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Secret Footage Allegedly Shows Diamond Diggers Being Tortured in Angola

Screenshot of YouTube video reportedly showing security torturing two diamond diggers.

Screenshot of YouTube video reportedly showing security torturing two diamond diggers.

A video purportedly showing employees of a private mining security company torturing two Congolese diamond diggers with a machete in Angola has raised the ire of many social media users.

Journalist and human rights activist Rafael Marques, who authored the book “Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola,” which reports on the darker side of the diamond industry, released the secretly filmed footage on November 3 on his website MakaAngola.

According to Marques description, the graphic video “captures K&P Mineira employees hitting the two artisanal diamond miners”, known as “garimpeiros” in Portuguese, with a machete. It is dated September 8, 2014, and was allegedly filmed inside the Luminas diamond-mining concession in Angola's Lunda-Norte province.

 A private security company of National Police chiefs from Angola tortures artisanal diamond miners

[Corrected 18/12/2014] The company, K&P Mineira, led by the Israeli mining magnate Lev Leviev provides security to the Luminas mine, of which Israeli mining magnate Lev Leviev's Leviev Group holds 40% stake. K&P Mineira and other similar private military companies have been accused of numerous human rights violations such as torture and sexual abuse. Teacher, writer and human rights activist Marcy Jane Knopf-Newman detailed some of the past allegations in a 2008 post on her blog body on the line.

Marques has spent much of his career reporting human rights violations in his home country Angola, particularly in this region where diamond mining is very active. “For the past 20 years, bloodshed and diamond mining have been two sides of the same coin,” he said in a 2007 seminar given at Oxford University. The activist explained how during the 30-year civil war in Angola, the diamond fields of the Cuango Valley were fiercely contested by the government, and the rebel movement, National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA – Portuguese acronym). Cold War superpowers armed and financed both sides, but UNITA lost the backing of its old allies in Washington and in South Africa in the early 1990s. The rebel army turned to the sale of diamonds to fill the funding gap.

It was during this period that activists began to expose the links between diamonds and war, both in Angola and Sierra Leone. The term “blood diamonds” started to be used to refer to precious stones that had been mining in rebel-controlled areas and therefore could be seen as financing the war. The United Nations defines “blood diamonds” as, “Diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognised governments and are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments”. 

Cases of private military companies targeting “garimpeiros” in Angola are not new. Marques has reported that “garimpeiros” actually contribute more to the profits of some of the state diamond-mining firms than big industrial operations. They are usually desperate people, who because of the failures of the Angola government are forced to resort to the illegal activity of artisanal diamond mining to survive. 

While his work has earned him praise — Marques was recently given an “Integrity Award” by anti-corruption NGO Transparency International — he has also been accused of defaming Angolan military allegedly involved with mining companies.

Readers of Maka Angola´s Facebook page have expressed their outrage at the humans rights violations exposed in the video released by Marques. André Cesalpini wrote:

DIAMANTES DE SANGUE E HISTÓRIA SE REPETE

BLOOD DIAMONDS AND THE STORY REPEATS

Miguel De Jesus Migas commented:

Não importa os motivos, estes actos de barbaridade em nada nos dignifica, é muito triste. E pior ainda mesmo com esse vídeo vão dizer que em Angola cumprisse na íntegra os direitos humanos.

Regardless of the reason, these barbaric acts are very sad and are not dignifying, it's very sad. Worst of all, even with this video they are still going to say that Angola respects human rights fully.

Amadeu Lausana feared:

É triste! E depois duma surra mandam fazer exercício. Parece que aconteceu o pior fora das câmeras…

Its sad! After being beaten, they are forced to exercise. It seems something worse happened after filming…

For a more in-depth look at the history of diamonds in Africa, watch “The Diamond Empire” by Janine Roberts. You can preview the 1994 documentary here: 

Update 18/12/2014: According to a Leviev group representative who reached out to Global Voices, neither the Leviev group nor the Luminas mine are directly or indirectly the owners of K&P, and they condemn any violence or abuse of human rights. For its part, K&P says it “has taken disciplinary procedures and legal measures against the personnel involved” in the video.

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