbitrary interference with privacy, family and home; abuse of internally displaced persons (IDP) by state security forces, rebels and militia groups and there were restrictions on citizens' ability to change the government. Official security forces as well as rebel groups were actively recruiting child soldiers and used forced civilian labor to serve them. Societal discrimination and abuse is widespread against women, children, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities and indigenous people, the LGBT community and people with  albinism.

The U.S. stated that children in the DRC were victims of exploitation in the worst forms with  tens of thousands working in the mining sector, most often in extremely dangerous conditions.  Children accounted for as much as 30 percent of the work force in the artisanal mining sector,  digging for diamonds, gold, cobalt, coltan, wolframite, copper and cassiterite.  In the mining regions of Katanga, Kasai Oriental, Kasai Occidental, Orientale, North Kivu and South Kivu provinces, children sifted, cleaned, sorted, transported heavy loads and dug for minerals underground. In many areas of the country, children between the ages 5 to 12 broke rocks to make gravel.

Cote d'Ivoire resumed rough exports in 2014 after a long diamond embargo, but the U.S. noted continued insecurity and slow political reconciliation complicated the government’s efforts to restore the rule of law.  The most serious human rights problems during the year were security force abuses and the government’s inability to enforce order. 

The Republican Forces of Cote d’Ivoire (FRCI), the country’s military, and the gendarmerie were responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture and arbitrary detentions.  Corruption persisted in the judiciary, police, the military, customs and tax offices and other government institutions and the judiciary was inefficient and lacked independence, the U.S. found. The government restricted freedom of the press and of assembly, IDPs  faced insecure and difficult living conditions, and sexual assault and violence against women and children was widespread, as was  female genital mutilation and cutting.  Societal discrimination against ethnic groups, the LGBT community, people with  disabilities  and HIV/AIDS remained problematic.

Child labor was widespread across the diamond mining and cocoa and coffee growing sectors. Cote d'Ivoire's legal working age is 14 and children may not work between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m.; however, the government lacked sufficient resources to enforce these rules.  The U.S. observed that child labor laws were only being followed across the civil service sector and by multi-national corporations.

There were no diamond-specific human rights violations in Lesotho; however, the U.S. found cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, punishment and torture by police against citizens and the societal abuse of women and children as the most significant human rights problems in the country. Other human rights violations included human trafficking, the stigmatization of people  with disabilities and  discrimination against people  with HIV/AIDS and child labor.

In Liberia, forced child labor in the alluvial diamond and gold mining sectors was widespread in 2014. Liberia prohibits forced labor; however, the U.S. contended that the government was ineffective at enforcing the law.  Young women and children were often subjected to forced labor at alluvial diamond and gold mines and on rubber plantations. When victims were identified, the Women and Children Protection Section of the LNP, along with NGOs, worked to reunite victims with their families, who were often located in the interior, or referred them to safe homes. Child labor was addressed as a child endangerment issue but no reliable figures were available on the number of children removed from forced labor.

The most glaring human rights abuses in Liberia were those related to a lack of justice, judicial inefficiency, corruption, lengthy pretrial detention, denial of due process, mob killings and ritualistic killings.  Other violations involved violence against women and children, including rape and domestic abuse,  police abuse, arbitrary arrests and detention, official corruption, human trafficking and discrimination based on religion and sexual orientation.

In Namibia, workers across several sectors, including the diamond industry, called strikes in 2014 and, in accordance with Namibia's  law, the U.S. confirmed that all worker strikes were resolved properly. Significant human rights abuses in Namibia  included the slow pace of judicial proceedings,  resulting in lengthy pretrial detention under poor conditions; violence and discrimination against women and children, including rape, child abuse and child labor and discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  Other governmental human rights problems included unlawful police killings, incarceration of juveniles with adults, corruption by officials and discrimination against ethnic minorities and indigenous people.

