The United States is joining with others in the international community to voice concerns over the arrest of a human rights activist in Zimbabwe working to prevent abuses by security forces in a key diamond field there. Farai Maguwu is being held in a Harare jail to face charges of "publishing false information" in his work monitoring illegal mining and suspected exporting of thousands of carats of gems from the Marange diamond field. That his reports to international diamond monitors and others are deemed false even before he has been tried shows the continued lack of respect for the rule of law and fundamental freedoms under President Robert Mugabe.
Mr. Maguwu is the director of the Centre for Research and Development, a Mutare-based human rights group. It has monitored activities in the nearby Marange field, where government security forces moved in to secure the area following a property ownership dispute in 2006, then began forcing area residents to work the fields under often brutal conditions.
There have been credible reports of recurring and severe human rights abuses in or near the Marange mine, including extrajudicial killings. Smuggling of gems mined there is also believed to be occurring, with the knowledge and participation of security officials.
Mr. Maguwu met recently to discuss his findings with an independent Monitor appointed by the Kimberley Process, the international system established to prevent trade in conflict diamonds. Human rights groups have been pushing for a ban against Zimbabwe selling its Marange stones on the international market. Maguwu was arrested shortly after the meeting and is being held without bail.
The United States supports the Kimberley Process and recognizes the essential role that civil society groups like the Centre for Research and Development play in reducing the trade in disputed and conflict diamonds. The United States remains concerned about the lack of respect for rule of law in Zimbabwe. It expects the government of Zimbabwe to treat Mr. Maguwu fairly and review his case expeditiously.