Harare - Zimbabwe's Supreme Court has ordered the central bank to safeguard millions of dollars' worth of diamonds from a mine where the military is accused of killings and forced labour, a lawyer said on Wednesday.
The latest ruling stems from an ownership battle over the mines in eastern Zimbabwe, with a British firm and a government mineral corporation locked in a tug-of-war over the valuable deposits.
"The chief justice said the diamonds should be kept by a neutral party pending the resolution of an ownership dispute which is before the court," said Jonathan Samkange, lawyer for British firm African Consolidated Resources (ACR).
"The Supreme Court court ordered that the all the diamonds
extracted from African Consolidated Resources by the the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation be returned," Samkange said.
The company is embroiled in a legal fight with the
government-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation over the ownership of Chiadzwa diamond fields in the country's eastern Marange districts.
The government mining corporation began mining diamonds in
Chiadzwa while ACR was contesting the cancellation of its mining
licence in 2007.
Samkange said the court order affects 129 000 carats of
diamonds, including gems mined by ACR and seized by police as well as all the precious stones mined since.
The minefields attracted the attention of rights groups after
reports of beatings and deaths of illegal gold panners by security forces.
Rights groups have been lobbying for a ban on Marange diamonds, after a team from the Kimberley Process against "conflict diamonds" rebuked security forces deployed at the minefields for gross human rights violations.