While there were no diamond-related human rights abuses in Russia, the U.S. found widespread problems. Russia has quashed freedoms of expression, assembly and association and it actively discriminates against people based on political affiliation, race, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation. The U.S. alleged it observed torture and excessive force by law enforcement officials, life-threatening prison conditions, electoral irregularities, widespread corruption, violence against women, limits on the rights of women (especially in Ingushetia, Chechnya, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachaevo-Cherkessia and Dagestan), human trafficking and restrictions on  workers' rights.

The most significant human rights violations in Sierra Leone included a lack of universal access to justice, widespread official corruption in all branches of government, human trafficking and child labor. The U.S. found that half of Sierra Leone's 14- and 15-year-old children were engaged in some form of labor, and that child workers across the small-scale, informal diamond and gold mining remained a most pressing issue to solve. Organized diamond companies, however, were said to be enforcing  strict rules against child labor. Other human rights abuses the U.S. noted included police abuse, prolonged detention,  violence against women and girls as well as female genital mutilation and cutting, forced marriage and open discrimination against the LGBT community and those with disabilities.

In South Africa, while there were no diamond-related abuses observed, the U.S. found that the principal human rights problems included police use of lethal and excessive force, such as torture, along with prisoner abuse,  vigilantism and mob violence. During 2014, many citizens faced arbitrary arrests and prolonged pretrial detention; there was abuse of refugees and asylum seekers, government corruption,  pervasive violence against women and children, human trafficking, attacks on foreigners and discrimination against citizens due to  a disability and  sexual orientation.

While Europe has resumed diamond trading with Zimbabwe,  the U.S. continues sanctions on numerous people and entities in Zimbabwe, including  President Robert Mugabe and his family, the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, Marange Resources and Mbada Diamonds. In 2014, the most important human rights problems involved torture, physical abuse, unlawful arrest and harassment enacted against minority political party members, citizens and civil society activists. Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party, which controls the government, restricted the rule of law and civil liberties, according to the report.

The government’s expropriation of private property, forced evictions and unlawful  takeovers of private businesses continued in 2014. Corruption across the federal and local government  remained widespread and violence and discrimination was perpetrated against women, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities and the LGBT community. The government interfered with labor-related cases,  with the U.S. citing the arrest of human rights lawyer  Trust Maanda for representing diamond workers who were seeking compensation for police brutality.

The U.S. stated that Zimbabwe largely failed to support nearly 3,000 households that were resettled to accommodate Marange diamond mining.  In one case, more than 1,400 residents were moved to  a government-owned agricultural estate outside of Mutare. However,  dozens of those families were not provided homes; each household was entitled to receive $1,000 to relocate, but only a few were provided those funds, the report noted, leaving the majority with no compensation. Then, the government classified those residents as “people with no recognizable legal rights or claim to the land that they are occupying” and declared their former land as state-owned.

Some of the relocated residents were given land plots in wetlands for a new home, or unsafe structures for to live, while many faced numerous challenges such as lack of access to water, arable land and no employment opportunities. The government failed to complete land appraisals for 2,910 families that were forced to relocate out of  the diamond fields, leaving those households in limbo.  Furthermore, the government prohibited relocated residents from farming or taking up any economic activity around the mining concessions, the U.S. stated.

As Zimbabwe has many provisions under its indigenization laws, all of which are meant to increase the participation of indigenous citizens in the economy,  with the ultimate objective of at least a 51 percent indigenous ownership, Chinese business owners received preferential treatment, according to the U.S. Diamond miner Anjin was allowed equal rights to that of local establishments and it  remained exempt from various taxes that were applicable to other mining companies.

The government also interfered with trade union activity, withholding the registration certificates of the Zimbabwe Diamond Workers' Union, the National Union of Metal and Allied Industries in Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Footwear, Tanners and Allied Workers’ Union. Intelligence officials regularly attended and monitored trade union activities and sometimes prevented members from holding meetings.


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Tags: abuse, Angola, child labor, Cote d'Ivoire, diamonds, human rights, Jeff Miller, Liberia, mining, Sierra Leone, U.S. State Department, Zimbabwe
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